Recovery from alcohol use is generally regarded as a socially mediated process, with the formation of pro-social networks and engagement in community resources acting as a catalyst for the building of the social and community capital required to sustain recovery. Whilst gender is a key mediator of pathways in to and out of substance use, literature exploring the experiences of women is somewhat limited. Rationale: This thesis seeks to identify the role of community engagement in developing women’s recovery capital. Within this, the findings endeavour to highlight key components of community
capital and the impact of community capital on personal recovery growth through a gendered lens. To aid this, the thesis builds on the existing literature, including Asset Based Community Development (ABCD), to provide evidence-based, practical outputs to support recovery-orientated
policy and practice. Methods: The research implements a mixed methods design, utilising both longitudinal and cross sectional data collection techniques across four studies, with 337 individuals recruited through Sheffield Alcohol Support Service (SASS). Results: The findings emphasise the importance of social networks and community engagement on recovery outcomes. Within the quantitative data, females were more likely to be engaged in meaningful activities from the onset and the forms of community engagement undertaken differed from their male counterparts. Barriers to engagement varied across the cohort and men reported lower levels of social support, highlighting the need for pathways into new community resources being tailored to the needs of the individual. Within the qualitative data, the cohort collectively emphasised the value of community engagement as a means to promote feelings of connectedness and inclusion, and engagement in recovery orientated resources was often the starting point in individuals’ journey to wider engagement. Whilst the importance of gender-specific support was recognised and other nuances by gender existed, it must be acknowledged that the research was carried out in a mixed-gender service, potentially limiting the extent to which gender differences could have been noted amongst the cohort. Implications: Recovery is a journey of personal growth and whilst it requires the commitment of the individual, social networks and communities have an equal role to play. Individuals who present to recovery services with lower levels of recovery capital must be prioritised and assertively linked in with pro-social networks and meaningful activities to aid recovery progress. To aid this, the ABCE framework was developed and is a unique output of the thesis. This recognises the importance of identifying current levels of community engagement and barriers to engagement in order to foster empowerment and enhance personal capital. Recovery pathways must be gender-responsive and the ABCE framework is intended to support this in that it is a strengthsbased
tool which is to be utilized to provide holistic and person-centered pathways into community resources for those in need. If done successfully, engagement with such resources not only promotes the growth of recovery capital but can generate a social contagion of recovery, enhancing community cohesion and promoting pro-social behaviour. Future work which utilises the ABCE framework should consider its use alongside other methodological approaches to mapping recovery progress in a way which supports the growth of recovery capital and empowers individuals to take ownership of their own recovery and formation of new, pro-social networks. Tracking recovery capital and community engagement over a longer period will enable causal factors of recovery outcomes to be noted, further contributing to the gendered recovery literature base.