There is growing realisation that councils cannot do many of the things that we have been used to them doing. As their budgets are cut, and cut again, many council managers spend a great deal of their time deciding what they cannot do. But in an age of austerity, what do we think that councils can do? We’ve had the ‘co-operative council’. Perhaps it’s time for the asset-based council.
An asset-based council has no customers, only citizens. It has no providers, only partners. It is responsive to need, but looks always for capability and potential. It is confident in the things it can do and the difference its people’s skills and expertise can make, but it has the humility to recognise what it cannot do: fix people or communities.
An asset based council:
- Has a living map of the area’s resources and works with the whole range of assets: state and private money, social action, community groups and charities, services, private sector and enterprise, buildings and land.
- Sees its role as enabler and facilitator: equal partnership is the default working mode and all of its staff and those of its partners are trained in asset-based thinking.
- Passes ‘the connection test’: challenging all service interventions to build people’s resilience and social connections and investing in models which can demonstrate this added value.
- Uses the Social Value Act principles by default in all contracting and grant making.
- Builds and sustains social and community enterprise as part of ensuring that it has a wide range of asset-based support models.
- Builds mutualism and shared ownership, including through use of the Localism Act, and increases year on year the proportion of the public service workforce who have current and recent lived experience of using those services.
- Has a community development worker (e.g. a Local Area Coordinator) for each identifiable neighbourhood and invests in connecting people through models such as Circles of Support, Shared Lives and Homeshare.
- Aims to increase the proportion of its resources invested in prevention and early intervention year on year, whilst insisting that every service intervention is ‘future focused’.
- Measures all forms of social action including volunteering and seeks an increase year on year, investing adequately in this rather than seeing volunteering as ‘free’.
- Has an active and growing time bank.
I’d be interested in what you think an asset-based council would look like…
(I never like to draw on the learning of asset based community development without acknowledging the work of John MacKnight and recommending his books including The Careless Society.)