Re-connecting with previous asset-mappers!

One of the crucial aspects of the project is really making sure local people are at the centre of the work and get an opportunity to shape and direct the next phase of the project.

That’s why, on Tuesday this week, we met with some of the participants from the first asset project. We wanted to get their views about what worked well, and what didn’t work so well from the first project. It was lovely to see people again!

After a brief catch up about what had happened since we last met, Jenni, the project evaluator, got us down to work.

Jenni asked us questions both about community asset mapping (finding out about what is useful for well-being within the community, and personal asset mapping (thinking about your own personal assets).

The questions included:

  • Have you done anything like the asset mapping workshop before?
  • What worked well about the workshop/ what worked less well?
  • What would encourage you to come to future workshops?
  • Who else do you think should get involved (types/ groups of people) What do you think would encourage them to come?
  • What do you think about the map that has been created?
  • What ways did you use your personal asset map and what difference did that make to you?

There was a range of views from participants, comments included:

  • I think we should broaden out the types of people who come along to workshops, so that we can get the views of more people
  • I think people can learn a lot about themselves by mapping their own assets – it makes you think a bit differently
  • its good for people to share what they know about the community
  • people’s experiences are so important
  • being involved can help individual well-being – but also that of others – giving them a feeling of being  part of the future of their community

Jenni will be writing up a fuller record of the meeting and we’ll be using the comments to help shape the indicators for the project evaluation – so it was really valuable to have people come along.

We asked the participants whether or not they would like to continue to be involved in the project in its next phase and were really pleased that they said yes! We’ll be following up with these individuals over the next few weeks.

Thanks to Ceartas Advocacy for allowing us to use their rooms – they served as a lovely neutral place for us to work. We’ll be back to visit again soon!

Social Assets in Action: Project Launch

We are launching the Social Assets in Action project on 24th May in Kirkintilloch Baptist Church (There will be a morning session and an afternoon session).

The purpose of this event is to give an overview of the process of the project, explain how you can get involved, and how you can shape the project going forward. We hope you will spread the word about this event to both staff and people who use your services.

Please register your intention to come along to Sheena Bremner: by 18th May.

Many thanks.

Knowledge Hub: asset based approaches in Scotland

Following our meeting around assets in January (see previous blog post) we have set up a webspace called Asset based approaches in Scotland – whereby people interested in this topic can share resources, discuss, connect and take forward any issues we are facing.  The site can be found here:

If you’re not already registered for the public service community of practice site you’ll need to do so before you can access this.

Once you get to the site you’ll see we’ve added some resources and materials as well as set up a range of discussion forums entitled things like:

  • Case studies of good practice
  • Defining terms
  • Asset proofing documents and policies
  • Communication and Branding
  • Measurement and Evaluation
  • Asset Mapping
Happy connecting!
Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or difficulties –

Mapping Edinburgh’s Self Management Resources

One of the things that we are really keen to do is to share the learning from this Kirkintilloch project far and wide so that others can use and adapt the process that we’ve gone through to better understand the resources that are available in the communities in which they live.

We were invited to come along and give a presentation about the project at the ALISS (Access to Local Information to Support Self-management) event on Tuesday 25th October.

One of the things we did was to showcase some of the different approaches to mapping that we tested in Kirkintilloch. Some photographs from the event are available here:

This was just a taster session and I think we were a bit ambitious to think that we could begin to map out some of Edinburgh’s self-management resources in a little hour session. It was mostly about showing people a new approach, and giving people a method for which to start thinking about collecting the different resources that are available, as well as learning something new about the area in which they work. We came away with a wealth of knowledge and information which will give a helpful baseline for which to build on.

This wide range of ‘assets’ or resources, came out of conversations, scribbles, post-its and using 3D shapes. Maybe they popped into peoples’ heads when something related was mentioned or when they spotted something on the map, but what it seemed to do was to help people think about self-management in the widest possible sense – enabling them to think outside of ‘traditional services’. And that is one of the things we like best about using assets as an approach – it is not just about positive language it is reframing how people think.

Beyond developing a map of resources, we’ve also found the process to be useful in  promoting connections or relationships between individuals, between individuals and organisations and between organisations. This certainly seemed to be happening on the day, there was a really good buzz in the room – with even some talk about establishing a local network of people interested in self-management.

We asked people how they found going through the process and received a really positive response. Additionally, there were lots of suggestions as to how it could further be developed, including:

  • colour coding the different categories of assets
  • ensuring that the areas that we choose to map are at the right size and are not overwhelming for participants
  • involving people who use services to understand their experiences of the different resources mapped

More soon.

Map of Kirkintilloch

Interactive assets map

The project created an online visualised interactive map which details the assets of the community through the eyes of the people who have experience of, and who live within, the community.

The people involved in the project categorised assets using their own language. The following categories were identified:

  • Food
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Organisation
  • Outdoor space
  • Physical exercise
  • Religion/spiritual
  • Shopping
  • Social Space
  • Volunteering

Rather than being static moments in time it is important that the map changes to reflect the group of people who are using it. This map can be explored, added to and rearranged by people in the community. In addition, the assets defined by the people involved in the project have been tagged according to categories that they came up with and are therefore more meaningful to them.

The interface allows individuals to add assets as they go, comment on other assets (through a moderator) and also upload pictures (especially useful when people are new to an area). We have also linked the map so that there is a mobile application, which is freely downloadable to all smart phones. This means that people can view and add to the map when they are out and about in the community.

The map itself will continue to be a work in progress, with more and more people adding to it and changing the shape of what it looks like.  By doing this, we can gather insights into how things are changing over time and hopefully keep the energy and enthusiasm of the project alive.

Beyond developing a map, the process was designed to promote connections or relationships between individuals, between individuals and organisations and between organisations. Commonly people (practitioners and people who use services) talked about being inspired to try out new things and of being inspired by listening and working together with others.

The assets of individuals

Many times in trying to solve a problem, we start with a ‘needs assessment’. This will generally identify the problem that exists and will set about a way to finding a route for which to meet the identified needs. Using this approach means that there is a tendency to focus on the shortcomings of individuals, since it identifies the problems before the strengths.

A needs focus can sometimes make us feel overwhelmed, resigned, hopeless. Focusing on the positive – on people’s strengths can allow us to feel energised and hopeful, even.

Over the course of the project we’ve been speaking to people who have experienced mental health problems on a 1-1* basis – asking them what exisits in their lives that helps their well-being. We did this because we wanted to help them to map the assets that they had within themselves, and within their networks that might help them to keep well.

We did this using many of the same techniques described in previous posts for community asset mapping – but with a definite focus on the individual, their likes and dislikes, their friends and family and their situation overall. This links very much into the Wellness and Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) idea of creating a ‘wellness toolkit’.

I was quite weary of undertaking these exercises at first, because I was worried that people might not be able to see the positive things that they had in their life, and that going through the process might be upsetting. I was wrong.

Having conducted 10 of these discussions with a range of different people, the view is that people found it overwhelmingly positive. There was nothing new to the types of conversations that the practitioner and I were having with them, but mapping things out in a visual way that could be recorded and considered had some really encouraging effects.

Practitioners were able to tackle problems that they’d been discussing for quite some time in a new way and were able to identify factors/issues that they could work on with the individuals quite readily. Service users noted that the process was useful in really thinking about what is important and recording it so that it could be reflected upon at a later date when they were feeling less well (or indeed more well). They were also clear that the visual aspect of it was really good – to be able to literally see what they have (and how much they have) was really powerful.

Here are some examples of the maps we created (highlighting the different methods that we used):



This type of planning won’t be suitable for everyone, all of the time. For the use of the tool/process to be effective, it will need to be done when the person is feeling well.
What worked best was when there was a good relationship with the practitioner and the service user – it meant that people really thought through the process, rather than coming up with superficial answers.

It also worked well when we tried out these approaches in a group – people were able to spark ideas off of one another and to think about different areas of their lives by being prompted by their peers. Some people were quite overwhelmed by the experience, though, and it is important to ensure that people are comfortable and made aware of what the activity is and how it can help them.

All thoughts welcome.

*1-1 basis isn’t strictly true, because many of the discussions we had for the project were helpfully facilitated by trained practitioners. Many thanks to the staff who helped facilitate these discussions!

Making a community map

So, we’ve been a bit quiet on here over the past few weeks, but that doesn’t mean that we’ve not been busy.

We’ve been working on mapping out all of the different assets identified in the workshops and collating them together in one place.

We’re using the data collected to turn this:

into this

Not only that, we are thinking about how these different assets should be grouped together so that they are easier for people to find, as well as considering different ways that we might want to present them.

More examples to come soon.

We’ve been really lucky in that Peter from ALISS has been present at all of the workshops. He’s working on a different project that helps people access local information about self management. He is doing this by creating an ‘engine’ which helpfully gathers and organizes information in a coherent way and then points people back to the original source of information. This usefully reduces the amount of time and energy that we need to use to populate maps like these. Have a look at their blog post about putting kirkintilloch on the map for more information.

Workshop 3: 4th August

The third and final workshop in the series focused on bringing together the ideas from the previous sessions, firming up the assets that we felt were important to map, and considering how we might (as individuals and organisations) use them better.

Who was there?

Because we were keen to work slightly differently at this workshop, we brought together a smaller number than the previous two sessions. This was important as we were keen to help people map their personal assets, which could be considered quite difficult to do in a large group. This meant that there was 10 people at the workshop (5 people who use services, and 5 who support people who use services).

What did we do?

1. What does well-being mean to me?

We worked together in two groups of seven people (including facilitators) to think about how we feel when we are well, and the types of things that we do to help us continue to feel this way. We wanted to capture this at the beginning of the session so that we could refer back to this when completing the other activities. We were keen to encourage people to be aspirational when completing their well-being statement.

Some of the statements looked like this:

The majority of people talked about ‘feeling good inside’, as well as feeling a sense of ‘calm’ or ‘relaxation’. It was interesting that many people talked about knowing themselves well enough to judge when they would need to take action to keep themselves feeling well, and when they did not.

The types of activities that people talked about doing to keep well were similar to those that had been discussed in previous weeks and centred around:

  • connecting with others
  • keeping busy, and having structure to your day
  • feeling motivated was really important for both groups – knowing how to get motivated and what works for your was incredibly important
  • knowing what services were available, knowing how to use them, when and how you could be referred was also talked about as being vital
This activity worked well as a good ice-breaker, unearthing a lot of commonalities within the group and providing talking points. It got people talking about themselves – something that can be quite difficult to do in groups.

2. Review of the map and generating ‘tags’

We worked together at this stage to review the community map so far and to think about what assets might be missing. It is amazing that whenever we bring together new groups of people to do this exercise the amount of new information that we learn and share!

Some of the new assets we mapped included:

  • lots of walking routes
  • german bakery
  • 10 pin bowling
  • rape crisis drop in centre
  • live active exercise referral programme
  • community education centres
  • kelvin valley walkers
In general, the groups were pleased with the range of support services that were covered on the map, but wanted to understand more about how to access them.
We were interested in gathering feedback on the types of categories that many of the services and supports may sit under, and used luggage labels as ‘tags’ for people to write and draw their ideas on.
“Searching” and “tagging” were difficult concepts for the participants to get their head around. Some of the ideas that we came up with included:
  • categorizing supports in terms of the way you might feel when you have used them, e.g. ‘relaxation’, ‘confidence’, ‘motivation’ etc.
  • we should have general tags like ‘exercise’ with the ability to choose from a range of options that follow.
  • people thought that how to access services should be tagged – including things like ‘self referral’, ‘open to anyone’, ‘call or apply online’, ‘GP referral only’ etc.
  • people also came up with a range of specific tag words to be used for the individual services.
One of the interesting things was the recognition from the groups that the map would need to work on a number of different levels. It would need to:
  1. Encourage people who know that they need support, and consider what works best for them to try out new things.
  2. Help people who don’t know where to go, or explain how to get started on the road to better mental health and well-being
  3. Be of use to those who need the most support – with helpful phone-lines and ways to get in touch with people immediately.
In addition, there was some discussion around the ‘help yourself’ guide produced by Ceartas for dementia and whether or not something like this could be produced for mental health.

3. Developing my community map

For the next activity we asked people to work in pairs to consider their own personal assets. We asked people to draw or write a map of all of the different affiliations or communities of people they belong to (including moral support, access, resources etc.) that they thought were useful for their well-being. We broke this down into three categories that are most important to them:

  1. People
  2. Places
  3. Activities

The maps looked a little bit like this:

We then asked people:

  1. What they noticed about their community map.
  2. If they’d learned anything that surprised them, or if they’d gained any insights.
  3. What was missing, and what would support them to use the assets in the community map (big map of Kirkintilloch) better.
This was an excellent exercise for people to do as working in pairs, people were able to spark off different ideas off one another and build their maps together. When we asked about what surprised people, the following comments were made:
“It makes me feel very lucky”
“It reminds me of what I have”
“I’m surprised at how much I have very close to me”
“It made me see the progress I’ve made”
“Its been great to get a chance to think about me, just me”
People thought that they would be able to use these personal maps in a variety of ways, from doing the exercise again in 4-6 months time so that you could see if anything had changed, using the maps to think about any gaps that they have in their lives (and thinking about what might help address these gaps), and using the maps to see how far they have come.
When asked about what would help people to use the community supports indicated in the large community map better, participants talked about simply knowing what was out there, and how to access it. Some participants talked about needing some support to try things out for the first time – be that from a support worker, a family member or a friend.
We were very careful to show some examples of what these maps could look like before beginning the exercise in order to reassure participants that it would be ok to not have very much on the map. We were also keen to be sensitive to the fact that people may not have wanted to discuss their personal assets, and were planning to use the hypothetical examples in order to get around this.

In reality, every participant in the group was happy to complete their map. Moreover, they all commented, in one way or another, what a positive experience undertaking the activity had been for them.

4. Visualising data

In the last session after lunch, we talked about different ways of presenting the data and information we’ve been collecting over the past month. Participants were given a range of different examples of other online visualised maps from across the world.

We were asked people what was useful and not so useful about these different types of visualisations and what they felt would make them better for the purposes of this locality and in their area.

Some of the ideas that people came up with for the map included:

  • focusing on personal stories of people with lived experience of using services in the area – through quotes or real stories
  • making sure that there is a physical or printed copy that people have as well as an online version
  • there was excitement for using a range of different categories to cover the different services
  • a way to communicate different events (and the locations of those events) – like a prepared diary/calendar
  • a way for organisations to communicate with one another
We were keen to ask people who should be able to upload or update data/resources on the map. The group thought that there should be a representative from each of the specified organisations that would update their own information. There were some reservations about ‘just anyone’ being able to upload information and as such the majority of people thought it should be moderated in some way. Mostly, I think this was due to understanding what community populated websites are like and the type of input that would be involved.
We had a lively discussion at the end about how best to categorise the difference between community and traditional support services, which was similar to the discussion that took place earlier in one of the groups. We thought that a useful way around this would be appropriate tagging – but that some versions of these tags should be circulated around the organisations and posted in the blog to make sure that we get them right.


This session was focused on bringing the community elements that we’ve been mapping back down to focus on individuals, and working with people to understand how they could use community supports more. We also wanted people to understand more about the outputs of the project and to have their say in its development and to have them consider how they could potentially use it.

The focus of the project has been on understanding whether or not an asset based approach could be applied to the field of mental health and how its use could reveal existing capacities within the community and in individuals.

I’ve been reflecting on the last session and I think its success was based on looking at people’s personal assets. It was incredibly powerful to see and hear people appreciating and being astounded at all of the different valuable things that they have in their lives and considering the steps that they could take to both strengthen what is there already as well as develop new networks and ties. It was an exceptionally rich process which created a lot of discussion.

This has a lot in common with the recovery based approaches that the service providers in the area are using to help people with mental health problems take control over their journey towards wellness. What we’ve hopefully achieved through this process, is to consider more creatively how providers can work together with people using services to consider how they understand themselves, their well-being and the support and services that might help them in the process of recovery.

I think the process that we’ve gone through over the past three weeks links quite neatly into much of the wellness and recovery action planning (WRAP) work that is already going on in a variety of different ways in the area. Hopefully the process, as well as being useful for the people who use services, has also given practitioners some more tools for their toolbox.

Perhaps the most thought provoking of all was that people recognised that their lives were quite full and that they hadn’t realised or recognised it for a while. The process has shone a light on the value of making things visual and working in 3D.

What’s next?

I’d just like to thank all of the people who have given their time, engery, ideas and enthusiasm by coming along to the workshops and sharing their experiences and knowledge. Truely, the project would not have been possible without you. I hope you are pleased with the end result!

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be working to qualitatively thematize the outputs from the four sessions. This will culminate in:

  • A final report with recommendations and reflections for the local authority to consider
  • A document that outlines the project process, including step-by-step guides and reflections on what went well, and what did not go so well
  • A couple of visualised examples of what the final project output could look like for key stakeholders to consider, develop and agree upon.
Keep watching this space for the first few glimpses of what the outputs might look like – we’d be very happy to get your views and reflections.
More to come soon.

Mental Health Network

The Mental Health Network (Greater Glasgow) is a service user led organisation that gathers the experiences and opinions of people that have used Mental Health services in the greater Glasgow area – this includes East Dunbartonshire.

You can join by completing a membership form.

For more information, contact Moira Gillespie on 0141 550 8417 or visit the Mental Health Network website.