Before you get started, it’s a good idea to check whether or not your group has the skills and experience required to successfully manage your community asset project. This is known as a Capacity Needs Analysis. Carrying out this analysis at an early stage will help you to identify what skills you have on board and which you may need to developed or recruit into the team.
Capacity Needs Analysis – the process
A Capacity Needs Analysis is particularly important for organisations getting involved in an asset project for the first time. Managing a capital build programme, for example, requires different skills to running a community group or operating services. You should identify any skills gaps in your team at the outset and at intervals during the pre-development phase of your project (i.e. before the construction period starts).
Look at your project objectives and initial assessment then, when you have one, your business plan. Think about what skills are needed to deliver the project according to the plan. Put together a list of skills areas (legal, financial, marketing, operations etc.) and under each the kinds of experience that you will need (managed a construction project, obtained financing etc.)
Get an outside opinion. Find someone who has completed similar projects before. They should be able to provide an independent check that you have considered all the necessary skills and experience needed. An outsider will also be useful in evaluating the results with a critical eye.
Once you know what skills and experience you need, check this against those your volunteers and staff have. You can ask them to complete a self-assessment form (attached at the bottom of this page) or assess each other (peer-assessment). Then collate the results and identify any skills areas you need to develop or recruit into the team. Discuss this process with volunteers and any staff to ensure they are comfortable with the process and do not feel threatened.
Then discuss the results within the team or your committee/ Board and make decisions about how to resolve any skills gaps. This may involve recruiting new volunteers or staff, providing training or mentoring for existing staff and volunteers, or appointing contractors.
Where significant skills gaps exist, think of creative ways forward. Consider starting with smaller projects that might meet some of your project objectives, in order to build up confidence and experience. Reach out to potential partners who may be able to assist in areas where your team has a skills gap.
Do not see skills gaps as impenetrable obstacles. There are many ways in which skills can be developed or leveraged. Similarly, keep your capacity needs analysis broad; there is no need to detail every skill needed for every element of your project. It is important to remain flexible, look at all the options for bringing on board the skills you need, and make an informed decision about what is best for your project and organisation.
What to avoid
Do not avoid issues or paper over cracks. It is better to identify gaps sooner rather than later. An honest and thorough process improves your chances of success and boosts your credibility with funders and partners.
Avoid a process that seems threatening to people. Taking on and developing an asset can seem a daunting change. Reassure everyone that a capacity needs analysis is being conducted to ensure the organisation is well placed to succeed. If done right, it will reduce the stress as the development moves forward, as individuals are not asked to carry out tasks they are ill-equipped for.
Be open about your orgnaisation’s support needs. Try not to keep partners in the dark. Gaps in your group’s skills or experience will become apparent to them in the long run anyway so it is better for you to get them out in the open. Partners may be able to present solutions that you have not considered.