Building on strengths

6 principles / PREVENTING CHILD ABUSE Programme

Children, families and communities have strengths and capacities that could inform and orient interventions. An understanding of social context and positive traditional practices may provide effective, sustainable options and opportunities for protecting children.


Understanding the principle

An approach based on respecting and building on strengths is rooted in the belief that children, families and communities have competencies and resources that can be utilised to identify and address their own concerns. It involves adopting an approach which seeks to focus work on developing what is desired, rather than preventing or treating that which is undesired. The process involves mapping the assets, opportunities and capacities which can be brought to bear to promote the realisation of children’s rights, as well as identifying gaps in accountability to the realisation of these rights.

Why to emphasise respecting and building on strengths

Governments and civil society have tended to focus interventions on problems or challenges, emphasizing deficits and violations, rather than strengths, opportunities and contributions that children, families and communities bring. By responding only to the problems once they occur, it is often too late and certainly more costly to deal with the consequences.

The implicit negative emphasis can communicate a sense of failure and helplessness, reinforce low expectations, create dependency on outside resources and agency created solutions, and discourage individuals and communities from moving in the direction of positive outcomes.

We are convinced that lives are more likely to be improved when local communities build on their local strengths and assets.

It is committed to promoting recognition of children as rights holders and resourceful agents entitled to play a key role in finding and creating solutions.

Key dimensions of respecting and building on strengths are:

  • Mobilization of local assets and protective mechanisms.
  • Investment in children’s assets and protective factors.
  • Recognition of the social context of children’s lives.

Children have considerable strengths, skills and knowledge with which to play an active role in analysing their lives and constructing solutions. Not only is it essential to value and acknowledge children’s own perceptions of their lives, but investment is also needed to build opportunities and space for them to explore and recognize the strengths and assets they bring towards managing their day to day realities. Greater skills, assets and opportunities provide protection and enhance participation. Greater participation contributes to the development of skills and capacities, and enables protection. Protected children are more likely to participate, develop their capacities and take advantage of available opportunities.

Recognition of the context of children’s lives

Children in the context of the social systems surrounding them could be described as a child rights ecology. Many integrated and contextualised factors contribute to the realisation or lack of realisation of rights of each child by placing him/her at the centre of a series of circles representing the factors that influence, and are influenced by, the holistic development of the child.

Children’s development, protection and participation could be best achieved by mobilising the strengths, commitments and motivations of children’s own families and local communities. A strengths‐based approach focuses on supporting local communities to reflect on their own cultural values, spiritual beliefs and practices which can be brought to bear to afford greater protection for children.

More on the principle: Principle 5 Building on strenght

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