Celebrating assets within the community

By Frances Harkin and Mary-Kathryn Rallings - on 22/07/2015

During Community Centre Week, Frances Harkin and Mary-Kathryn Rallings highlight the role of community centres as local assets and the work that housing providers are doing to enable local community organisations to manage the community assets in their property portfolio, a process known as Community Asset Transfer. Working in partnership with Affinity Sutton, HACT have developed resources to support housing providers in developing their approach to Community Asset Transfer.

Community Centres across the United Kingdom are being celebrated as part of Community Centre Week. Community centres are valued for their role in bringing people together, responding to local need and fostering a sense of community cohesion.

Many housing providers own a range of community centres as part of their property portfolio and are beginning to recognise the value of working with local voluntary and community organisations to manage and run these centres. For housing provider Affinity Sutton, this process of transferring the management to Community Organisations is known as Community Asset Transfer, supported by a formal Asset Transfer Strategy and a range of formal documents and processes, all focused around the central ethos that community centres are assets, not liabilities.

When Affinity Sutton began the process of mapping assets and embarked on the process of transferring management of some of these assets to community organisations, they discovered that few resources existed for housing providers interested in developing their approach to Community Asset Transfer.

Over the last few years, Affinity Sutton has cultivated a Community Asset Transfer approach to maximise the potential of its Community Asset portfolio and to support residents in line with its social purpose to help people ‘put down roots’.  Having curated their own approach from scratch, honing the process by applying lessons learned about what worked well, Affinity Sutton were keen to share these experience with the sector and help other housing providers.

Over the last year, HACT has been conducting research and working together with Affinity Sutton to develop a set of resources for housing providers that draws upon the approach taken by Affinity Sutton to Community Asset Transfer and the learning that has been amassed.

Drawing upon Affinity Sutton’s experience and, critically, the perspectives of three Community Organisations who have undertaken the management of community centres, HACT has developed a toolkit, designed to enable housing providers to understand the operational realities and practical challenges of Community Asset Transfer. The toolkit outlines the various steps that form the Community Asset Transfer process, including the development of a Community Asset Transfer Strategy, how to engage community organisations, how to support the development of the traits that ensure community organisations are successful in the management of community assets, the key questions and elements for housing providers to consider throughout the transfer process, and incorporating monitoring and evaluation in the transfer process.

The toolkit, which will be launched in September 2015, and the series of Masterclasses that will follow its release, are designed to disseminate this learning and good practice and to encourage dialogue in the social housing sector. HACT and Affinity Sutton are also curating a series of three Masterclasses (to be held in October, November and December 2015) that will enable housing providers to understand how to develop and incorporate a Community Asset Transfer approach within their organisation. Masterclasses will include workshop sessions facilitated by key staff from Affinity Sutton and HACT, along with guest speakers from the three community centres featured as case studies within the toolkit – the Riverside Centre, St Hugh’s Community Centre, and Turpington Lane Community Centre.

This research was funded by Affinity Sutton.

Please check our website for updates and Masterclass dates. If you are interested in the launch of the toolkits or would like more information on the Masterclasses, please contact mary-kathryn.rallings@hact.org.uk

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