2F: Engaging your community

A community asset transfer is so called because the transfer of the asset should provide clear benefits to the local community as well as any specific sports community

The local community can be affected and can benefit from a transfer in many ways:

  • As sports enthusiasts and users of the facility
  • As neighbours affected by traffic and noise
  • As volunteers, supporters and donors
  • As people with local knowledge of the site & the neighbourhood.

For most projects there is not one local community but a number of different communities which need to be approached in different ways and at different times. Recognising different groups of people is important since it enables information and invitations to people to happen in a targeted way.

Listening to the community

It can also help you to identify and listen to people in the local community who may not be positive about a project. It’s especially important to get to know your community if you are moving into a new location where you haven’t operated before.

When thinking about the local community you need to pay attention to equalities and diversity. Make an effort to reach out to the different ethnic community groups, faith groups, people with different disabilities and different generational groups in your community.

Don’t forget that, however positive you may feel about the project, others may be fearful or suspicious

 Don’t forget that, however positive you may feel about the project, others may be fearful or suspicious. Not everyone believes that community groups are able to look after sites and sports facilities or that the transfer of assets is a good thing.

It’s important to listen to people’s views and try to understand their underlying concerns and fears so that you can find ways to reassure them.

Neighbours

Neighbours will have important views on the existing site and will be aware of, for example, how people visit, problems with security and what activities create noise.

Neighbours are important to get onside with a project when the time comes for planning applications, (the local planning department will ask neighbours for their views as part of the review of any planning applications submitted).

Near neighbours will be particularly affected during any building work and if the asset transfer will mean an increase in visitors to the site, car parking and an increase in noise levels or a change in the time at which the site is used.

For example, a football ground may have a small car park that is adequate for training days. However, on match days the cars and coaches that bring spectators and players may fill local roads.

Tips for good community consultation

  • Word of mouth is the best way to reach people, especially those that aren’t already involved in sport or the community. You can find people by knocking on their doors, standing on street corners, having a stall at a school event or local fete and asking local businesses if you can talk to their customers.
    • Click here for expertise on community engagement.
  • A great way to reach lots of people is to hold an open day, fun day or free sports participation event. Make sure you have plenty of volunteers on hand to stop people and talk to them and collect their views in simple ways such as sticky walls and graffiti boards.
  • You can also contact local groups and organisations and offer to send a speaker for a meeting or school assembly or ask to visit a group session or club meeting to talk about your plans.
  • The next best way to reach people is via questionnaires and social media. Many groups try a leaflet or newsletter drop and survey to people’s homes. Don’t expect a very high response rate though – a 10% return is a good result for this kind of survey. Local publicity via the radio and papers is a good way to increase the return rate. So is offering a prize draw.
  • Increasingly, people are using Facebook, Twitter and other digital communications to reach out to the local community. This can be especially good for reaching young people. Your website is really important for keeping people updated on what is happening, so try to keep it up to date and fresh.
  • A competition can be a great ways of engaging children such as designing a logo or name for the project.

Whatever engagement methods you use, it is important that they are inclusive, clear and productive, encourage collaboration, are well recorded and followed up.

It’s really important to keep people informed if they have taken time to give their views, so don’t forget to keep people updated via your website, a newsletter, a notice-board or preferably all three. It’s very important that people understand what the process is for agreeing the asset transfer and that decision-making is transparent.

It’s really important to keep people informed if they have taken time to give their views, so don’t forget to keep people updated

Local authorities need to ensure that there has been a good community consultation process as part of the asset transfer negotiations, especially if there are competing interests for the site.

Local councillors have a role to play in helping people understand the democratic process, how decisions are made and in helping to mediate any conflict over the site and its use. However, they shouldn’t necessarily be involved in the final decision, as this should be made by Council Officers, according to agreed policies and processes which are fair and transparent.

Users

Along with existing club members, local people are likely to be the biggest source of new users of the facility. This may be as participants in sports activities as well as users of any income-generating business (bar, room hire, pitch hire).

As well as individuals, local organisations are also important as potential users. You probably need to improve participation from some user groups, for example teenagers, people with disabilities, older women, and so on who may be under-represented at your club.

Other sports clubs can become regular customers of the facility. They offer a steady source of income and many clubs have a need to hire facility time on an ongoing seasonal basis.

If you aren’t an existing community sports organisation, do consult with as many local sports clubs as possible to see if they would be interested in using, or even co-locating, to the site.

Many sports do not require clubs to own or manage their premises. Even for clubs that do own their own premises, your asset may offer something complementary, e.g. a sports hall could provide space for land-based training for water-based sport.

A list of local sports clubs and organisations is usually available from your local authority and the County Sports Partnership.

Schools can be an important local user, as they don’t always have good sports facilities, especially primary schools. They are also a good partner and a way of reaching local families. They may need support in providing sports opportunities to their pupils.

Local GP practices may have referral schemes for patients with health problems who would benefit from getting more active and may be willing to let you talk to patients.

Local businesses are also important ‘stakeholders’ as they may benefit from increased ‘footfall’ in the area on training or competition days. Equally, they may see your plans as threat or as competition to their existing business. Either way it’s important to get their views.

It may be that you can partner with an existing business to run some parts of the site, for example a café or bar if you don’t want to do that yourself.

Wider community

Community groups are a great source of local intelligence and possible partners.

Like local businesses, they may see your plans as a threat or welcome you as a potential partner, but they are important players in the local community and their support can make a big difference to a successful transfer negotiation.

You can identify local community groups through your local Council for Volunteer Service.

Search for local members

 

Community: Have different groups of people and organisations in the community been identified and are there plans in place to engage with them?
Local authority: Are local Councillors well informed about the project and able to talk knowledgably about it to constituents?
Local authority: Has there been good communication by the Local Authority regarding the possible transfer of community sports facilities and the decision making process?