Archive for the ‘Lessons’ Category

Below are a series of people talking about different lessons they have picked up as a result of talking part in the Community Asset Transfer Development programme.

The Guardian reports on Birmingham’s Community Asset Transfer work.

Posted on 27th May 2011 by

Saba Salman of the The Guardian Voluntary Sector network was attracted to write about Birmingham and it’s community asset tranfer work after finding the warts and all case studies on this website.  In a piece she called Making community asset transfer work, she wrote:

The benefits of transfer are clear – community empowerment for local people and asset disposal for the council – but how do you overcome the hurdles?

In Birmingham, the council built on its involvement in the government pilot, recently agreeing a new protocol outlining a consistent path to transfer, from initial expressions of interest to the point of handing property or land.

Karen Cheney, co-ordinator of the council’s community asset transfer development programme, believes clarity is key. “Every local authority has to be very clear as to what community asset transfer means to them.” Councils can dispose off assets at preferential rates in various ways including freehold, a long lease, a shorter lease or a licence to occupy. In Birmingham it involves transferring leasehold, because “that’s protecting both sides – if it is freehold it’s gone and if it goes wrong, retrieving the situation is more costly”. Birmingham’s transfer website is clear, packed with information and avoids any overt council branding.

She also spoke to Masood Yasin of comm:pact about how he organised the transfer of Hutton Hall – which is also covered on this site.

Community Asset Transfer in Birmingham – Key Lessons – Karen Cheney

Posted on 17th February 2011 by

Karen Cheney, Birmingham City Council

Karen Cheney has been the co-ordinator of  the Community Asset Transfer Development Programme as part of her job as Senior Manager – Community Empowerment Projects Lead in the Neighbourhood and Communities Team of Birmingham City Council – Constituency Services… this is what she’s learned:

  • We did it! We’ve come a long way very quickly, but it’s complex – acknowledge the need to be in it for the long haul, and lots of patience for all partners
  • AWARENESS – CAT is not resource neutral for either side – time, capacity and finance
  • LEARNING is key for everyone – Local Authority and other public agencies, not just Third Sector Organisations (TSOs) and learning from our mistakes and change as well as the good practice and success.
  • HONESTY – CAT is not for everybody – not enough to be a good idea. Needs sound business plan, governance and finance
  • RELATIONSHIPS first – Asset Transfer is so much more than the building/asset. More to do with relationship building and strengthening communities. Physical regeneration/refurbishment can be the catalyst for social regeneration, social enterprise and entrepreneurship
  • LINKAGES – importance of joint approach and linking property function and community development process – strategic context and embedding
  • VALUING not just cost – investment and commitment
  • FLEXIBILITY – of all partners especially LA
  • Vision, Innovation and Risk – essential on both sides
  • Key has been the PARTNERSHIP WORKING, engagement and empowerment with Third Sector Partners and internally with colleagues
  • COMMUNICATION and use of language – honest robust dialogue and challenge to build mutual trusting mature relationships adult to adult rather than parent/ child – usefulness of neutral facilitators
  • Importance of Celebrating Success – reward and recognition of largely voluntary input from TSOs
  • Useful to have a Champions – political and key officer(s) – statutory and voluntary  sector
  • Information and Learning should be open and accessible to as many people as possible – website development

Theresa McIlkenny, Director, Norton Hall – “…this place is life changing”

Posted on 11th August 2010 by

Theresa Mcilkenny recently became a director at Norton hall after years benefiting from the services it provides for her and her son. Here she shares her thoughts on why community run places have particular strengths…

  • Becoming a director seemed like a natural progression, it allows us to help them understand what users expect from Norton Hall
  • You can only be as happy as you children, these place allows me to go out and what I want to do, that makes me happy.
  • The staff here are very committed to the children, to their activities to their education, it feels like a very family atmosphere. If  ever you’ve got anything you want to talk about they don’t dismiss it out of hand.
  • I didn’t want to live on benefits, wanted to be in work. I had misgivings about leaving my son anywhere, but they made me feel very comfortable.  In the end Richard was learning so much by being here he sometimes didn’t want to come home.
  • People don’t understand that places like Norton Hall can be life changing. It was life – changing for me.  It allowed me to make things better in my life.

Stevie Prior, Director of Norton Hall, on Community Asset Transfer

Posted on 11th July 2010 by

Interview at the Norton hall open day on July 11th 2010, Stevie Prior is the Norton Hall director who’s been involved in much of the negotiation over Community Asset Transfer. Here’s a sumary of her thoughts..

  • “Delighted to have got to this stage,  it’s been an “interesting process” and  very useful “learning curve”
  • there has to be a good relationship with city council officers
  • there is a tremendous amount of work involved and you have to allow for that
  • some elements – like legal aspect and dealing with the council in new ways gets “extremely serious and at times quite stressful”
  • I think we’ve emerged a more robust organisation
  • it’s enabled us to progress, which is what it was partly about anyway.
  • there is a need for council officers to understand a little more about community development

Paul Slatter, Director of Chamberlain Forum

Posted on 4th July 2010 by

Paul Slatter is the director of Chamberlain forum and has been involved  in a number of ways to  bring the parties together. Facilitating sessions and using a technique called structured dialogue method, which as the name suggests is a structured way of approaching a dialogue between 2 sides of an issue. For more information on Structured Dialogue see here and for a full report – as a word document – click here.


Some key points Paul makes are: (more…)

Nick Booth from Podnosh talks about his role as facilitator on the Community Asset Transfer programme

Posted on 3rd July 2010 by

Nick Booth from Podnosh talks about his role as facilitator on the Community Asset Transfer programme. Nick was asked to start this website to capture the story of the community asset transfer transfer programme and  record the learning journey of both officers and community activists involved.


His expectations of simply providing a place for participants in the transfer project to tell their stories changed, as this also became a social reporting project and he has called on his “old media” skills to capture the learning, experiences and journeys too.

Advice to other Local authorities and officers:

    • Don’t be afraid to tell the truth of your experience as you go through the process. This will be a useful assessment and understanding of how successful the process was for you and others.
    • This sort of open transparency should be used in all other communication methods too, and should eventually affect your organisations expectations of it self.
    • Don’t be afraid to be fallible, your humanity will strengthen the process and engagement will be deeper.

      Advice for third sector organisations:

        • Use online tools such as blogs and video as your project progresses  because in the end this will help you understand what you’ve achieved and the process. ,
        • Don’t just limit online tools to telling the story of your asset transfer – they are a great way to tell the everyday story of  what you do and who you work with.

          Karen Cheney on lessons from the Community Asset Transfer Development Programme in Birmingham

          Posted on 28th May 2010 by

          Kareh Cheney of Birmingham City Council

          Karen Cheney has been the co-ordinator of  the Community Asset Transfer Development Programme as part of her job as Senior Manager – Community Empowerment Projects Lead in the Neighbourhood and Communities Team of Birmingham City Council – Constituency Services.   Below she talks very clearly about what the programme has achieved (more…)

          Bret Willers, Hall Green Constituency Director, reflects on community asset transfer

          Posted on 24th May 2010 by

          Bret Willers is the Constituency Director for Hall Green in Birmingham, he’s been involved with the community asset transfer development programme as an advisor, constructive challenge  and with an interest in assets may be used differently in his part of the city.


          Some of the key thoughts from his interview are:

          Valueing Worth – we have not entirely cracked this problem, accountants and others not used to finding value in the intangibles, but it is good see the possibilities being acknowledged.  It is important to develop a process of describing value which both the local authority and third sector organisations can recognise as objective.  It is also worth asking the knock on effect of the value being created in one place to neighbouring places or the wider community.

          Key learning for council officers

          Be prepared to take risks, be entrepreneurial and look at it from the point of view of a social business.  Be open minded.  Allow 3rd sector organisations to make money – don’t be afraid of profit.

          Key lessons for the third sector

          Be business minded, it’s not a bad think to make a profit, particularly if the money if ploughed back into your work.  Ask yourself if your proposals stacks up financially and also match your core values.   Be creative – don’t be afraid to take risks

          Roger Lloyd – senior lawyer at Birmingham City Council talks about his experience of Community Asset Transfer

          Posted on 24th May 2010 by

          Roger Lloyd is the Head of Regeneration and Property Law for Birmingham City Council Legal Services.  Click below to listen to his thought on lesson from the Community Asset Transfer Development programme.


          Roger’s role was looking after the lawyers in his team who were developing after the lease document, aiming to make sure the governance and accounting side works satisfactorily.  He says a key issue was that the contracts had to take into account the impact of International Financial Reporting Standards which is a radical change, as of April 1st 2010,  in how local government accounts for assets on their books.

          Advice to other council officers:

          1. Work with accountants and lawyers of all of the people involved from the beginning, concentrating on securing all the right authority from all the right partners at the very start.  This makes sure that the transaction has the right approval early.
          2. The lawyers need to be brought in right at the beginning to ensure that plans fit the law.
          3. There always needs to be proper communication, and if one side is not understanding the other that is proper communication. Lawyers need to make sure that they iron out misunderstanding by also using plain English.

          For third sector organisations:

          1. The project manager from the third sector organisation needs to take time to understand the legal hoops that need to be jumped through.You may not like the position, but understanding it will help
          2. Remember we are trying to find a way through for you.

          If you have any thoughts on Roger’s observation you could leave a comment below.

          Structured Dialogue, a technique used to improve relationships and learning

          Posted on 17th May 2010 by

          Structured dialogue is a technique used by the Chamberlain Forum to encourage open conversation between different partners during the Community Asset Transfer process and this film explains some of the principles behind it.  You can find out more on the Chamberlain Forum’s website:

          Based on an approach developed in Canada by Ronald Labonte and Joan Feather, it uses peoples’ stories and a structured dialogue around them to evaluate and understand the experience of policies in practice.

          Key elements of the approach involve:

          • A provocative theme – something to generate animated discussion
          • A diverse storytelling circle of around 10-15 people
          • Two storytellers willing to share their experience
          • Active reflection of all participants – not just the storytellers
          • Structured questioning – not general discussion
        1. A skilled facilitator to manage the process