Northside Partnership launches ‘advantaged thinking’ strategy

Society conditioned to overlook skills of people in poorer areas, says organisation

Minister for Communications Richard Bruton, who is publishing the Northside Partnership’s strategy 2019-2023. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Minister for Communications Richard Bruton, who is publishing the Northside Partnership’s strategy 2019-2023. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

People living in disadvantaged communities often have strengths, skills and talents greater than those of people from more privileged areas, which can be overlooked, one of the biggest community development organisations in the State has said.

These skills are often disgregarded, not only by wider society but the people themselves because of the way we are conditioned to view these communities, according to the Northside Partnership .

The organisation is changing its approach and will begin to implement an “advantaged thinking” approach. The partnership has been providing education, training and other supports across northeast Dublin for almost 30 years. Its strategy 2019-2023 is due to be published on Monday by Minister for Communications Richard Bruton.

There is always going to be a need to target resources at the areas of great need; we still need to change the structures that keep people in poverty

“It focuses on the strengths and talents of people, bring these to the fore, to build on them, rather than focusing only on a person’s – or area’s – problems and the obstacles they face,” explains Niamh McTiernan, director of services with the partnership.

Insurmountable obstacles

She gives the example of a hypothetical single mother, who left school early and is now living on welfare. Those taking a “disadvantaged thinking” approach – including herself – would see the mother’s lot as hopeless, viewing her as having no skills, facing insurmountable obstacles, and would not expect much from, or for, her.

“Using advantaged thinking we would sit down and talk about her life and see she was an amazing accountant, administrator and had great organisational skills. We would look at those strengths, build on them see where they could fit into training or employment.”

She believes the “disadvantaged thinking” which dominates much media and political narrative about disadvantaged areas and people is wasteful as it sees large sums of money invested without any real expectation of change.

Downplaying

And she stresses the changed approach will not mean downplaying or denying the challenges faced by areas within the partnership’s catchment area – including Coolock, Belcamp, Edenmore and Darndale.

“There is always going to be a need to target resources at the areas of great need; we still need to change the structures that keep people in poverty.

“But there is a need for greater balance and to recognise everyone has skills and abilities that mean they can flourish and have a good life.

“Balance and nuance needs to be brought to our thinking and approach. It is important for all people, no matter where they live, to have space to reflect on their own capabilities.”