A glass half-full: how an asset approach can improve community health and wellbeing

By Trevor Hopkins

September 30, 2020

While lots of people have heard of assets approaches, many more are using an asset approach without even realising it. What exactly is an asset approach? Where did ideas about using assets approaches come from? What do you do in an asset approach that is different to other approaches? What do asset approaches mean for communities, families, individuals and practitioners particularly in terms of health and wellbeing?

In a series of blogs Trevor Hopkins will explore all these questions and more. In this first blog we ask what is a health asset?

“A health asset is any factor which enhances the ability of individuals, communities and populations to maintain and sustain health and wellbeing. These assets can operate at the level of the individual, family or community as protective and promoting factors against life’s stresses.”

Antony Morgan, Associate Director, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) 2009

It is any of the following:

  • the practical skills, capacity and knowledge of people - ‘human resources’
  • the passions and interests of local people that give them energy for change
  • the networks and connections – sometimes called ‘social capital’ in a community, including
  • friendships and neighbourliness
  • the effectiveness of local community and voluntary associations
  • the resources of public, private, community and voluntary services and associations
  • the physical and economic resources that enhance wellbeing.

The asset approach values the capacity, skills, knowledge, connections and potential in a community. It acknowledges but doesn’t focus on the problems that need fixing and the gaps that need filling. In an assets approach, the glass is half-full rather than half-empty. The assets approach is a set of values and principles. It is a way of thinking about the world.


  • identifies and makes visible the health-enhancing assets in a community
  • sees people as co-producers of health and wellbeing, rather than just the recipients of services
  • promotes networks, collaboration, relationships and friendships that provide caring, mutual aid and empowerment
  • values what is already working well
  • identifies what has the potential to improve health and wellbeing
  • supports people’s health and wellbeing through improved self-esteem, coping strategies, resilience skills, relationships, friendships and personal resources
  • helps communities to control their futures and create and develop resources such as services, buildings and funds.

These values and principles can lead to new kinds of community-based working and benefit individuals, families and communities.

Next time – How do you discover, make visible and connect these assets to start making a positive difference to people’s health and wellbeing?

This blog is based on the ideas and key messages in ‘A glass half-full: how an asset approach can improve community health and wellbeing’ by Jane Foot and Trevor Hopkins – published in 2010

Posted on:
September 30, 2020
3 minute read, 447 words
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