Last week, Nick Wilding and I were invited to a meeting of the North of Scotland Public Health Network, to share our work on assets and community resilience. The event was aimed at helping professionals get to grips with how assets approaches might be implemented in the public health sphere, particularly in rural contexts, following Chief Medical Officer Harry Burns' challenge to think and act differently. The organisers had worked hard to take an assets approach to the design of the day, with opportunities for people to feed in their questions and concerns in advance, and spaces for sharing experiences throughout the day. Some quick reflections...
People had understandable concerns about the practical implications of assets approaches in public health - how to deliver them, what difference they might make, how to evaluate the impact - and about the possible tension with the need to protect vulnerable people. Some were also wary about investing a lot of time and energy into something they felt may not in the end be backed by real and long-term political will. Others felt that a focus on strengths is fundamental to what they already do.
It was clear though that many people could see that thinking laterally about assets approaches might open up new opportunities for working in different ways with individuals and communities. One person at my table, for example, thought there could be potential in developing a new approach to pupil profiling; another felt that assets approaches could encourage people to play a bigger role in understanding and managing their own conditions.
A great example of the Bute Healthy Living Initative during the plenary, and stories from Shetland during our workshop session, opened up a conversation on 'the power of the narrative'. People spoke of policymakers taking as much notice of stories as statistics - in many cases, in fact, stories can have more impact. In Shetland, young people had decided to tackle stigma by telling their own stories about what they have to offer - a great example of how those who normally aren't heard created their own 'voice'.
Stories... as important as stats? What do people think?
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