Reflections from practitioners

On 9th October, we brought together the practitioners who have been testing the personal asset mapping tool together for the last time. At this session, we were keen to hear more about how they’d been getting on trialing the tool out in practice, as well as listening to their reflections on the process and being involved in the project overall.

Here are some of the things that practitioners said that they had learned in the project:

“How beneficial asset mapping can be to achieve individual goals”

“I’ve learned that I didn’t know some of my clients as well as I thought”

“How the tool can be used across the board, not just about mental health”

“Potential to use the maps with individuals and groups but needs buy-in from practitioners”

“That practitioners from different backgrounds are very skilled”

Similarly, we were aware that many of the practitioners involved in the project were very used to working within set-out processes, with validated tools and that working in an exploratory way would take them out of their comfort zone. We knew this might bring a number of challenges for the practitioners, which we were keen to understand better.

We asked practitioners about some of the fears that they’d overcome throughout the project process, and one of the clear themes was developing confidence – both in using the tool, but in their own skills as a practitioner. Some examples of other factors mentioned by the practitioners include:

“Overcame the people I support’s initial doubts about the project.”

“Overcome- lack of confidence in my knowledge.”

“Making something complex simple enough to explain.”

Practitioners were clear that there were still some barriers that would need to be overcome before the approach could be embedded in practice. These barriers included:

“The future. Where we go from here? Will the digital tool be used.? Selling asset mapping to staff.”

“Becoming more practiced in utilising the tool with others with different needs and support.”

“Follow up and engagement with people who use services”

“Adapting it so that it works for the majority or at least so they will try it.”

It was invaluable to get this feedback from the practitioners, and the project team will be considering these issues as we move the project forward – particularly that of ‘selling’ and communicating the goals and outcomes of the process to other practitioners working locally.

As part of the project evaluation, and understanding the worth of the process, we will, of course, be following up with individuals to find out how they felt about their experience of being involved in the project, to understand if they felt differently after having gone through the asset mapping process and to determine any changes they might have made as a result of this. A full report will be available in due course.

We are also working together with the Connections (The Richmond Fellowship) peer-support group to develop the next prototype of the digital tool, ensuring that people who use services are at the centre of the development process.

We’d like to thank all of the people who were involved in testing the tool and process in practice – your hard work, commitment and openness has made the project possible.

Social Assets in Action Project Launch

On the 24th of May, In the glorious sunshine, we launched the Social Assets in Action project – phase two of the asset-mapping project in East Dunbartonshire.

The aim of the event was to introduce all key stakeholders to the project, to engage and excite them about being involved and to convey the relevance of the project work for them. In total, there were 45 participants representing a range of local agencies and services from across the local authority.

Mark Richards, East Dunbartonshire CHP, and Andy Martin, East Dunbartonshire Council, introduced the day and set the scene, explaining how the work built on the positive response to the assets work showcased at the, ‘Stop…See Me…Listen =  Better Outcomes’ event, held in October 2011.

Andy Martin talked about the recent IRISS Insight (focusing on strengths based approaches for working with individuals) that was published and highlighted to the group that, ‘asset based approaches are not about ‘spinning struggles into strengths’ and urged the audience to see the project as an opportunity to re-connect with their values and to foster a well-being focus within their practice.

I then gave a brief overview of the theory and evidence for the use of asset-based approaches and touched briefly on the project work from 2011 (which has been covered extensively on this blog).  We also showed videos from previous participants as well as presenting some comments from people who use services who had given their views about the project at an earlier event. You can download my Presentation here.

Fran McBride then gave an overview of the next phase of the project. She explained that there were three streams of work:

-development of a digital tool for practitioners to use alongside people who use services. This tool will be developed in partnership with a range of practitioners in order to make sure that it can be easily integrated into usual work

-extension of the community map to cover all of East Dunbartonshire. In order to facilitate this, there will be numerous events* held in the different towns and communities that will be opened up to a broader range of people

-project evaluation. We want to uncover the impact of this work on people as well as documenting the process so people in other areas can learn and build on the project . We have commissioned Jenni Inglis from VIE to carry out an independent evaluation of the project.

Most of all, Fran set the tone for the rest of the day by highlighting that this is a collaborative project. We want everyone to get involved – to spread the word about the project to their teams, colleagues and people who use their services. It is crucial that as a project team we learn from the wealth of experience that exists locally – we have some ideas but also want to encourage others’ input as much as possible.

It was then time to get hand’s on!

Each of the tables were set up to provide a demonstration of the different processes that we used in last years project. We wanted to give delegates a sense of what it would be like to be a participant, but also to think about how they might use the different processes in their everyday work.

We asked delegates a number of questions:

  • How would you see yourself using these tools?
  • What might make it easier or harder to use these tools ?
  • Have you used anything like this before? If yes what’s different about these tools?
  • What do you think might happen if you use these tools? What difference would that make to you?
  • Who (types of people or groups) would need to be involved for the community asset mapping project to work best?
  • What might help these groups get involved, what might stop them?
  • Is there anything happening locally we can link to? Is there anything happening that make this project more difficult to work well?

Common themes that emerged around these questions have been collated below:

Community asset mapping process

– really good way to engage people into the fabric of society – could reduce isolation. Needs to be promoted well in order to reach a wider audience (local businesses, churches, local community members). The project team should consider linking into existing community events such as the gala days etc.

– using the community map as a signpost really helps the wider community have a great sense of choice and control over the activities and resources they use to look after their well-being. It promotes the shift in thinking about resources beyond statutory services.

– many people thought that asset mapping would be useful, but thought a step further about the support people might need in order to use the different assets. Some thought that using the tools might increase client confidence to access new community resources, others thought that this needed to be considered further.

– using these tools would give practitioners a greater knowledge and understanding of services and resources that might be useful to people. It might broaden out the opportunity for discussion and exploration with an individual

Some ideas:

– people without access to the internet/computers will not be able to access the map. An idea might be to display some of the picture maps created at the workshops through out the area in health centres, churches, community centres etc.

– would be interesting to categorise the assets on the maps in terms of how people might be feeling. E.g. ‘I am feeling lonely’ or ‘I am feeling confused’ and signposting people to assets from there.

Personal asset mapping process

– personal map is a good starting point for support and is a tool that could lead to a care plan. Some delegates thought that the tool wasn’t new and in fact was closely linked to person centred planning. Others thought that the focus on well-being enables the conversation to be more generic and maintains a focus on the whole person.

– the fact that the physical pieces can be moved means that the process is fluid and flexible – empowering people to become part of their own recovery and utilising more natural supports. A digital version of this may make it easier to update and track changes in progress.

– this process makes the default position person-led, not service-led. The tools are a creative way of thinking about what is supportive, rather than the traditional way of fitting people into services. Practitioners will need to adapt practice to work in this way.

– this tool is useful for helping people to see the small steps they are making – which might not be so evidence unless they are made visual. It is also more concrete – making it difficult for people to deny progress/assets

Some ideas:

– would be useful to re-visit maps every few months to monitor progress and to see how far people have come on (or not)

– maps should be completed when people are ‘well’ and used in conjunction with a ‘keeping well plan/recovery’. Some people thought that the use of the tool would support the ‘where are we? how do we move on?’ conversation with clients.

The project team will be collating all responses in order to shape the next phase of the project.

Some comments from delegates evaluation forms included:

I’ve learned:

‘a whole host about the assets approach and how it can change people’s lives’

‘that the asset mapping can be an important tool in obtaining a clearer assessment of an individuals strengths and help to shift emphasis from a resource led to a strengths led approach when accessing services’

I think the tools are:

‘fun and useful. Interesting how they can be used to engage people in different ways and at a different pace’

‘useful, dynamic and visual’

We were pleased that delegates overwhelmingly noted that they would use the tools in future and half of all delegates left their names to continue to be involved in the project and to be contacted by the project evaluator. We will be in touch!

For more information about this project, please contact the project team:

Fran McBride –

David Law –

Lynsay Haglington –

Lisa Pattoni –

You can expect regular updates on this project blog from different members of the project team, but we’d really like to hear your views – so feel free to add comments, thoughts and reflections to any of the blog posts.

*Community events

You’ll see us around many events that are already taking place locally. But we’ve arranged these dates specifically to get people to think about their well-being and local assets that might help promote this.

Bearsden and Milngavie:
Saturday 23rd June 2012, Allander Sports Centre, Bearsden     12pm – 5pm
Friday 29th June 2012, Enterprise Centre, Milngavie 10am – 1pm

Friday 20th July 2012, Healthy Living Centre, Twechar 10am – 1pm
Saturday 28th July 2012, Healthy Living Centre, Twechar 12pm – 5pm

Monday 23rd July 2012, Caldwell Halls, Torrance 10am-1pm
Saturday 18th August 2012, Caldwell Halls, Torrance 12pm – 5pm

Monday 17th September 2012, Bishopbriggs Community Church 10am – 1pm
Saturday 22nd September 2012, Bishopbriggs Leisure Centre 12am – 5pm

Lennoxtown and Milton of Campsie:
Tuesday 9th October 2012, Campsie Memorial Hall, Lennoxtown 10am – 1pm
Saturday 20th October 2012, Campsie Memorial Hall, Lennoxtown 12pm – 5pm

To be confirmed.

Thanks and acknowledgements

Our friends at East Dunbartonshire Association for Mental Health (EDAMH) were also on hand to facilitate a table and share their experience of using an asset based approach in practice. We’re really happy that Julie Leonard from EDAMH will be co-facilitating sessions with practitioners alongside Fran McBride in the project.

See Mindapples for more information about their campaign which aims to make looking after your own mental well-being as brushing our teeth, by asking everyone, “What’s the 5-a-day for your mind?”.

We love using the different wooden blocks, sticks and cubes for the different mapping processes. If you do too, see Tessy Britton’s shop on Etsy.

Many thanks also to East Dunbartonshire Voluntary Action who helped with the administration of the event, and the Kirkintilloch Baptist Church who provided a lovely, accessible venue for the event.

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.