Angela Blanchard On Why "You Can't Build on Broken"

As a child growing up in poverty, Angela Blanchard remembers being written off. "They thought we weren't going to make it, and we hadn't even started yet."

The "they" are often well-meaning sociologists. The problem lies in how they're trained to study poor neighborhoods. "We study what's wrong with the neighborhoods, all the broken stuff. We investigate all the ways it doesn't work," Blanchard said. But this focus on brokeness creates a cycle of misery.

"You can't build on broken," Blanchard said at the seventh annual Business Innovation Factory Summit. "Imagine if you were asked on your college application to chronicle all the things that are wrong with you, all the things that had ever gone badly in your life!"

Instead, we need a new approach to solving poverty: documenting what's working, not just what's broken. Blanchard does just that, through her nonprofit, Neighborhood Centers, Inc. She goes into neighborhoods that experienced disasters like Hurricane Katrina and begins asking "what are your skills? What are your hopes and aspirations?" The focus on strengths makes people realize that they have something to build on.

What do you think of the strengths-based approach?