How do we do it?
History has taught us that significant community development only takes place when local communities are committed to investing themselves and their resources in the effort. The most travelled path to seeking solutions in communities has been to focus on needs, deficiencies and problems; this traditional approach is still used widely and commands much of our financial and human resources. When the focus is on what communities do not have, what they need, and how we can help them, individuals begin to see themselves as deficient and incapable of taking charge of their lives and their communities; as people with special needs that can only be met by outsiders. Instead of being active citizens they become passive consumers, thus creating dependency.
The alternative path is an asset-based approach which begins by recognising the existing capacities, skills and assets of individuals and communities. Identify the variety and richness of talents, knowledge, and experience of so-called 'poor' people and you will not only be amazed at their resilience and resourcefulness but you will begin to unlock vast dormant human potential that has been suppressed through poverty and hardship.
Starting positively by acknowledging and valuing what people already have and know changes the power dynamic and enables a more equal partnership approach; allowing the development practitioner to facilitate rather than drive the process. It also means that individuals and communities have a genuine stake in the success of the project.
'Bottom up' and 'inside out'
In the past we have underestimated what people can do. Our strategy in working with an asset-based approach is to start with what is present in the community and to allow the process to be internally driven - from the 'bottom up' and from the 'inside out'. For this reason we strive to identify and strengthen community leadership through all of our programmes. External support can bolster existing assets and capacities of local communities by engaging them in highly participatory ways, valuing local knowledge, mobilizing existing resources and avoiding a level of involvement which may lead to dependency. External support can only assist communities that are committed to developing their own assets.
Holistic view of development
We take a holistic approach to development recognising the multiple physical, economic, social, and spiritual dimensions of human wellbeing. We also recognise that we are part of a much wider system and cannot work alone, therefore we strive to work systemically by working proactively with government and other service providers, and engaging with external factors that can enable or disable development processes.