Strengths based approach

We believe in the inherent God-given dignity and worth of every person, and that every person has unique gifts and talents. Our Strengths Based Approach identifies and builds on the strengths, abilities and assets that communities already have. The approach leads to better, more sustainable development, and allows everyone in a community to participate in building a better future.

Needs Based vs Strengths Based


Traditionally, international development programs have focussed on the needs and problems that communities face. The Strengths Based Approach, also known as Asset Based Community Development, is a more inclusive approach that focuses on a community's strengths, capacities and assets. It facilitates, rather than dictates, a community's development.

By helping community members to recognise their collective strengths, we can encourage them to pool their assets and work together towards the common good to bring about permanent, sustainable development.

Nobody has nothing!

Strengths can take the form of:

  • Human strengths (assets) – eg: skills, knowledge, labour and health
  • Social strengths (assets) – eg: social networks, relationships of trust and reciprocity
  • Natural strengths (assets) – eg: land, water, fertile soil, animals, weather patterns
  • Financial strengths (assets) – eg: cash, livestock, grain stores, savings, pensions, cash
  • Physical strengths (assets) – eg: roads, bridges, clinics, schools, transport, shelter, water supply, sanitation

The strengths based approach demonstrates that ‘nobody has nothing’, and that communities have the ability to drive their own development.

How the strengths based approach works

The approach starts with 'what people have' and builds on this. It ensures that communities design their own development and are less reliant on external ‘experts’. Under the approach, communities:

  • Map their assets using a variety of tools.
  • Develop a vision for their community.
  • Regularly monitor their own progress.

Videos: Strengths Based Approach in action

Vertical Garden
Vertical Garden video
Dish Drying Rack
Dish Drying Rack video
Tippy Tap
Tippy Tap video
Energy Saving Stove
Energy Saving Stove video

Realising African Visions - strong people, powerful communities

Several communities in Malawi and Tanzania have been embracing a strengths based approach.

By building on their strengths and assets, these communities have been able to improve their access to clean and safe water, become more food secure, and have better sanitation and hygiene services.

They have also been able to learn techniques such as building a tippy tap, vertical garden , energy saving stove and dish drying rack to help them in their everyday lives.

Read more and check out videos explaining these processes »