Queensland community halls and venues – from corro sugar cane storage sheds to extravagant architectural marvels. We’ve seen them all. Perversely, either end of the spectrum can be a white elephant, or a lively hub of the community. We’ve put the sheds and palaces through the 99 Consulting electron particle accelerator and worked out why!
If you are in the community venue business, here’s a little quiz for you:
Is the purpose of having an asset portfolio clearly stated?
- We’ve always had them
- Not really but our hirers mainly run dance classes and yoga so I guess that’s what the assets are for
- Yes, the objectives are spelt out and we evaluate how well these are achieved
Do you know how much it costs to own/manage these assets?
- It’s pretty hard to work this out as various sections across our organisation all play a part
- Yes, we budget for and monitor each expense and income area for each asset and also calculate the social return on investment
Is each asset fit for purpose?
- Hard to say
- Yes, except for disability access, energy efficiency, acoustics, internet access, and the old furniture
- Yes. We progressively get occupant, user and hire enquiry feedback to get a picture of issue and expectations
Is the use of each asset still a good fit with the surrounding community?
- We don’t know
- Possibly not – there are a lot of new school facilities now that can be hired by community OR the community has grown/ changed/ aged/ gentrified etc
- No – but we are working with most of the other community asset owners in the district so that between us, we can respond to the changing needs
Do you have a simple way to evaluate that you are getting a good social return from your assets?
- Not really, we only know how many groups book the assets
- Yes – it could be more sophisticated but that would entail more time and energy than we want to expend at the moment.
If you scored mainly a) or b) to the quiz then it’s 99 o’clock! Time to call us in for a fine tune and get those assets working for you!
Well-run community facilities can make a huge contribution to the wellbeing of local communities. Yet these facilities – community centres, local halls, arts centres, youth centres – are often taken for granted. Planning can be haphazard, and management arrangements are often left to chance.
Our work in evaluating and planning for community facilities suggests the success secrets are simple on paper, but harder in practice:
- Clear goals – owners of buzzing facilities can usually articulate why they own the venue, what they want it to achieve and how they know it’s doing what it’s supposed to do.
- Fit facilities – lots of older facilities were great dance halls in the 40s, or excellent sales offices for developers, but don’t work so well for today’s community activities.
- Responsive management – whether they’re managed by government, community or commercial interests, the best facilities have pricing, access and management that encourages full use and works towards the venue’s goals.
- Appropriate intervention – if facilities are meant to achieve community development then programs, partnerships or targeted pricing strategies might be needed. If they’re meant to support cultural development then owners might have to invest in developmental activities.
We’re grappling with some questions about facilities that you may be interested in too. Like:
- Would we be better with fewer, really great facilities than with lots of run-down facilities that are under-used?
- How much is providing facilities the role of local governments?
- Can we ever close (or sell, or – gasp – demolish!) a community hall?
- Are traditional volunteer facility management models doomed?
- What are valid, measurable assessments of the contribution made by community facilities?
If you’re interested to talk more about community facilities, we love talking about them!