Real Wealth

The Resources a Person Can Mobilize

Real wealth** describes the resources a person and their family can mobilize to pursue lives that they, and those who love them, have good reasons to value. Assets with monetary value are one kind of wealth, but real wealth includes other resources that people and families can develop, enjoy and exchange to serve their purposes.

Assets are goods that a family can direct toward their purposes. Disposable income, savings and investments, real estate, tools and equipment, stored and organized information all count as assets. Money transfered from government that people can use to control their own supports is an asset. Money spent by government agencies to purchase services that “clients” cannot effectively control doesn’t count as real wealth for the person who is the object of that expenditure.

Capabilities are qualities of being, gifts, powers, talents, knowledge, wisdom, skills and abilities that a person can enjoy, develop and contribute. Time, attention and energy are capabilities. Capabilities are the inheritance of culture and genetic endowment and the fruit of the work of development. Capabilities embody interests and enable understanding, enjoyment, problem-solving, creation and practical action. As capabilities develop they shape a person’s identity and chosen roles. Capabilities enrich the time a person spends alone or with intimates and friends and form a person’s contributions to workplace, social and civic life. People employ capabilities to create products or performances of value to the people, associations and communities that matter to them.

Access & networks identify the physical and social pathways open to a person and the means a person can employ to navigate them. Access includes good connections to contacts who support the person to gather information and knowledge of interest and use in finding opportunities for membership, enjoyment, exchange, contribution and development. Knowledge and availability of the aids, accommodations and technology that make engagement with people, experiences and information easier and more rewarding are critical elements of real wealth.

Positive relationships are connections with others who share time and activity enjoyably and meaningfully and count on each other to exchange support and practical help. Relationships are a source of sense-making, encouragement, challenge and consolation. Relationships shape and support a person’s sense of identity, purpose and plan.

Resourcefulness is the confidence that one can take action that achieves meaningful results, even in difficult circumstances, and the belief that effort improves competency and the odds of success. It arises from a sense of purpose and mobilizes assets, capabilities and connections in response to challenging circumstances. It encourages appreciation of opportunities and moves a person to set ambitious goals and persevere in the face of failure. Resourcefulness supports resilience in response to loss, trauma or tragedy. It is the spirit that makes a way from no way.

*Real Wealth © 2019 Inclusion Press All rights reserved. Adapted for Inclusion Alberta from John O’Brien & Beth Mount. (2019) Pictures & Conversations. Toronto: Inclusion Press and used by permission of Inclusion Press.

** We are grateful to our Centre on Welfare Reform colleagues, Pippa Murray and Simon Duffy, for introducing us to their concept of real wealth. For the original idea, click here.