We adopted a strength-based approach to community development in early 2011.

Since then we’ve come on leaps and bounds and we’ve been rolling out our asset-based community development (ABCD) programme in several neighbourhoods across Greater Manchester for the last 18 months. I went to one of our ABCD workshops, in partnership with First Choice Homes Oldham, to find out more.

Gary, our Head of Community Building, asked us to leave our professional hats at the door and bring our personalities into the room so, instead of the typically formal introductions of “where do you work and what do you do?,” we began the workshop by sharing two things that we love doing. Everything was thrown into the mix from music production to allotmenteering, genealogy to nail enhancements, acrylic painting to swimming and fishing to textiles. Just through conversation we discovered that in that one room alone there lay the foundations of up to 15 different community projects.

We were divided into groups and in front of us lay a pile of cards and three categories – ‘we can,’ ‘we know someone who can’ and ‘we can’t and don’t know anyone who can.’ We were asked to decide how 100 skills would be divided across the locations. My group decided that 80% would fall into the ‘we can’ or ‘we know someone who can’ categories and 20% into ‘we can’t and don’t know who can.’ To our surprise only 7% landed in the latter group and we actually shared a large proportion of the skills between the four of us. It made us think about how many versatile skills exist in our households, and then in our neighbours’ houses and then in the wider community … The possibilities are endless.

4 people at the workshop were 14 and 15 year old lads from Alt (a neighbourhood in Oldham where we’re piloting our community building programme) who are part of a new community football team and had heard about the workshop through other residents. After a breakaway session at the end of the workshop about making positive change in our communities the lads shared their motivations:

“We’re going to stop bullying, spray painting walls and egging houses and we’re going to start respecting people and our area.”

So what are you going to do to start the ball rolling on Monday?

“We’re going to clean the graffiti off the community centre walls so that we can spray paint a mural about inclusion on it.”

After one morning of ABCD they’re already making changes…