June 3, 2009
Development Trust Association (UK) manifesto
In a manifesto published recently the DTA (UK) has called on Government to shift regeneration spend towards investment for community enterprise and asset development. They specifically highlight the social and environmental benefits of using ‘social clauses’ to extract best value
Transforming Communities for Good
A manifesto from the Development Trusts Association
The community enterprise movement, and our 450 development trusts in particular, are a great success story.
In the face of global uncertainties and the economic downturn, we offer a community-led solution, increasing confidence and pride, bringing out the best in people, improving relationships between different groups, stimulating local economic activity, and improving stewardship of scarce resources.
We make five pledges:
to help every community set up an effective development trust
to promote community ownership of land and buildings
to grow a culture of community enterprise
to build alliances with partners in all sectors
to demonstrate community impact
We call on government:
to shift regeneration spend towards community investment
to provide access to assets for community groups
to ensure community vehicles are established in all new town developments
to introduce fair contracts
to make the business support system relevant for community enterprise
to introduce a Community Allowance
These actions will take us towards our goal: that all communities will become places where people feel common ownership and pride, places which allow everyone to achieve their potential, and places which are socially, economically and environmentally prosperous.
1. Transforming communities for good
Development trusts are community organisations using self-help, social enterprise, and asset ownership, to transform their community for good. There are 450 development trusts, operating in both urban and rural areas right across the UK. This is a great success story – one which gives us real hope there is a better way of doing things.
The vision of the Development Trusts Association is that all communities will become places where people feel common ownership and places which allow everyone to achieve their potential, and places are socially, economically and environmentally prosperous.
2. A community-led response to the big challenges we face
Local communities face uncertainty and challenge. The economic downturn, technological change, widening social divisions and the poverty gap, demographic change, the affordable housing crisis, the threat of climate change – all of these will have far reaching impacts in every part of the country. If we fail to respond effectively, our communities will become fragmented and demoralised, with negative consequences for all of us.
Should we leave it to others to find all the solutions? No! All the efforts of government and others will ultimately be in vain if communities, at a local level, are not themselves the driver for change. We believe that development trusts, with a people-led problem-solving culture, are the most effective vehicle for a community-led response.
Our experience has been that, even in the most difficult circumstances, people can achieve surprising and extraordinary results. This is especially true where community organisations develop a culture of community-led enterprise, developing into businesses which can trade successfully, generating surpluses to be reinvested for community purpose, and at the same time improving lives.
We have also learned that community asset ownership is a foundation for community transformation and empowerment. Bringing underused and even derelict land and buildings into community ownership can overcome blight, deliver facilities that people want, generate community income, and increase the spirit of community self-help.
At its best, this way of doing things ‘lifts’ a whole community, increasing confidence and pride, bringing out the best in people, improving relationships between different groups, stimulating local economic activity, improving stewardship of scarce resources. In every sense, development trusts create wealth in communities, and keep it there.
3. Our pledges
In order to grow the community enterprise movement the Development Trusts Association will:
Help every community establish an effective development trust
But not at the expense of quality! We will help every development trust achieve recognised organisational performance standards, and make it easier for development trusts to learn from each other, unlocking skills and expertise, enhancing leadership, and building on success right across the country.
Promote community ownership of land and buildings
We will help development trusts develop local assets and bring land and buildings into viable community ownership, delivering services and facilities. We will help development trusts establish community land trusts and similar vehicles to safeguard community benefit and increase the supply of affordable housing.
Grow a culture of community enterprise
We will provide business diagnostic and support, to help development trusts operate as profitable and thriving social enterprises.
Build alliances with partners in all sectors
We will help development trusts improve understanding of community enterprise among third sector partners, local councils, housing associations, and businesses, and build alliances with them.
Demonstrate community impact
We will help development trusts find the best ways to tackle entrenched poverty and combat social injustice. We will help them deliver environmental benefits, through renewable energy and other schemes. We will help development trusts improve engagement with, and accountability to, the diversity of people and groupings that exist in every community. We will help development trusts understand and demonstrate the impacts they make.
4. What we want government to do
National and local government deserves praise for much progress in recent years. The policy recognition, across all political parties, for the value of social enterprise and community asset ownership is very welcome. There has been a genuine effort to achieve better targeted funding and improvement to the legal and regulatory framework within which we operate.
But we are still at the beginning of a journey, and if we are to realise the potential of the community enterprise movement we need government to act on the following:
Shift regeneration spend towards community investment:
National government should shift resources to increase the availability of investment for community enterprise and asset development. Our experience has been that investment readiness assistance, development finance, rapid and flexible finance for capital development (grants, patient loans, and equity), and post investment business support to ensure sustainable enterprise, are all in short supply. £250m in the next three year spending round will lever in additional resources (public grants, private investment, community shares) and deliver the capital foundation and organisational capability for the next 500 development trusts.
Provide access to assets:
A mechanism, drawing on lessons from the community right to buy legislation which exists in Scotland for rural areas, should be introduced to create a window for community groups to acquire key community assets (land and buildings) from both the public and private sectors.
Ensure community vehicles are established in all new towns:
New town developments, and large scale redevelopments, should always include provision for asset transfer to an independent community vehicle such as a development trust, with expert assistance and start up costs – creating the foundation for community land trusts and other community asset development initiatives.
Introduce fair contracts:
The way that public sector contracts are negotiated continues to create profound vulnerability for the community sector and misses a major opportunity for the public sector to multiply the local effect of their spending. Many public bodies award third sector contracts on the basis of cost, and this leads to a situation where full costs are not covered – indeed 40% of our members end up subsiding public service delivery. The way forward is that public bodies should award contracts on the basis of price, quality, and community benefit (the use of social clauses should be extended across public sector procurement). This would mean that public bodies would achieve greater local benefit for their spend, and effective community groups would be able to generate surpluses to increase their sustainability, independence, and community impact.
Make business support relevant for community enterprise:
The know-how that exists within front-line community enterprises is a vital resource for stimulating the next generation of viable community enterprises. Government should ensure that the business support system invests in specialist community enterprise business support and in particular expands resources for peer-to-peer learning.
Introduce a community allowance:
We do not believe that compulsory community ‘workfare’ would ever be effective, yet clearly the benefits system needs reform. Community work should be an incentive not a punishment, part of the carrot not one of the sticks. At present the system undermines opportunities for local sessional and short-term paid community work as a step towards more permanent employment and a contribution to strengthening local neighbourhoods. Government should introduce a community allowance to provide the flexibility to encourage this to happen.
About development trusts
Development trusts use self-help, trading for social purpose, and ownership of buildings and land, to bring about long-term social, economic and environmental benefits in their community.
They operate in both urban and rural areas, often in neighbourhoods which have experienced the worst economic decline. They are independent, but work with the public sector, private businesses, and with other community groups.
They are community ‘anchor’ organisations, delivering services and facilities, finding solutions to local problems, and helping other organisations and initiatives succeed. They create wealth in communities – and keep it there.
There are now 450 development trusts in DTA membership, in both urban and rural areas. While many are still small, others are operating at scale: the combined turnover is £260m including £105m earned income, and development trusts have £490m of assets in community ownership.