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Learning from others

AT has been around since 2011, which means there’s more than a decade of experimentation to learn from! Take away the lessons from our successes, failures and creative attempts.

In This Section

Taking action from learning

Chapter five of Adventures in Advantaged Thinking brings together 10 learning points from more than a decade of AT practice – plus action points that may speak to your current circumstances.

1. It is hard to sustain asset-based working inside an organisation or system that takes a deficit-based approach. 

To sustainably embed AT, we need to influence the culture and operating structures of an organisation as well as focusing on strengths-based practice with staff in direct delivery roles. We must think about both the practice itself, and the things that shape the practice and how.

2. To achieve and sustain an AT approach you need a strong culture of ongoing service reflection and development.

Making time for reflective practice and ongoing review throughout the whole team is critical to help asset-based approaches thrive and develop into the future. Space for reflection is not a luxury item – it should be factored into every opportunity.

3. Staff, services and systems can be ‘addicted’ to deficit-based behaviour.

It might be difficult for some organisations and individuals to come to terms with their use of – and potential dependency on – deficit-based approaches, but this is necessary to move past it in a meaningful, positive way.  Applying insights from theories on addiction and attachment might help us appreciate the time and experiential space some may require to make progress with AT working.

4. It’s never too soon to begin involving people in a meaningful way to co-design and shape approaches with their insights. 

A woman with black hair in two high buns smiles happily at the camera

We shouldn’t overcomplicate people’s involvement to the point that it doesn’t happen. Taking a practical step to involve people is always the right thing to do and is worth whatever challenges it poses for additional resource needs. The insights and voices of people using services are a powerful source for challenging and connecting the systems that impact on their lives. Different people’s unique energy, creativity and grounded reflections on reality can be game changers in bringing asset-based work to life.

5. Influencing an AT approach to staff recruitment, training and management is a sustainable route to change inside organisations.

A ‘start here’ step for organisations wishing to embed AT is to update HR approaches. This can ensure that everything from staff recruitment to supervision, training and personal development are all strengthening the potential for asset-based impact through the best staff liberated to work in the best way.

6. Approaches like Outcomes Star, Strengths-Based and Trauma Informed Practice and Psychologically Informed Environments all depend on the staff using them and should never be the only tools in our bag for AT working.

Thriving practice can’t be created just by introducing a tool. The more important need is to invest in a wider set of approaches and the strength of staff to adopt and apply them. Specific tools can be helpful components in asset-based working, but they are not a replacement or shortcut to achieving a thriving asset-based culture.

7. It is helpful to use performance measures that support AT approaches – and to embrace data insights to inform ongoing practice.

An asset-based service should not be monitored through a deficit-based lens. The collection and use of the right performance measures goes hand-in-hand with developing an asset-based identity. Whatever the data approach, the key is that it should help practitioners celebrate what is good now and help them know how to create good tomorrow.

8. The energy required to bring about asset-based change requires a different style of leadership – a relentlessness in focus, collaboration and challenge.

AT approaches are best led by teams that can sustain focus, keep connecting with people and push forward the campaign to influence others. An emphasis on the skills required to appreciate, fuel and protect this relentless energy is an important component for future leaders.

9. All of these learning points are best explored through a strong Community of Practice in which different services and people can collaborate and learn together.

Two women laugh together during a conversation at a table in a kitchenA community of practice can be a powerful mechanism to invest in reflection, energy, shared voice and collaboration. It offers an active space to encourage ongoing learning. The Foyer Federation’s community of practice for Advantaged Thinking offers a powerful resource to support asset-based practice over the longer term.

10. Frameworks such as Advantaged Thinking offer a practical enabler to help support asset-based fidelity and accountability.

Embracing an Advantaged Thinking framework can give services and stakeholders a common language and frame of reference to use on their journey. This helps organisations understand how different asset-based approaches and expressions can connect with a clear vision of what good should look like.

Exploring the 7 Tests page

Exploring the 7 Tests

The 7 Tests of Advantaged Thinking are a helpful lens to review your own practice through – and they can help you to deepen your organisation-wide approach too.