Getting involved with the Coalville C.A.N crew (volunteering), I found myself put forward to join a Connecting Communities Course and was immersed into the world of Asset Based Community Development (March – Nov’23). Funded by Reaching People, this was my introduction to strengths-based approaches in community work…and I wasn’t really sure what I was doing there. A serious case of imposter syndrome and some confusion about my career path I threw myself into this exciting opportunity. 
I met a group of some of the most inspiring people. I learnt ABCD theory. I became familiar with the lingo. I networked. I listened to stories from the group. I learnt that there are shared hardships across community groups. I learnt that I might not think outside the box as much I believed. I learnt tools to help me think differently. I was challenged. I changed. And I saw others on the course around me change too. 
What was great was that the course evolved with us. There was a structure to the sessions – laced with theory but always shared through group activities, discussions, games. But as we got to know each other and the course was well under way, there was shift from planned online sessions to visiting each other’s community groups, hubs, centres across Leicester. What a swing! From what can feel like the impersonal touch of online communication to in person, first hand experiences of where everything we were learning is being put into practice. And we were always warmly welcomed. 
Whether it’s a subtle change to approach or attitude, whether it’s using one of the great tools we learnt relating to self-reflection, looking at your community differently through Community Asset Bingo, discovering the strengths and skills of others or setting goals and taking action – its all changing the nature of our conversation and in the words of Cormac Russell “Building on what’s strong, not what’s wrong”. 
What did I learn? I learnt that there is power on our doorstep. In our neighbours, next door, on our streets. I learnt that there is a difference to being a resident and an active citizen. I learnt that ABCD is more than just a strengths based approach, its about a true power, agency and capability that resides in our communities. That it is with self-belief and acting on the agency we have as citizens that we can bring about change, harnessing the skills and strengths in the people around us, not being afraid to choose our direction and asking for the required support from organisations willing to help. I learnt that whilst times are tough and the world can seem bleak, there are some incredible people like those I spent time with on this course, making a difference every day in Leicestershire communities – that there is hope and that change is possible! 
I’ve since spent a summer working with Cormac Russell and his company Nurture Development, and I am currently full time with TH!NK FC (who delivered the Connecting Communities course!), developing the tools and products, delivering courses and figuring out how we can share our Journal! 
Written by Helen Bazen. Dec 2023. 
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