Engagement Approaches

Strengths-based practice is an approach that promotes a person’s self-determination and unique strengths, abilities and talents. It’s an engagement approach that works across all cultures, because it makes the other person feel valued and validated in the relationship with you as professional.

A strengths-based approach recognises the inherent strengths and resources of people. It focuses on their skills, interests and support systems and builds on positive characteristics that already exist within individuals. 

Deficit-focused or pathological approaches are the opposite to strengths-based engagement, and are when the relationship between worker and client is developed and implemented through a risk and needs assessment lens.

Most times, the reasons for engagement are often because there is a problem that needs to be solved, or a challenge that a client may need help with, and so the relationship grows from this needs-based foundation. This is understandable.

However, building relationships or designing programs that are focused on peoples’ weaknesses are oftentimes not fruitful for either party, because such a foundation is not conducive to a deep trusting relationship.

The following diagram illustrates the four levels of depth a relationship between a client and worker may have – with the most fruitful ones being trust-based. Basing a relationship on offering a service or tending to a need are shown here to be on the more superficial end of the continuum. Research and personal anecdotes within community show that needs-based engagement is highly unlikely to work and is often a misuse of time and resources. Worse still, engaging on such a premise can cause more trauma for the client than prior to that very relationship!

To further illustrate the point, Albert Einstein is attributed the following quote which resonates here also:

Therefore, a wise starting point for those seeking to engage with Pasifika peoples is to seek out their strengths, and build a relationship. This will provide a solid platform of trust from which any deeper issues/challenges or topics can be discussed.

Think about your programs and write down (either in the comments section or in your own personal notes) what you do to build rapport and nurture a positive, strengths-based relationship with your Pasifika clients/students/mentees.

How do you engage the family?

Are your visits or invitations to the family for positive or negative reasons or both?

Will the family be excited to hear the news/messages you are sending them or reluctant to hear the news?

Write down one thing you think you are doing well in your engagement with Pasifika peoples and their families.

Write down one thing you think you would like to improve on in your engagement with Pasifika peoples and their families.

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