At a presentation a few weeks ago, I made a suggestion. The presentation was about a change of approach, undertaken by PCTs (Primary Care Trusts), to their work in communities. There is a move from a needs based approach to an assets based approach. It's not too important for my argument what these approaches mean but to aid understanding: needs-based approaches identify and attempt to meet the needs of communities, whilst assets-based approaches focus on the assets already present in the community.
One school of thought is demonstrated in diagram A. Here there is a simple transition from a needs-based to an assets-based approach.
The speaker suggested a more helpful approach would be diagram B. Here both needs and assets are identified, leading to a means to map the community in terms of its needs and assets. So, a community might be low in terms of some needs but have the means to address them because it is high in certain assets.
I'm a bit sceptical about these types of approach. Both are assessments made by outsiders, on their terms to meet their own targets. To understand what is going on in a given community, perhaps we need a model like diagram C. Here the PCT might have been using the needs-based approach with (lets be generous) a degree of success. But over time, there are diminishing returns and so it is appropriate to introduce a new assets-based approach. Similarly, this might start out as effective but over time becomes less so. As each approach delivers fewer returns, there will be a need to develop new approaches.
What any community will experience as projects progress through their life cycle, is a sense of stuckness. Circumstances will improve to the extent people have the imagination to develop a next step. To do this they need to move outside the mindset of the current models (needs, assets or what-have-you) and find a new paradigm.
The thing is people remember. They remember the old projects and the old models. Any new movement will be successful to the extent to which it acknowledges past experience in the neighbourhood. Old models can weigh heavily on a community, where the people have seen it all before. The new worker is at a disadvantage because she does not remember, the residents are at a disadvantage because they do.
This is the problem with any experience of stuckness. Memory reminds us of all the things that have been tried (and failed) and so undermines imagination. But without memory, imagination cannot grapple with the reality of this specific place and time.
But being stuck, in a community or in church relationships, is a good place to be. It's a good place to be because it is where God is to be found. Our mindsets are full of assumptions that have to be addressed to enable us to become unstuck. Old methods, for example, faith and order approaches, no longer work because they have become constraints on our imagination. We need to remember but also step outside our old assumptions.