The following sections look at all the things you need to think about when choosing an asset for your project. It is really important to use both your head and your heart at this stage. You will be looking at an asset closely to work out if it is the right one to deliver on the needs your community has identified. It is very important that you don't take on an asset just to save it - it has to be useful, and able to be used in the way you want it.
Make sure and choose the right asset for the right reasons. You need to try to be objective about this decision.
Beware the sentimental. This can be difficult because you can have formed your project objectives around saving a specific building from closure, change of use or even demolition. This asset may have real sentimental value to the community or be an important part of the community space.
Don't take on a liability. You must make sure you are not taking on a liability that will not actually be suitable for what you want to do. This could result in real difficulties later on down the line, once you have become fully responsible for the property as owners or leasees. This can include significant financial liabilities. You need to take time to ensure you choose the right asset and need to try to be objective about the process.
Ensuring you avoid placing your community in such a situation is a key responsibility of any group that has its community’s best interests at heart, as well as the interests of those who may end up financing the project. If the local community has very strong attachments or sentiments towards the building you are currently looking at, it may be easier and more effective to commission someone from outwith the community, such as independent consultants, to look at whether or not it is the right property.
Get the asset you need. The property (whether land or buildings) that your group chooses to deliver its project from will obviously determine the scale and complexity of the job of bringing it into community ownership, transforming it to ensure that it can deliver the benefits you envisage for your community, and managing and maintaining it into the future.
Visit other projects and learn from them. If you can, it is well worthwhile visiting examples of successful community asset projects. These can be found across almost any kind of activity in any kind of building, so lots of things are possible and there is plenty of experience to draw on - you should not have to ‘reinvent the wheel’. Your COSS advisor can direct you to examples of community-run projects that are happy to share their knowledge and experience. Your project team and stakeholders may also have suggestions of places to visit and learn from. Try to visit groups who are running an asset that delivers objectives similar to your own, and ideally speak with those who were involved in taking the asset into community control and/or are responsible for managing the asset now.
Keep checking on your project objectives. Getting a feel for what is going to be involved in taking on a specific property will also help you more closely define your project objectives and provide good background information for the initial assessment of the project's feasibility.
Follow the links to look at these areas in more detail in the following sections, with checklists included to help you work through each issue in relation to potential sites for your project.