There’s a new concept abroad in health policy circles – ‘health assets’. Senior health policy leads are developing ideas for an Assets Alliance, which may figure at a location near you any time quite soon. ALISS has been lucky enough (well we think so) to be party to some of the early, formative conversations around this topic.
What are ‘health assets’ and why might they be relevant for ALISS – and indeed why might ALISS be relevant for health assets?
Here’s the definition being used in the developing discourse on health assets:
“A health asset is any factor or resource which enhances the ability of individuals, communities and populations to maintain and sustain health and well-being. These assets can operate at the level of the individual, family or community as protective and promoting factors to buffer against life’s stresses.”
Anthony Morgan, 2009
Some have suggested that it’s basically community development. In this sense, perhaps the new language is the shiny armour a new generation feels the need to strap on when sallying forth to do battle with old and familiar wicked problems. And looked at with a digital hat on, there are new opportunities this time around to work with communities that are other than purely place-based.
Diagrammatically, the assets concept can be viewed like this (with thanks to ID&eA and its Glass Half-full paper):
Why might a health assets approach be relevant? Well, ALISS seeks to make it easier for people to find the local support they need. Looking at the diagram, you can see that existing institutional information – which we plan to work with to help get things started – provides quite reasonable coverage of the two outer circles, on the right of the central wedge, and has a moderate stab at the outer circle on the left. Which leaves a fairly substantial part of the landscape untouched.
And interestingly, it’s this part of the landscape that people with long-term conditions emphasised most in the ideas and plans that they co-designed with us in the Open Innovation process. Ideas like It’s About Time, First Things First, INCA, People helping People, and Plugged In are all based on the importance of people being assets for each other. What could be more central to the Assets Approach??
As the social movement promoting a health Assets Approach develops, it is likely to get practical. Can ALISS make a contribution? Here’s what we think we could offer
- One among various possible practical foci for the necessary hunter-gathering – LTC-related assets of all types(most especially people, not just the usual ‘worthy organisations’ J)
- A brilliant means (the Engine) for [collating and] presenting information on the assets back to the community concerned, and freeing up access to this info so it can pop up all over, via lots of intermediaries (as in ‘public services collate the data, make it available for the more fertile imagination of everybody else to make use of’);
- A framework/scaffold/tools etc (service-design tools & students) for helping the assets do something to make things better (have ideas, visualise them, create plans & proposals, etc.)
- A narrative for how this can work in one context (the Open Innovation process) – applicable to others?
- A network of folk who more or less know what we’re on about (the ALISS Community generally)
Of course, there are likely to be all sorts of hurdles between where we are now and making this contribution. To name just a few: resources; the information governance questions around the identification and sharing of information about assets the closer they get to being individuals (but what about Facebook?); and by no means least the desire of communities to be assets for each other. But working with such challenges is what makes life interesting.
Currently, it seems that a Framework is under construction in policy circles. It looks as though this may contain – amongst other things – notes on projects and organisations that are putting variants on the assets approach into practice already (a network); further descriptive material about the concept (homework)(see an initial wee collection here); and perhaps some simple things for beginners to think of trying out. All this looks sensibly ‘preliminary’, and one can hope that developing it further will itself be an exercise in co-production. An early worked example would fit the concept quite nicely!