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Wisdom from Strength-Based Working 2 of 9: Barriers from Within

“I think something our team never anticipated was that some of the biggest pushback and struggles were going to be internal, within our organisation, who brought us in to do this work.”

Practitioners found it frustrating that their organisations had the best intentions about working in a strength-based way, but in reality, that there was an assumption that strength-based work was only relevant for those working on the ground and could remain as just a ‘delivery approach’. Without the change of wider culture, practice and internal systems, strength-based working had a limited impact and barriers were experienced internally as well as externally by those trying to deliver in this way.


For example, although practitioners were often told to put the person they were working with first, they were also having to meet the demands of the organisation so that prescriptive contracts could be fulfilled. The two didn’t always match and more often than not, the contract requirements were prioritised.


“I feel like they’re not listening to my needs. They’re not really respecting the way I work in that sense, because they’re telling me work a certain way, but they’re not going to make any effort.”


Where there was a lack of understanding from colleagues and managers this created internal challenge that added a layer of extra difficulty to an already challenging way of working. Being strength-based was often reduced to a buzz word, without any intention of wider change and reflection. These frustrations have led to people feeling conflicted, unsupported and that they had no choice but to find a different role and move on from their organisations.


“This job has caused me a lot of anxiety and stress that I didn’t need. And I didn’t think I was going to have. My senior management took on board all the stuff about working in this way… but on the ground, from last week, we’ve been told to do timesheets, as if we’re in school. That’s not how I thought it was going to be.”


Practitioners felt that their organisations as a whole needed to buy into a strength-based way of working. When people experienced an organisation that fully bought into a strength-based approach, there was opportunity for real change. They felt supported and part of a collective that were modelling something different together which gave them a sense of solidarity and motivation to drive strength-based work forward.