Remember the scrapbooks we had as kids? Or the many photo albums with pages of images of family and friends—including relatives we never knew?
Scrapbooks don’t have to consist only of photos—they can also include drawings, diagrams, funny stories, a piece of material from a favourite dress or curtain, that first attempt at joined-up writing, the baby tag from the hospital, or a postcard from a family holiday or school camp.
Scrapbooking is a creative and effective way to collect ideas about where we are heading, images of our journeys through life, and illustrations of the strengths of our group, family or workplace. All of these can be valuable reinforcers and reminders of what is good and strong.
When Innovative Resources and the Family Action Centre from the University of Newcastle got together to create a resource that could be used for having conversations about strengths in families and communities, scrapbooking inspired the style of the artwork and the name of the card set: Our Scrapbook of Strengths.
The key statements and eight themes featured in the cards emerged out of research conducted by the Family Action Centre. The aims of the ‘Australian Family Strengths Research Project’ were first of all to identify those qualities Australian families perceived as family strengths, and secondly, to capture the language families used to describe those strengths (Geggie, DeFrain, Hitchcock and Silberberg, 2000). Over 600 families throughout Australia participated in this study.
For the qualitative component of the research, families were asked to fill out a survey with open-ended questions and/or to be interviewed. Based on the stories collected from the surveys and interviews, a theme analysis and a language analysis were conducted. The findings of the analysis resulted in the identification of, initially, seven family strengths: Communication, Togetherness, Sharing Activities, Affection, Support, Acceptance, and Commitment.
Once these seven strengths were identified, it became clear from the families’ stories that these strengths contributed to their resilience; their ability to bounce back from setbacks and crises, and to adapt to changing circumstances. To reflect this finding, an eighth family quality—Resilience—was added to the list of themes for the cards.
Even though Our Scrapbook of Strengths grew out of the Family Action Centre’s Family Strengths Research Project, we purposefully left the word ‘family’ out of the main title and strength statements to ensure we did not confine the use of this versatile resource only to family situations. In part, this was because ‘family’ is notoriously difficult to define. Furthermore, for some people ‘family’ can be an overpoweringly negative experience due to trauma they have experienced within the family setting. For people in this situation other relationships may be more important than family; friends, colleagues, neighbours or members of leisure or community groups may provide the identity and intimacy missing in their family life.
With over 100 original water colour illustrations by Carolyn Marrone, Our Scrapbook of Strengths is a tool to explore strengths not only in families (however we choose to construct them) but also in a wide range of other relationships such as teams, groups, neighbourhoods, schools and communities.
It is a tool that works as a ‘conversational prompt’ to help identify, mobilise and celebrate strengths in relationships. It can also be used as a template for families and groups to create their own scrapbook, based on the themes and key statements in the card set.