Last year Big Lottery Fund Scotland asked the Scottish Community Development Centre (SCDC) and Community Enterprise to carry out a review of our investment in community asset ownership and development, to help inform our future funding in this area.
Since 2001, over £95 million of our funding has been invested in over 400 projects throughout the length and breadth of the country – first through the original Scottish Land Fund, then through programmes such as Growing Community Assets.
Our main goal was to find out whether our support for the ownership and development of assets is an effective way to improve the strength and resilience of disadvantaged communities.
Additionally, it has been the Fund’s policy to only support communities wishing to own assets: we have not supported leasing. So we also asked the SCDC to investigate whether leasing or simply managing assets was equally as effective in helping communities tackle inequality.
The SCDC have now delivered their research, Speaking Out on Taking Over: Perspectives on community ownership, community control and sustainability, and the findings make for interesting reading. For instance:
- The researchers found a diverse ecology of community control throughout Scotland, with examples of ownership, leasing and combined approaches. Happily, the organisations involved are using these various tenure options to deliver a wide range of very useful services and are making a success of the community control of assets at a local level.
- Regardless of the form of tenure involved – whether leasing or ownership – most participants found the process of taking over assets tiring, legally complex and particularly challenging for volunteers who need significant support.
- The SCDC found that both ownership and leasing bring both benefits and challenges, and that much depends on local context, including the aspirations and capacity of the communities involved.
- Factors known to contribute to successful community empowerment, such as the encouragement of extensive community participation and the creation of a sense of local ownership, can be fostered in both owned and leased assets.
- Leasing can also be used as a stepping stone towards full ownership, and as a way of testing out ideas and developing business plans – the so-called ‘try before you buy’ approach.
The Fund is keen to share the research as widely as possible and to hear what people think about it so as to help us shape how we fund community assets going forward.
We’d be interested to have any questions or comments you may have. You can contact him us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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