Assets are the building blocks of a sustainable livelihood at the individual level and community level.  People pursue various asset-building strategies that support them both in surviving, and in coping with  the context that makes them vulnerable, so that they can move towards stability and sustainability. It is  the lack of a range of assets that makes people vulnerable to exclusion.

The Sustainable Livelihoods framework identifies six broad asset areas that offer a holistic picture of all  the capabilities, resources and entitlements that people have invested in and developed over time. In its  focus on people’s assets rather than their deficits, the framework avoids the negative, deficit-based  approach that is so common to the social service field. Practitioners can use this tool with individuals and  groups to help them identify, reflect on, and gradually start to build their assets holistically. Instead of  beginning with “What don’t I have?” the approach asks “What assets do I already have, and how can I  strengthen them?”

Sustainable Livelihoods thinking has been continuously refined through research and practice, and now  identifies six broad asset areas that work together to support people in building their livelihoods:

Physical Assets or “Basic needs”

Physical assets include people’s basic needs for housing and food, plus access to the information and  services required to build a livelihood.

Social Assets or “Connections”

These assets refer to the social connections and supports that people can draw upon to achieve their  goals. By building a foundation of networks and contacts, they find that they have enhanced their  support systems, making it easier for them to develop other assets.

Human Assets or “Skills and employability”

Human assets refer to how employable a woman may be, in terms of her skills, knowledge, education,  and leadership. Although human assets are central to all livelihood strategies, they are not sufficient on  their own to ensure progress towards a sustainable livelihood.

Personal Assets or “Sense of self”

Less tangible are personal assets, which are connected to people’s sense of personal and cultural  identity, and their private values and beliefs. These assets include self-confidence and self-esteem, as  well as the motivation and strength that people may be able to bring to the process of personal  transformation.

Financial Assets or “Money”

Financial assets are earnings, money and financial security (including access to financial entitlements  from government). They offer an important entry-point for transformation and development: the  ability to earn money and decide how it should be spent provides people with a powerful means of  reversing the downward spiral into poverty, and of building up a wider range of assets.

Health Assets or “Health”

Health assets are a crucial asset area that includes both physical and mental well-being. Without health  assets it is extremely difficult for people to build and sustain gains in the other five key areas. Questions  to explore relate to the “big picture”. Do they have good access to healthcare services? Can they  “manage” ongoing health issues, stresses, sleep, and substance use issues? Do they take a pro-active  approach to self-care, e.g. through healthy eating/exercise?