Voices of Recovery

Being the change

Alistair Sinclair’s workshop on asset-based recovery showed that there are many people who believe in the possibility of positive change

Last November I wrote in DDN about the need to value ourselves and accept all of the identities that make up who we are. I said that ‘when services start by valuing each and every individual where they are in the “now” and not where they would like them to be, then we’ll be on the road to ‘recovery-orientation’.’

So how do we go about ‘valuing’ people? Do we put a lot of energy into comprehensive assessments that will identify all the ‘needs’ people have; their gaps and deficits? Do we generate new professional competencies and unearth new ‘evidence’ that will justify our expertise as we ‘do things to people’? Do we continue to build new edifices and layers of bureaucracy that will promote our deeply entrenched deficit culture? 

Or will we take a leap of faith and start to build new cultures of recovery in our communities (I stress community over ‘services’) that will embrace all of us; cultures of recovery where all are welcome and everyone is recognised as having strengths? Are we ready for an asset-based approach within our services and communities? Are we ready to take on responsibility for ourselves and others?

These were some of the questions that I asked at our UKRF conference in January this year, and again at Be the change. If we want to ‘be the change that we want to see’, were we willing to give up some of our dependence on the ‘experts’? Were we willing to accept that all human beings have the same needs, the same drivers toward health and wellbeing? Were we willing to explore our strengths and begin to make visible the ‘abundance’ (as John McKnight describes it) that exists in all communities? Were we ready to wake up to the power we have if we come together in our communities, as equal partners, to share our strengths? 

At the UKRF conference, the 250 or so people present (recovery activists and service users from all over the UK) said yes, and this was also the response from the people in the asset-based workshop I facilitated at Be the change. In a world that is seeing many of our ‘respectable institutions’ crack and fragment into discredited cliques, as received notions of equality and justice are eroded and devalued, there are many people who still believe in the possibility of positive change.

If we accept that ‘recovery-orientation’ is a new paradigm built on strengths, which rejects a mainstream deficit culture founded on all sorts of dependence (drugs representing just one among a multitude that can imprison us in our own minds) we must look to those who have the courage to find strengths and abilities in all, beginning with the values that bind us together as human beings. 

We must take the small steps on diverse paths that will allow us to define and maintain our own recovery. In Preston and Birmingham we started with a small action. We sat together and shared some of our strengths. Energy, hope and ideas were generated and the beginnings of a conversation that started to explore how we could be the change we wanted to see. 

I believe it can start with this; for all our fragility as human beings we have strengths and for all our strengths we have fragility. If we start here I believe we can be the change.

Alistair Sinclair is a director of the UK Recovery Foundation (UKRF)