A glass half full

I have been lucky enough to be part of an innovative developmental model training process over the last eight months called Asset based community development or ABCD. This is a philosophy based on designing and implementing programmes with a focus on what is already available.

It has been a game changer for me both professionally and personally.

This model focuses on beneficiary or member-led development, where the historical recipients of services have far greater agency in their own development – encouraged to generate their own ideas and plans and most importantly implement them.

I can see you sitting there saying: “How is the possible?  More importantly, how is this possible in a pandemic? I have huge budget deficits and a programme that needs urgent implementation and intervention”.

I hear you. I felt similarly.

Over a period of eight months (with the help of a lot of enforced pauses due to Covid-19) we were able to start inviting and encouraging more self-led development from our members using several inexpensive and simple tools.

Initially, the new approach was met with suspicion. We had been operating in a predominantly management-led or ‘we know best’ style for nearly 40 years. What has been amazing to witness is the change in culture and the overlooked talents and skills of our members.

A core question that I now ask in my management of volunteers and social enterprise staff is: ‘Am I doing something for you that you are quite capable of doing yourself?’

I have been humbled, surprised, and delighted with the progress.

It has given me the opportunity to work more ‘on the business that in it’. It has offered me respite from juggling too many balls, following up on countless details and the pressure of feeling that my physical presence would make or break the enterprise or project.

It has also forced some uncomfortable but necessary changes in our organisation’s organogram. Coupled with the pandemic, certain roles have had to be re-imagined, expanded, or shrunken.  Despite this, the organisation is thriving, healthy and set for growth.

While you may not be lucky enough to embark on a long training process there are many things that you can do to enhance your practice, right now:

  • Use appreciative enquiry in all aspects of your work. Challenge your team to focus on what they have, what is working, what assets (other than merely financial) they have available to them. Wherever possible, facilitate meetings with a focus on solutions and not problems, however small.
  • If someone approaches you to offer a solution, ask them how they believe the problem can be solved and give them the authority to make the changes.
  • Use different language. In our teams, we do not refer to ‘problems’ and ‘issues’ but by consensus, refer to ‘matters arising’. In this way, we inject humour into our meetings and far from minimising the difficulty of a situation (of which there are still many!), it creates a more curious and uplifting environment.

Give it a try and email me if you would like more information –  admin@papillonpress.biz. Happy to share.

Until next time,


Jane Mills