Project Objectives

Your community may be looking to take on an asset for any one of a number of reasons. These can vary from a small group wanting to continue to run their community centre through to the large-scale land buy-outs that we have seen in parts of Scotland in recent years. The table below gives a typology and examples of the types of asset and level of control sought:

Community Land Buy-out The community buy-out of large estates / islands is potentially the most transformative, has more at stake and invariably leads on to acquiring / developing other assets (wind turbines, etc)
Development Trust The assumption that development trusts (or other community anchors) will have a clear community plan / set of community priorities against which to assess the acquisition of any potential asset (how does the asset help us advancing our objectives), are able to achieve synergies with other activities and are committed to an enterprising approach.
Community Enterprise Community organisations committed to taking an enterprising approach to asset ownership, but without a clear (or wide) community vision or the multi activity dimension which development trusts have.
Community Owned but Voluntary Run The acquisition of assets such as village halls by, in general, small, rural communities, who often run them sustainably through a combination of voluntary effort and local fund raising.
Management of, or Access to an Asset Community groups for whom acquiring the asset is unimportant, the critical issue being to manage it for community benefit, e.g. a community centre (perhaps through a partnership type arrangement with local authorities) or to get access to land for allotments or community growing.

Whatever your group’s starting point and aspirations, it is important to be clear at the outset about what the project aims to achieve and why. This will enable you to determine whether the project is feasible. Therefore your group must agree the project objectives at the earliest possible stage.

This does not mean that project objectives can’t vary as the feasibility work proceeds.  Changes may be necessary based on the information and advice that is gathered over time.  However, being clear about your project objectives at the outset will help you to consider all the options and opportunities for meeting these that might be uncovered during the feasibility process. It will also enable you to track why any changes are made to the project objectives, and by who. 

Project objectives are statements of what your community asset project aims to accomplish. They are developed and agreed to guide the activities of the group and your partners so as to ensure everyone involved is working on the project in the same agreed direction(s). They may be arrived at through a process of stakeholder consultation or developed by your organization alone.

Objectives can be a mixture of ‘outcomes’ and ‘outputs’. Outcomes are the changes that the project brings about for the people or groups that your project is intended to benefit, for example ‘local residents have greater levels of physical health and well-being’. Groups may find the Outcomes Matrix tool useful to plan and measure social outcomes.  Outputs are the physical results of your project, such as ‘Anytown has a sustainable, accessible sports centre’. Together these might form the following project objective: Residents of Anytown have greater levels of physical health and well-being through the development of a sustainable, accessible sports centre’. 

At the initial stages, project objectives may start as a general statement like the one above. As feasibility work proceeds, this project objective may become more detailed and supplemented with others such as 'the objective of the project is to convert the town hall into space for sports activities on the ground floor with 6 two bed flats above, by March 2015' and ‘surplus revenue from the rents of the flats will pay for a worker to organise sports activities for young people’.

Project objectives should ideally be developed using the SMARTER acronym (see below) to test that they are focussed and action oriented, and therefore enable effective decision-making and activity.  Project objectives should also give clarity about what benefits the project will bring about and how these are to be measured, and thereby enable you to identify what records need to kept or data collected in order to monitor progress at specified times. This is particularly important for securing finance and business planning.

The SMARTER acronym 

Specific -

Objectives should specify what you want to achieve. 

Measurable -

You should be able to measure whether you are meeting the objectives or not.

Achievable -

Is the objective you have set, achievable and attainable?

Realistic -

Can you realistically achieve the objectives with the resources you have?

Time -

When do you want/need to achieve the objective?

Evaluated -

Knowing how you will assess how well it was done

Reviewed -

Assessing what has been learned and what should be improved for the future

It may not be possible for all the project objectives to be SMARTER until some of the feasibility research is complete, but when it is, project objectives are used to inform the initial assessment and the development of the business plan.

It is worth spending time with all those involved in the project looking at the flexibility of your project objectives. Are there any that you cannot compromise on and others that you can, depending on whether they will affect the viability of the project? For example an initial project objective may be that it will provide community space for low cost hire to local groups. If however this means that your asset will not earn enough money to meet revenue costs then the objectives may have to be amended. For example, a different way of managing the space may need to be adopted, perhaps using volunteers or a different pricing regime that involves some lets to commercial organisations at higher rates. It is possible for project objectives to change in light of the opportunities and constraints that present themselves as the project progresses. This provides opportunities to be both entrepreneurial and opportunistic.