Bringing Voices in from the Cold: Analysing the Efficacy of Asset-Based Community Development in a Voluntary Homelessness Organisation

Jewell, Alistair John (2016) Bringing Voices in from the Cold: Analysing the Efficacy of Asset-Based Community Development in a Voluntary Homelessness Organisation. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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This thesis explores and evaluates the usefulness of asset-based community development (ABCD) to develop opportunities for participation with homeless people. Current research suggests that asset-based ways of working can promote effective alternatives to needs-based procedures and engage service users within health and social care production and delivery. ABCD may be defined as a process whereby underutilised local community ‘assets’ are drawn together to deliver social and economic benefits (McKnight and Block, 2012). However, little research into the applicability of ABCD has yet been undertaken with homeless people and associated non-statutory agencies.
The research was undertaken within a small homelessness charity primarily operated by volunteers. As a volunteer within the charity I undertook a critical action research inspired approach into exploring the benefits of and challenges involved in using ABCD as a method of facilitating increased involvement of homeless people in a food distribution project, and investigated the wider applicability and challenges of ABCD as a means of enhancing involvement of homeless people. The strengths and weaknesses of undertaking participatory research and the issues around combining the roles of volunteer and researcher are reflected upon to share knowledge and experience of action research.
Through undertaking this research as a process of investigation into how a homelessness organisation implements ABCD combined with a critical reflection of the role of the researcher as participant observer a rich and detailed insight into the research aims has been discerned. The research increases understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of ABCD in practice with a marginalised group and shows notions of a ‘homeless community’ and a ‘culture of homelessness’ to be of negative value in assisting homeless people to become more engaged within the community. It highlights the need for a more critical form of ABCD incorporating notions of power. In conjunction, it has enhanced opportunities for homeless people to engage and influenced practice within the charity.

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