A Smörgåsbord of ABCD

A colleague recently asked me if I could suggest some good articles, videos and Blogs about ABCD and strengths based working. I thought that what I put together might be of interest to others. So in no particular order, here are some of my favourites:

Angela Blanchard is someone who seems to just ‘get’ the whole strengths based approach to things. I’m sure that’s because of her own experiences growing up in Texas. It was a thrill to chat with her earlier this year by Skype but even better to meet her recently when she came to speak at the Bromford Bash in Birmingham. She’s a real evangelist for believing in people and communities and what they can achieve. You can find several of her great talks online but as a starter take a look at her TedxHouston talk from 2011:

Stumbling across this video was my first encounter with Angela. You can check out her website here. This is an interesting article from the NY Times about Angela and the work of Neighbourhood Centres. Now it’s great to be able to add a video of Angela speaking to Bromford colleagues too. You can watch her presentation that captivated colleagues here.

My colleague William Lilley has really helped me develop my understanding of strengths based working and ABCD. He has built up some great links with all sorts of practitioners, thinkers etc. Will has worked closely with Tony Bullock, the lead for Substance Misuse services in Staffordshire, and a network of individuals and associations has helped guide him towards Staffordshire County Council funding a significant pilot of three different approaches to ABCD including the Nurture Development one in Lichfield.

  • Will’s Clore Fellowship study was on ABCD and he produced an overview report called Leading By Stepping Back which can be found here.
  • Will wrote a great Blog on ABCD which you can find here.

Nurture Development

Nurture Development is the home of leading ABCD thinker, writer and activist Cormac Russell.

  • The most useful thing ND produce is the Blog that Cormac writes. He is quite an academic so some of his writing can be rather long and quite challenging but there is always something profound in there so do persevere. Find his Blog here.
  • Cormac explains his take on ABCD in this short interview:
  • Cormac was the driving force behind the first international ABCD Festival which took place in June near Blackpool. Many of the presentations at the Festival were recorded by the Coady Institute and can be found to listen to or download here on Soundcloud.
  • During Cormac’s opening welcome he showed part of this video of Bromford’s Damian Carter talking about the power of community.
  • I only made it to day one of the Festival but was lucky enough to catch this stand out presentation from Peter Kenyon founder of the Bank of I.D.E.A.S

My Blog

Promoting a ‘glass half full’/strengths based approach is a key focus of my own Blog.

A few specific posts worth noting are:

  • My Family and Other Superheroes here
  • The Future’s So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades here
  • Pele had bad teeth. Pele had good feet herehere

Barnwood Trust

The Barnwood Trust has been around for a while. But a few years ago they decided to do far less ‘doing’ and become more of a facilitating or enabling force. They have worked with Nurture Development and slowly but surely are gaining real influence across Gloucestershire. They are now working quite closely with Bromford and others to help shape what a number of new communities in Gloucestershire might be like.

  • I first became aware of Barnwood’s change of direction when I read this wonderful little article in the Sitra magazine on why promoting independence is the wrong goal. (While I’m at it Sitra themselves are great advocates of strengths based working. Their CEO Vic Rayner writes a blog that often has interesting things to say about building on what people can do. You can find her blog here.)
  • There are lots of interesting ideas and initiatives on their website which is here including their Small Sparks grants programme.


The Bromford Deal is absolutely a strengths based approach. We used to talk about ‘self-reliance’ but I think that all we really meant was ‘less reliant on Bromford’. Relationships are the key. We want positive, forward looking relationship with customers that is focussed not on problems, where people have come from, but on where they are going and how we can help them get there. The ABCD bit kicks in because we can’t possibly (and shouldn’t want to) do everything. Helping customers connect with each other, with their neighbourhood, with local associations and clubs, etc. is all part of what will help them unlock their potential and grow.

  • We’ve created a short film to tell the story of how the Bromford Deal has been evolving. You can watch it here.
  • The You Can Foundation is Bromford’s own small grants programme. It’s really starting to take off now. All you need to know is here.


I came across Participle a while ago when I read their Beveridge 4.0 report…which I’d definitely recommend…you can find a link to it here. Participle was an interesting blend of consultancy, think tank and service designer. Sadly they recently announced that they were bringing Participle to a close. There is a legacy site that summarises some of their work which you can find here.

  • Participle hosted a fantastic Blog called Relational Welfare which was always well worth reading. The blog has also been closed down but thankfully some of its best content has been preserved here.
  • There is also a good Guardian article about one of the services (called LIFE) they helped design/develop in Swindon; which is all about tough love. It’s here.
  • I particularly like this short film about LIFE. (We’ve unashamedly stolen the style a few times). I think they’ve got the balance between ‘tough’ and ‘love’ just right. You can watch the film (only 3 minutes) here.

daily mail

Danny Kruger

Danny Kruger used to be, amongst other things, a speech writer for David Cameron. His biggest claim to fame is still probably the ‘hug and hoodie’ speech he wrote for Cameron. He now leads a charity called Only Connect and is a leading writer and broadcaster on new approaches to service delivery and strengths based ideas.

  • Here is a recent article he wrote for Demos which is well worth a read.
  • He made a fascinating documentary for Radio 4 about a Republican initiative to bring down the prison population called Republican Rehab.

Marcus Child

Marcus markets himself as a business coach. He is well known on the speaker circuit and he came to Bromford’s Leadership Academy a while back. I think his message – to accentuate the positive, visualise where you want to get to, focus on what you have and where you are going – are all just as pertinent to our work with customers and communities as they are for colleagues.

I remember his story about his son who was going for a big dance audition the next day. Marcus went up to kiss his son goodnight.

As he bent down to kiss his son he said, “You know your mum and I are really proud of you whatever happens tomorrow don’t you?”

His son turned to him and said, “You don’t think I’m going to get the part do you?”

Isn’t that what we’ve often done in social housing with our customers over the years? Told people that we don’t believe they’ll succeed – by the questions we ask, the assumptions we make, the way we talk to people, the letters we send….

ABCD and strengths based approaches can help us change that.

Happy reading, listening and watching!

If you come across anything you think I should add to the list then please let me know.


4 responses to “A Smörgåsbord of ABCD

  1. Pingback: Assets based approaches | leaplandrepeat·

  2. Pingback: A gift behind every door | John Wade·

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