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Adapting A Strengths Model

Form follows function: Adapting a strength model to facilitate implementation and sustainability


Learn more about LifeWorks' journey to adapt to a strengths model with fidelity.

Working from the belief that people are strong, capable, and trustworthy is a key shift in how the philanthropy sector thinks about its work. It shifts from a deficit view, which emphasized problems and pathology, to a strengths approach, which is defined as policies, practice methods, and strategies that identify and draw upon the strengths of children, families, and communities. As the Foundation shifts to a strengths-based approach to philanthropy, we are learning alongside our partners applying the approach within their programming

The Issue:

The strengths model is well researched and has proved effective in many different settings. This chapter provides a window into what adapting programming to adhere to a strengths model with fidelity looked like within LifeWorks.

Key Findings:

The tension between implementing a strength model with fidelity and adapting the components to the organizational context is explored through two structural changes at LifeWorks. Adherence to the core components of the model was maintained supporting fidelity while also adapting to existing structures, demonstrating the flexibility of the model.


St. David’s Foundation lifts up the work of our partners who are sharing what they are learning through their work. In this chapter, LifeWorks, a non-profit focused on increasing self-sufficiency among youth and their families in Central Texas, shares the core components of a strengths model, prior adaptations, and the implementation of the model within their own organization.

Meet our Contributors


Liz Schoenfeld, PhD

Chief Research & Evaluation Officer, LifeWorks


Kim McPherson, MPAff

Senior Program Officer