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Beyond ‘Assets and Deficits’ to ‘Gifts and Wounds’

01 October 2019

For ten years I lived as part of a small Salvation Army community in a low-income neighbourhood in Leeds. We’d moved there to engage in the life of the neighbourhood by joining in with the good things that were going on, in the hope that we might play a small part in the area’s transformation. During much of the time I lived there I was working in a national role for The Salvation Army. As I travelled around the country, I was often asked how things were going in the neighbourhood. The temptation to tell ‘success’ stories was difficult to resist. I tried to convince myself that I was telling them to encourage people. Yet, more often than not, the reasons were to give a good account of our own practice. I became increasingly uneasy about answering questions like ‘what has changed in the neighbourhood?’ Highlighting what I perceived to be changes seemed disingenuous given what was really happening. I struggled to interpret the question in a way that didn’t assume me and my community members were the drivers of any change that had happened, implying that change was a one-way street. This wasn’t my experience. After stumbling through answers to this question on a couple of occasions I finally worked out what I wanted to say. When asked ‘what had changed?’ I answered, ‘I’m not sure we can claim anything has changed in the neighbourhood solely because we’ve moved there. However, I can say that the neighbourhood has changed the person standing in front of you.’

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