Community ownership of physical assets: challenges, complexities and implications
Within rural development policy and practice there is increasing emphasis on asset ownership and management by communities, emphasizing empowerment, inclusion and securing of local futures. Asset-Based Community Development and Community Capitals models support this view. To the majority, this is part of an appropriate, normative shift towards realizing rights of place-based communities. A minority have concerns over the largely unspoken challenges and risks. We review these contentions within the context of new data relating to the totemic rural village hall. We conducted a survey of 347 village hall committees, and present our findings within an assets framework. We highlight complexities where: built assets may be liabilities; the financial asset-base of village halls is not robust; human assets are vulnerable in terms of succession and governance. Our findings show the need for: assessing complexities of asset ownership; evaluating community capacity for asset ownership; providing support where required; and longer-term investment rather than short-term spend. We thus qualify the normative drive towards asset ownership as the mechanism for sustainable economic development.
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