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A strengths-based approach

November 24, 2015

The final post of our ‘3 new funding approaches blog series’ focuses on a strengths-based approach. An excellent example of this is the Phoenix Futures ‘Communities of Recovery Glasgow’ project.

What Big Lottery Fund Scotland loves about the project:

Phoenix Futures uses the experience and the strengths people bring right at the centre of how the project is delivered.  At the point of referral the project assesses the strengths and assets of each person,

The Big Shed Kitchen

and looks to develop those strengths in a way that helps them to live independently and continue in recovery. Each person is matched with a peer mentor or befriender with similar experiences, and over time they can follow a pathway to become a trained volunteer and be accredited as a peer mentor or befriender themselves. The approach is person centred and looks at what each individual wants to achieve and gives them support to find a way to meet those goals. The project staff are there to facilitate, safeguard and support, but not direct how each person approaches their own recovery.

The organisation was awarded £457,726 for a three year project.


How the project do it:
Tracy McConnell, Project Manager, Phoenix Futures, said: “At Phoenix we believe that everyone who is dependent on substances has the potential to rebuild their lives. Recovery is more than just putting the alcohol and drugs down, it’s about rebuilding a full, meaningful and productive life and where better to do that than within local communities.   Our focus is on supporting people to feel part of their community again and to ensure that this is for positive reasons.

“We carry out strength-based assessments on all of our mentees so we can understand what they are 17 250x250looking for from the service. Our service takes a person centred focus when working with individuals as we believe this is the only way to effectively support someone. In relation to treatment services there can be no ‘one size fits all’ approach and we find that by focusing on what interests and skills people have then we can work from there to tailor make a support package that works. People should enjoy their recovery and not endure it and this is why we know it is so important to have service users involvement at the heart of all of our services.

As a team we are fully involved in local Recovery Community work and have strong links with many education and employability services that can also support our service users to realise their potential.
I believe that as long as the team are knowledgeable, willing to carry out research as to what opportunities are available for our volunteers and mentees we can deliver effective service.

“We work very closely with every mentee to ensure they get access to the information and support that they need.  Staff work with mentees to develop goals and help mentees decide on the best way to achieve them.  We review the care plan on a regular basis with the mentee and peer mentor to ensure everything is on track and to change or update the care plan when appropriate.”

“The goal of our Peer Mentoring Service is for both our peer mentors and peer mentees to feel empowered. This can be achieved in different ways, for example, for our mentees it may be that every day they feel that bit better about themselves or it could be through reducing their substance misuse or having the confidence to start attending a local support group or attend a college course. For our volunteers it could mean using their past experiences and turning them into positive ones by helping others, it could also mean that through volunteering they start to feel more work ready and can use their comprehensive training and learning from their role and use this to move on to further education and employment.”

For more information go to our website at


2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 11, 2015 8:04 pm

    I’ve just been drilling down into some of the resources BIG are suggesting groups use to help create a strengths based report….really interesting stuff

    The first link I clicked on was the suggested tool kit from an organisation called ABCD Institute’. Their toolkit was developed 15 years ago in Australia and refers to research carried out in the 1990’s. It is like walking back through a time warp.

    The tool kit suggests recruiting community researchers who are trained for 2 months, then these researchers should take at least 6 months to identify the strengths of a community.

    If this is the correct toolkit are BIG recommending this is the route potential groups should take in 2015?

    My first question is who pays for these community researchers?

    My second question is that the tool kit process takes around 8 months – and that’s before any applications are even written – is this the level of research BIG expects groups to have carried out?

    if not why is there a link to this toolkit?

    I’m almost dreading clicking on any other links in case Scotland’s last game in a European final or World Cup pops up!

    Maybe it’s just because it’s Friday and it is still raining, it might be because the Forth Rd bridge is still closed, its might even be because I’ve still not finished my Xmas shopping…..

    but surely BIG as a people led, strengths based organisation with loads of connections could have found a more up to date, sophisticated and relevant tool kit that fits Scotland’s society and needs in 2015?

  2. December 11, 2015 8:19 pm

    oh I’m now getting even more confused……..the next link I clicked on is the one to IRISS actually says that “There are dangers of practitioners from any agency polarising their practice into either ‘risk assessment’ or ‘strengths-based approaches’.

    What may be in most people’s interests is to develop approaches that look at the whole picture of a person’s life. There is nothing in the strengths approach that instructs the discounting of the problems of life that people bring.”

    This research actual suggests both a deficit approach ie problems based and strengths based are vitally important.

    But that’s not what BIG are suggesting is it? They seem to be “encouraging” a strength based approach.

    oh god this is so confusing if even the support BIG are suggesting I use doesn’t agree with their new approach.

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