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Glossary of Terms


Although the term can be used in a variety of ways, in this website, we define assets as the status, condition, behavior, knowledge, skill or understanding, which are known (based on research) to promote health and self-sufficiency.

Asset Approach

Asset approaches are generally understood to direct actions toward strengths and resources that support or promote individual, family, or community health. The O-AIM refines this general understanding, and defines an asset approach as the intentional design of actions which result in movement toward outcomes known through research to promote health. In the O-AIM, for example, money would not be an asset, but an input used to support actions which promote assets.

Asset Context

One of the key steps implementing the O-AIM involves defining the asset context. The asset context includes reaching agreement regarding the desired impact and identifying the assets necessary to achieve that impact. Assets become the building blocks or characteristics of the desired impact. We can then identify the journey from being at-risk, to safe, to thriving.

Asset Mapping

In general, asset mapping is a technique often used to create an inventory of community assets. The inventory can involve detailed cataloguing of individual and community skills and resources, and creating a map that links how the various assets fit together. In the O-AIM specifically, an asset map includes two parts

Asset-Based Outcome

As used in the O-AIM, asset-based outcomes are the desired results that are grounded in research, and are known to promote, support, and enhance the journey from being “at-risk” to “safe” to “thriving.” It involves the creation of outcome statements to define the effects that are intended to result from an intervention. These statements establish the basis for the creation of measurable indicators and the evaluation of the impact of the intervention.

Capable Community

A capable community applies the strengths (assets) of its members to improve the overall wellbeing of the community. It mobilizes community members and groups to begin an informed and purposeful journey from at-risk, to safe, and ultimately, to thriving. This process requires mobilizing community members to develop collective agreement on a common vision, and identifying outcomes, which are based on research and community wisdom.


O-AIM defines “collaboration” as a mutually beneficial interrelationship between agencies at the system level. It is a specific type of relationship having the characteristics described by Himmelman (1994): working together to exchange information, alter activities, and share resources in order to enhance the capacity for mutual benefit and a common purpose.

Other forms of working together, commonly mislabeled as collaboration, defined as distinct by Himmelman include: “Networking” (exchanging information for mutual benefit), “Coordinating” (exchanging information and altering actions for mutual benefit) and “Cooperating” (exchanging information, altering actions, and sharing resources for mutual benefit).


The word community generally describes one of three things: a) all people, organizations, and structures within a defined geographical area, having a common government; b) a group of people with a common interest; or c) people with a common affiliation. Within O-AIM the word community is only used in the first sense. It encompasses five levels of interaction (individual, group, agency, service system, and community). Within O-AIM the other two definitions would commonly be considered within the “group.”

Core Team

The Core Team is a group formed to act as lead facilitators in implementing and evaluating the O-AIM in the local context. The Core Team immerses themselves in the model and its practice to a greater degree than anyone else in the system - they are the link between the O-AIM Facilitator and the system undergoing change, and they must understand both the model and the local context. The Core Team is also responsible for sustaining the effort once the O-AIM Facilitator is gone.


It is a status, condition, behavior, belief, or understanding that blocks the path toward health or diverts the journey toward unhealthy conditions.

Defecit Approach

A deficit approach directs interventions predominantly toward reducing or resolving problems. It commonly includes an assessment of needs and/or documentation of areas that threaten individual, family, or community health without defining or measuring what “health” is in the context of the effort.

Evaluation Plan

The O-AIM includes the development of a plan to measure the process of the intervention and the success of achieving the specific outcomes. This evaluation plan includes the identification of measurable indicators, data elements, data sources, collection timing, collection tools and methods, data analysis, data storage, and reporting frequency.


The O-AIM Facilitator is a person who works to enhance the capacity of the Core Team to understand and effectively apply the model to their own interests and context. A facilitator is knowledgeable about the model and is able to translate that knowledge into language, images, and tools which are appropriate and useful to those wishing to apply the model. The role of the facilitator changes over the course of the work, beginning by training and designing application exercises and gradually shifting to being an occasional consultant as the capacity of the Core Team expands.


Generalizability refers to the degree to which the findings from a study sample accurately represent what would have been found if the entire population had been studied.


This term is used broadly in this website to describe all areas that that are known through research to affect the wellbeing of individuals, families, neighborhoods, or communities. These aspects fall into four main areas: individual intention (thoughts, knowledge, attitudes) or culture (norms, common understandings, values, worldviews), and individual behavior (learned behavior and skills) or social system (legal, social, political, physical and economic structures).

Impact Statement

Impact statements describe the desired future status or condition one is seeking, such as, “Youth who are in good health” or “People who live in a healthy community.” Assets are the building blocks or characteristics of that desired impact. Together, desired impact and its associated assets, create the asset context.


Using the O-AIM, indicators are measurements that individually or collectively provide a valid, reliable, and acceptable basis for determining the success of an outcome.


An intervention is an action or involvement that is intentionally designed to promote change. In the human services, intervention strategies or plans are designed to create desirable results or outcomes.

Intervention Strategy

An Intervention Strategy is the design of a series of connected interventions at multiple levels (individual, group, agency, system, or community) intended to produce outcomes leading to improved health and wellbeing. For example, a group of community members can come together to create a locally owned business, which is both economically viable and supports their neighborhood. They could develop an intervention strategy to obtain government subsidies to improve the condition of existing buildings and to help potential small business owners start businesses in their neighborhood. These businesses are both sustainable and contribute to the achievement of the community's vision.

Levels of Interaction

The O-AIM helps communities focus their activities and interventions on the following five levels of interaction (Taylor-Powell & associates, 1998; Young & associates, 1994): 1) individual, 2) family or group, 3) organization or agency, 4) service delivery system, and 5) community. We interact simultaneously at these various social levels, which are interconnected and continually influence one another. Examples of these levels are:

  • Individual: one person at a time
  • Family or Group: family members or within a small group
  • Block, Organization, or Agency: among neighbors on a block, within an organization of which one is a member, or within an agency where one does business
  • Neighborhood or Service Delivery System: relationships among people who live in a neighborhood or between and/or among agencies that provide interconnected services
  • Community: the larger community where one lives
Logic Models

Logic models are a way of intentionally designing and then visually describing the complex interrelationships among activities (services) and outcomes by levels (individuals, families, organizations, systems, and communities).

O-AIM uses logic models as a tool to help people and organizations create visual maps of the actions and outcomes that move people toward positive change. Producing these visual maps requires focused decision-making in order to accurately define how actions and outcomes are connected at any given level, as well as how one level relates to actions and outcomes at other levels.

In the O-AIM, logic models express outcomes as expected changes in perceptions/skills/feelings (initial outcomes); changes in behaviors (intermediate outcomes); and changes in status or conditions (long-term outcomes). O-AIM logic models include defining and mapping the relationship among actions and outcomes at a community level, human service system level, agency level, program level, and customer level, as appropriate to the intent of the intervention.

Outcome-Asset Impact Model (O-AIM)

The O-AIM was developed by the work of Brown and Reed (Brown & Reed, 1998, 1999; Reed & Brown, 2001) and elaborated by MSU Outreach Partnerships. It is intended for use by anyone working to achieve healthy change for individuals, families, groups, neighborhoods, and communities. The model merges outcome and asset approaches, in addition to a number of other concepts and theories related to community health and wellbeing.

The implementation of the O-AIM includes both subscribing to its basic assumptions and a series of action steps (See the “How O-AIM is Applied” section of this website). The model provides a framework for thinking about and organizing the change process.


This term has been used in a variety of ways in the field, but it is generally used to describe a desired result. In this website, the term is used specifically to describe the changes in status, condition, behavior, knowledge, values, attitudes, skill, or understanding that are expected to occur as a result of an intervention.

Outcome Approach

An outcome approach directs actions toward results and measures outcomes rather than the quality or nature of the inputs and activities. Outcome statements specify the desired changes in areas such as status, behavior, attitude, knowledge, or beliefs. Measurable indicators assess progress toward achieving outcomes, and provide a basis for measuring the program's impact for funders or stakeholders.

Outcome Evaluation

The purpose of outcome evaluation is to assess the degree to which the program has accomplished its desired results and to determine overall impacts of the program. Outcome evaluation is also used to make improvements in the intervention over time.

Initial, Intermediate, and Long-Term Outcomes

The O-AIM defines outcomes in people-centered terms, where the emphasis is not on types of activities that need to be implemented, but rather on how people can benefit, and how their conditions can change based on these activities and interventions. Keeping in mind the overall impact (vision) that is defined, people-centered, asset-based outcome statements are developed. These outcome statements are expressed in three ways:

  • Long-term Outcomes that describe changes in the condition or status of people.


    “Youth who resolve conflict nonviolently.”

  • Intermediate Outcomes that describe changes in people's behavior.


    “Youth use nonviolent resolution strategies when confronted with conflict.”

  • Initial Outcomes that describe the knowledge, beliefs, and skills necessary for the change to take place.


    “Youth understand nonviolent conflict resolution techniques and strategies.”

MSU Outreach Partnerships

Outreach Partnerships is a multidisciplinary unit under the direction of the Assistant Provost for University Outreach & Engagement at Michigan State University. It establishes agreements and partnerships with external agencies and community organizations to facilitate the local development of solutions.

Positive Change

It is both a process and a result. It is demonstrated by credible evidence of progress toward outcomes known to be related to health, as well as the achievement of “health,” as defined and documented by the indicators chosen to reflect a “thriving” status or condition in a particular domain or realm.

Process Evaluation

Process evaluations are conducted while program activities or interventions are still happening to determine how the project can be improved through revisions. The purpose of process evaluation is to try to assess whether the intervention is taking place as designed. It is usually comprised of a series of monitoring activities designed to get information on key aspects that are believed to have an impact on the functioning of the program. Process evaluation is ongoing.

Sustainable Community/Sustainable Change

Sustainability refers to the capacity of a Capable Community to support and maintain the involvement, energy, desire, common agreement, and resources needed for reasonably consistent, continuous, positive movement toward a common vision of health.

Vision or Desired Impact

“Vision,” “desired impact,” and “mission” tend to be used in practice interchangeably to imply the ultimate result envisioned for a community. Within the O-AIM these terms all refer to the ultimate desired status or condition to be achieved. It involves the identification of the long-term, intermediate, and initial outcomes, which will lead to the achievement of the desired status. These outcomes are asset-based and are designed to be grounded in both research and practice. Here, asset-based outcomes are the building blocks or characteristics of the ultimate desired impact.

Wilber's Aspects

Wilber provides a framework for sorting, identifying, and interconnecting aspects of development. The four aspects that he identifies are:

  • Individual Intention: one's own thoughts, beliefs, understanding, and values
  • Individual Behavior: behaviors and skills one has learned and exhibits
  • Culture: our commonly held social understanding and agreements
  • Social System: written records, buildings, transportation systems, laws, economic systems, collective behavior, etc.