Mapping Assets in Hollyburgh: What assets does a disadvantaged community have to support young people's education and wider life chances?

Student thesis: Phd


In England, young people living in disadvantaged communities tend to achieve lower educational and wider life outcomes than their more advantaged peers (Kerr, Dyson & Raffo 2014). One critique of policy strategies which have tried to address this is that policymakers and practitioners simply misunderstand the diverse realities of young people's lives, and how these are shaped by where they live. This thesis seeks to contribute a response to this critique. In this regard, it is borne out of a local challenge laid down by a multi-agency group of professionals working within Hollyburgh, a highly disadvantaged community in Northern England. This multiagency group, Northern Hub, was interested in how an asset-based approach might be used to surface deep understandings of young people's lived experiences within the disadvantaged locale. Accordingly, this thesis presents a case study of adults' and young people's understandings of the assets that local young people, aged between 11 and 15 years old, identify, value and use to achieve valued educational and wider life outcomes. To develop this case, the study was embedded within an 11-16 school, Northern Academy, which opened in 2010 and which sought from the outset to understand and build positive relationships with the local communities. Drawing upon the Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) approach (see Kretzmann and McKnight 1993), this thesis presents an endogenous assets-mapping process, developed as a means of exploring what young people identify as assets within their community. To enable richer conceptual understandings of assets, the capability approach (Sen 2001) was also employed as a lens to explore how young people value and use these identified assets, and how this might relate to young people's future plans and their educational trajectory. Synthesizing the ABCD approach with the capability approach has enabled the development of a mapping process that blends a traditional focus on tangible, geographically-fixed services and structures with a more original focus on intangible, socio-spatial relationships and networks. To enact this, ten students were trained as co-researchers and in this role, they co-defined what was understood by the term asset, designed and conducted fifteen focus groups that utilised visual mapping methods with up to 225 of their peers, before finally co-analysing the assets-map reflecting their peers' views. In addition, thirteen interviews were carried out with local adults, including parents and professionals, to identify what they viewed as important assets to support young people's education and wider life chances. Mapping from these different perspectives was an essential means of juxtaposing adult understandings with young people's lived realities, which served to enable a deep comparison of the suitability of local policy and practice targeting young people, within Hollyburgh. Significant differences emerged between young people's and adults' understandings. For instance, adults tended to identify tangible, professionally-structured assets as most important for young people because of the structured activity and professional expertise that they perceived might support young people's outcomes. The young people themselves typically identified a range of tangible and intangible assets, that they value and use for 'relational' purposes to both 'get by' now, as well as 'get ahead' to a desired future. However, young people rarely saw professionally-led services as fulfilling this role. Drawing upon these new understandings, the study concludes that local practice and provision must better reflect and draw upon young people's social networks, within the neighbourhood and online, rather than relying on professionally-led activities. In this sense, policymaking and practice needs to do more to build positive relationships with young people and develop co-productive practices that might begin to counteract the multiple challenges at play in disa
Date of Award1 Aug 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorCarlo Raffo (Supervisor) & Kirstin Kerr (Supervisor)


  • Assets
  • Capabilities
  • Students as Co-Researchers
  • Education Policy
  • Extended School Provision

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