Management of community-owned facilities post-acquisition: Brokerage for shared learning
The drive within (development) policy and practice in the UK is towards ownership of local facilities by local communities, with the surrounding rhetoric focusing on community empowerment, inclusion and sustainable development. Coupled with this is a normative presumption of unproblematic ownership by community. This article seeks to question the uncritical nature of these developments by reference to empirical data from Scotland, gathered through a postal survey of 347 rural village hall committees, six in-depth case studies and interviews with funders and fund distributors whose remit covers village halls. Findings are presented with reference to the Community Capitals Framework, focusing particularly on human, social and political capitals. The evidence shows that village hall committees identify a need for support for human and social capacity-building through training to enable them to move beyond short-term ‘fire-fighting’ and operational challenges towards strategic thinking and sustained community engagement. Funders identify key requirements for communities to enhance the sustainability of village halls, including the need to have a strategic rather than operational mindset and to engage in ongoing community-level capacity-building. With the increasing push towards public sector asset transfer to communities, the article argues that much greater cognisance must be made of the complexities and capacity challenges that exist once an asset has been acquired by a community. More effective brokerage and sharing of resources is a critical component in ensuring that community assets do not become liabilities over time.
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