EWB Resources

Strengths-Based Approaches


Adopting Strengths Based Approaches (SBA) is at the core of EWB Australia’s ethos. All of our programs stem from a strong intention of recognising and building on the strengths of our people, partnerships and collective experiences.


What is a strengths-based approach?

Yes, it’s true that people have deficiencies and needs but we must also recognise their capabilities, gifts, abilities and ideas. A SBA chooses to emphasize the latter because people feel confident and energized to move into the future when they can bring with them experiences that have given them a sense of pride about their abilities in the past. This isn’t to say that we need to ignore the fact that a community has a no clean water or access to basic sanitation facilities. Instead a SBA allows us to respond based on what is already working.


How does a strengths-based approach apply to my EWB Challenge design?

Adopting a SBA for your Challenge project means looking for strengths and asking the right questions; what already exists in communities? What does the community do well? What are individuals proud of and what do they aspire to? It means stepping outside of your problem-solver mindset, avoiding questions like, ‘What’s wrong and how can I fix it?’ Instead asking, ‘What could be part of a potential solution?,’ ‘what’s working well?’ and ‘how can this form the basis of a sustainable future?’


How do I find out more?

To help you conceptualise a strengths based approach in terms of community mapping refer to the fantastic interactive map on Caritas Australia's website.


“When I went on the Humanitarian Design Summit, I'd just graduated as software engineer. I was more comfortable around computers than people. I knew a bit about working with people to make good computer programs. I realised how important it was to be respectful guests of the community, realising at each step how little we knew. I learnt obvious questions were sometimes the most interesting, because we'd often get a reply I didn't expect. The experience helped me work with people's strengths, which also meant discovering where we weren't useful. I also learnt to be curious. Understanding the tiniest details is thrilling when that understanding can change people's lives for the better. But, it’s important that it is by their own definition of better, not mine.” -  EWB Humanitarian Design Summit Participant, Cambodia, January 2016