STRENGTH-based learning

(because it Really Matters)

Too often, helping people is focused around identifying and fixing problems. We start by asking “What’s wrong?” and “What’s missing?” When the starting point is what a person lacks, it creates dependency on the person who is the “helper”. And dependence is disempowering. Starting with a problem also lowers positive expectations, ignores the potential power of having lived through difficulties and gets in the way of seeing a person’s unique capabilities and strengths. This limits the opportunities for change.

Strength-based approaches start by asking “What’s right?” They are founded in the belief that every person has a unique set of strengths and capabilities and the potential for growth, change and success. Strength-based approaches also recognize that people themselves hold the key to their own transformation. The power to change is within them.

When we look for successes, strengths and abilities as a starting point, it changes the helping relationship from fixing someone, to nurturing someone’s innate potential. Instead of dwelling on problems and seeing hopelessness, strength-based approaches focus on opportunity, empowerment, capacity building and hope.

Core Principles of Facilitating Strength-Based Practice (Hammond, 2012)

  • You need to have an absolute belief that every person has potential. It is their unique strengths and capabilities that will determine their evolving story as well as define who they are–not their limitations.
  • What we focus on becomes our reality. Focus on strengths, not labels, seeing challenges as circumstances that foster capacity (not something to avoid).
    The language we use creates our reality, both for facilitators and for participants. Be mindful of what you say and the labels you use.
  • Believe that change is inevitable. All individuals have the urge to succeed, to explore the world around them and to make themselves useful to others and their communities.
  • Positive change occurs in the context of trusting relationships. People need to know someone cares and will be there unconditionally for them. This program supports change and capacity building – not fixing.
  • A person’s perspective of reality (their own story) is primary. Value and start the change process with what is important to the person, not to you or an expert. Meet people where they are.
  • People have more confidence and comfort to journey into the unknown when they are invited to start with what they already know. Make sure that’s where you begin.
  • Understand that capacity building is a process and a goal. It’s a life long journey that changes and morphs over time.
  • It is important to value differences and the essential need to collaborate. Effective change is a collaborative, inclusive and a participatory process.