What do we mean by assets?
Assets exist in communities that can enable people to maintain and sustain their health and wellbeing. These include things like skills, capacity, knowledge, networks (both formal and informal) and connections as well as physical and economic resources such as green spaces and local businesses. Assets exist at an individual level, a community level and an organisational level. Assets become stronger when they are shared between people, and the connections made in communities by this sharing helps build resilience.
We often describe health and wellbeing needs using the Dahlgren & Whitehead rainbow model of health (see Figure 1) and this can also help us to describe assets. At the centre are personal assets such as resilience levels, attitude, outlook, skills, knowledge, confidence levels, etc. These are strongly related to health behaviours (both positive and negative). At the level of social and community networks, assets can be the people who we are close to and care about us, and those we can rely on in times of crisis. Having support, understanding and guidance from family, friends and wider social networks is very important to health and wellbeing across the life course. Assets can also include those things that are active in our communities that provide additional or alternative support, make communities a good place to live, providing guidance and strength. They may provide opportunities to meet other people with similar (or different) interests or experiences, feel involved, learn something new or try something different. At a wider, indoor and outdoor spaces, thriving local businesses, affordable good quality housing and good employment opportunities can all be local assets. It is important to remember that what people define as local strengths/ assets and to what extent people use and need these assets is not only different for each person but is likely to change across each person's life course.
| Figure 1: Dahlgren & Whitehead rainbow model of health 1991
Developing a more asset-based approach to the KJSA
An asset-based approach is a way of helping people by looking at what they have rather than what they lack. This approach helps people make use of their existing skills, knowledge and relationships. It is also called a 'strengths-based approach', and can be used as a way of changing the way we think, and potentially our behaviours, by promoting what is good about an area rather than focusing on problems.
In previous JSNAs we have focussed largely on understanding the needs of the Kirklees population using data and intelligence from a wide range of sources. It is right that we know which communities are more at risk of experiencing health inequalities, so we can work with people to reduce this risk. As part of our new approach to Kirklees Joint Strategic Assessment (KJSA) we also want to understand the assets (strengths) that people, communities and groups have and use to support and improve their health and wellbeing.
Why is it important to consider assets?
Assets can have positive impacts on physical and emotional health and wellbeing. At a time of increasing demands on the health and social care system and reducing resources it is important to enable people and communities to do more for themselves and each other. In order to do this through innovations such as social prescribing we need to understand what assets are already working effectively so that we can develop them further and build on the contribution they make to wellbeing. For instance, a local walking group may provide people with an opportunity to increase their physical activity levels but it may also enable people to come together and ‘connect’ around a common interest. Or it may provide a social support network for people who are feeling lonely or suffering from poor emotional health.
 Social prescribing is a way of linking patients in primary and social care with sources of support within the community. It provides GPs and others with a non-medical referral option that can operate alongside existing treatments to improve health and well-being.
How are we finding out more about local assets?
There is already a wide range of asset-based work happening across Kirklees including asset-based community development and community-driven activities and events that contribute to improved health and wellbeing (see the Kirklees-wide resources section below for some examples). In the KJSA we are trying a few different ways of understanding or mapping assets; starting with a ‘place-based’ approach. We have developed a “Strong v Wrong” template (available for download in PowerPoint or PDF), which has been piloted with small groups of community organisations, public sector representatives and community health teams. Using the starting point of a local need identified in the KJSA, such as a households struggling to manage on a low income, these groups have shared their local knowledge about assets in communities that might support people affected by this issue. This has helped us to understand the relationships between local needs and assets and identify some of the things likely to be already helping people. It has also helped to identify what gaps exist in terms of unmet needs/ issues in particular neighbourhoods or amongst specific population groups.
What will we do with this information about assets?
Some of the place-based information described above has now been incorporated into the relevant KJSA District Committee summaries (Batley and Spen | Dewsbury and Mirfield | Huddersfield | Kirklees Rural). As we update each section of the KJSA we will try to capture as much local knowledge as we can about assets that are contributing to improved outcomes for that particular issue, condition, population group or behaviour. Where possible we will identify assets across the whole life course. If you would like to contribute to this process we have created a simple template for you to use (available for download in PowerPoint or PDF). We welcome contributions from all Kirklees organisations and sectors of the community. Connecting assets works best when people explore and make contact with the assets in their own neighbourhood, or community.
As part of the KJSA we are also developing health and wellbeing indicator tables which will include clearly identified ‘asset indicators’. These will help us to understand how some assets (e.g. population measures of wellbeing, 'social connectedness', community cohesion, independence, housing suitability, etc.) are distributed across places and communities in Kirklees and also monitor the impact we are having on health and wellbeing.
This information, alongside what we know about needs and issues will help us to understand what is working to improve health and wellbeing and to make better decisions about who we need to work with, what we commission, where and for whom.
The resources and links below are Kirklees-wide. To find out more about assets relating to specific groups or issues please have a look in the relevant KJSA sections. If you have other examples to share we would love to hear from you! Please firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment on our KJSA blog.
Find out about projects, activities and events funded by Community Partnerships:
Comoodle is a resource to help people, groups and organisations to share stuff, space and skills:
The Community Directory makes it easy for you to find local groups, events and things to do. It contains details of over 2,500 community organisations in Kirklees:
Kirklees Shares is designed to help local organisations of all kinds to share resources, build connections and get things done:
Better in Kirklees (BIK) supports you to be active and involved in the community, keeping you happier and healthier, and independent for longer:
Communities Who Can is the new name for Kirklees Federation of Tenants and Residents Associations (KFTRA):
The Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) Institute slides are saved here.
‘The salutogenic model as a theory to guide health promotion’ is saved here.
The ‘What makes us healthy?’ Report is saved here.
The Place-Based Health Commissioning Report ‘Get Well Soon’ is save here.
The Health Foundation report ‘Head, hands and heart’ is saved here.
Date this section was last reviewed