Tide changes for community anchor organisations?
For a couple of years, Senscot has been trying to promote the term ‘community anchor organisations’ – to denote those strong locally controlled organisations which provide leadership in many of our communities. We adopted the term from the much undervalued Home Office report, ‘Firm Foundations’ (2004), and it is significant that this week’s Treasury Review also adopts this term – and cites the same source. The problem is that the Treasury Review significantly dilutes ‘locally controlled’ to ‘locally based’ – we have reproduced both definitions below.
From Firm Foundations (2004)
Community anchor organisations
Strong, sustainable community-based organisations can provide a crucial focus and support for community development and change in their neighbourhood or community. We are calling them ‘community anchor organisations’ because of the solid foundation they give to a wide variety of self-help and capacity building activities in local communities, and because of their roots within their communities. We need to target our efforts better to enable more organisations to develop into the role of community ‘anchor’, and to promote a common understanding of what distinguishes the many thousands of groups and organisations operating at community level from those which can be said to play an anchor role in the way described here.
Community anchor organisations take many forms, but have at least four common features:
they are controlled by local residents and/or representatives of local groups
they address the needs of their area in a multi-purpose, holistic way
they are committed to the involvement of all sections of their community, including marginalised groups
they facilitate the development of the communities in their area.
Bringing about change
Community anchor organisations might develop from a variety of different kinds of organisations. These might include development trusts or settlements, tenant management organisations or well-established residents associations, community associations or other neighbourhood level federations or networks, village halls, church or other faith-based organisations, schools or possibly organisations with a cultural or sports focus. New Deal for Communities partnerships may play this role, and the successor bodies to some Single Regeneration Budget programme boards.
Some neighbourhood watch groups may also have expanded their role to operate in this way. On the other hand, many of these organisations may not include all the elements or have the capacity to play the role demanded of a community anchor organisation, without additional support and investment.
Community anchor organisations may have a range of specific purposes, which will be determined by the needs of their particular area:
They may be involved in providing local services, such as managing a housing estate, running Surestart provision for under 5s, or offering advice.
They may be directly involved in regeneration programmes, or have grown out of a regeneration programme, after the initial funding has finished.
They may offer support both to active individuals and to smaller groups pursuing a more limited purpose, in the ways described in section 2: by providing a physical hub or meeting place, by being a source of small grants (generated from their own activities, or distributed on behalf of other funders), community development workers might be based there, and they may offer a venue for learning opportunities or a place to go for advice on what is available.
In some cases a community anchor organisation may be structured so that it can represent the views of local people to public bodies. In others, its role may be to facilitate the creation of a local forum.
from The future role of the third sector in social and economic regeneration: final report (2007)
Investment in community anchors
3.24 Community anchors are large neighbourhood organisations playing a vital role in generating wealth for communities and in supporting other community sector organisations. They are often social enterprises, able to generate income through trading and contracting, often through ownership or management of an asset base. They play a unique role, recognised within communities and by external agencies and able to act as an intermediate between these agencies and grass roots activity. They can deliver services beyond the capacity of smaller groups, operate as a platform for community activity, facilitate wider community forums and networks and can negotiate on behalf of the local community sector. They also contribute to wealth creation in an area, by investing in the personal development of individuals, which can connect people to the labour market and by improving benefit take-up and reducing out-goings through advocacy and advice. In addition, they contribute to the wealth of the community by providing services that reduce the transaction costs of the public sector and by generating their own income by a variety of methods they ensure that wealth is retained in an area.
3.25 The thematic roundtable discussion on strengthening communities highlighted that the provision of small grants to the community sector needed to go band in hand with the development of community anchors to build strong and sustainable communities. The roundtable discussion of five key priorities for community anchor organisations as providing a place to meet and for community activities to take place, to support and promote the growth of the wider community sector, to provide services, to provide advocacy and voice for the community and to stimulate community involvement and activity.
3.26 Firm Foundations which sets out the Government’s framework for community capacity building, includes the development and support of community anchor organisations as a by driver of community building. Government support for this activity has included funding for the community Alliance otganisationsl4 to develop the Community anchor approach and investment in the Adventure Capital Fund (ACF) as a source of funds for social enterprise based community anchor organisations. More recently the Big Lottery Fund infrastructure programme, BASIS has announced investment of £3.1 million for the Community Alliance for a five-year regional programme to enable the Alliance to provide a single point of contact in the regions for community groups to access information and services to improve their governance and strategic planning and to become more sustainable and effective.
3.27 The Adventure Capital Fund has been successful in investing over £5 million in patient capital in community based organisations since its inception in 2002. Evaluation of round one of the ACF bas indicated that there is a significant level of demand for this type of funding, with round one funding oversubscribed fivefold on the patient capital side. In addition, the selection process precipitated organisational and cultural change within the organisations involved, particularly around moving away from grant funding reliance to developing independence and sustainability through enterprise. Round Two evaluation confirmed the demand for long-term loan finance fur community-based organisations developing revenue earning enterprise initiatives. However, it is also dear that organisations require support (which the ACF provides through its supporters network) to build capacity. The evaluation found that patient capital investment of this type is particularly relevant for organisations with a turnover between £100,000 and £1million, with few significant capital assets or revenue surpluses and organisations with turnovers in excess of £1 million but with low trading surpluses and a need for asset development.
Assets 3.28 Government investment in asset development, as set out in paragraphs 3.4-3.5 also plays a vital role in building the sustainability of community anchor organisation. Following on from the recommendations and findings of the Quirk Review of community management and ownership of assets the Government has committed to implement the proposals in full. The Government will work with third sector partners to raise awareness of the Review’s findings: to demonstrate how asset transfer can be done; to strengthen community capacity to use powers available to them to create pressure for asset transfer; to develop resources to support asset development; and to promote the benefits of community ownership or ownership of assets. In July 2007 20 Local Authorities were selected to be involved in the Advancing Assets for
Communities programme, funded by CLG, which will demonstrate how Local
Authorities and community organisations can be supported to develop joint plans for asset transfer inline with the recommendations of the Quirk Review.