Building Networks

Define the users you are seeking and make your space as flexible and interesting as possible to meet their needs. Have you any particular target market - creative industries, the voluntary sector, start-ups, local community, the events industry etc.?

What is special about what you are offering? What puts you ahead of the crowd?

It’s never too early in the process to build networks, but you have to have a clear idea of what the asset will offer and whom you are selling to. You also have to have checked out the competition.

Your Network

If you haven’t already – build your own network and use the energy and contacts of the people within it. Recruit members from residents and local businesses. Hold events and meetings, hit the press, and involve politicians. Use a variety of ways of bringing members / contacts together, keeping things moving and fresh

  • Newsletters
  • A presence on a Social Networking site (Facebook etc)
  • Creative workshops
  • Lectures
  • Social events
  • Visits
  • Seminars and conferences
  • Task-related groups
  • If it fits your project, a share issue is a great way of mobilising people and their ideas as well as raising cash (see The Money)

Business Networks

In any city there is a plethora of business networks. Using an internet search engine should uncover local networks. The network density will be thinner in rural areas, but the need to be out there with opinion formers and potential users remains.

Whatever the uses, your building has to become the place to be, so go to those meetings where potential users gather. Never pressure, always be prepared to give as well as take, but never be afraid to ask people you meet whether they know of anyone or any way of making your venture a success.

Businesses can find it difficult to support social projects, but the individuals within them are free to do what they want. Look for successful backers – it will give the project credibility and an aura of success.

Political Networks

Doors will open if you have political support. All political parties are committed to community enterprise. If you have the backing of local councillors, it will make dealings with council officers much easier.

Try to win support at Director and Cabinet level within the local authority as well as the backing of the local MP

Is your project innovative? Then try and capture the imagination of the Regional Development Agency and Government Office.

Networks of Interest

Many community buildings or land projects could have events spaces or are targeted at the creative sector, so there may be a need to move in those circles. Most district authorities will have Heads of Culture (posing under various titles) that will put you in touch with networks of

  • Artists
  • Musicians
  • Digital / Creative industries

Corresponding university departments will have their own networks and sometimes these may be brought together in one web site so do a bit of research for your area.

And so it goes on… The voluntary sector, events and wedding organisers, the Health Service. All have their gathering points and if they should be using your building or your land, you need to be there.

Avoid going to too many networking meetings! Stay targeted.

Be clear! Why are you there, who do you want to talk to and what do you want to ask them?