The context in which any asset transfer operates is an important factor that will influence the asset transfer and partnership working. Contributing factors for success include:
- Asset transfer being seen by the relevant authority as part of the bigger corporate picture.
- A joined up approach involving several departments.
- A transparent and well-understood asset transfer strategy, policy and process that is understood by all key departments (typically Estates, Legal, Economic Development, Planning and CLD).
- Strong leadership from the top of the relevant authority from the Chief Executive and disseminated down through all department heads and officers.
- A clear process and conduit for communication between the asset owner and the community group(s). The Third Sector infrastructure support has to be involved in this partnership as they are likely to be the source of on-going support to ensure sustainability and to maximise growth potential.
Partnerships forged specifically to progress an asset transfer can be effective, but experience shows that where relationships are already good, contacts clear and communication channels open, partnerships are more likely to thrive and transfers proceed in a constructive manner.
If you have no direct experience of dealing with the group who are seeking to take on an asset, it may be worthwhile speaking with officers in different departments or elected members who may have had contact with them, to find out about their experience. It may also be worthwhile identifying who is on the organisation’s Board of Trustees or management committee.
Partnership needs real investment, right from the start. It is important to ensure that initial meetings about the asset transfer process include both community sector and local authority, or public body, representatives, and that both feel fully valued and engaged in the process.
For partnerships involving both paid staff and unpaid volunteers, it is also important for the relevant authority to clearly articulate acknowledgment of time and skills contributed by volunteers, and consider the most appropriate location and timings for meetings. Holding meetings within the local area in question can add further value by giving the local authority staff a better sense of the local context, the credibility of the group, and who is involved.
Identifying shared purpose
It is important for all parties to have a joint or at least complimentary purpose, with a clear mandate. Partnerships succeed where stakeholders are clear and open about their drivers for being involved. Even where purposes are not shared open communication is required so that all stakeholders can get what they need out of the process.
Remember that you’re all on the same side! It’s not a case of them and us; it’s beneﬁt to the community that is important - and the partnership needs to jointly deﬁne community need and show how the asset transfer would meet that need. Deﬁne your joint goals at the beginning, but allow for different aspirations.
Beyond Partnership meetings
Partnerships don’t exist in isolation. Relevant Authority staff involved face-to-face in the partnership need to be supported by their senior managers. It is also important that ofﬁcers in other relevant departments and, where appropriate, elected members are part of the process, and buy into it. Initial time spent developing this support and involving key players will reap rewards.
It is also essential that staff and volunteers from the community sector partner have the full support of their board of trustees or management committee. If the project is to succeed, all stakeholders must be engaged and able to play their part effectively. The community organisation in question needs to have agreed project objectives for the asset, strong governance skills, and be able to present itself effectively