Locality Brokers is breaking new ground at a time of significant change right across the country. We regard matching professional expertise with peoples’ aspirations to transform use of the built environment as a significant opportunity to re-localise economies - harnessing the combined efforts of communities and businesses for mutual benefit.
During 2011 we commissioned Community Land Use to undertake research into services that enable professionals to support the development of land and buildings by communities and not-for-private-profit organisations Together, we identified -
- 13 Brokerage schemes – where an intermediary proactively puts together Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) organisations and private sector supporters of all types after an initial diagnostic process.
- 6 Signposting schemes – where supporters of all types can offer their services via registration for inclusion in a directory, and support seekers can also register their project.
- 11 Schemes offering specific types of support – where organisations can obtain specialist help such as marketing, IT support or green technology
We also found that the advice available through these services was:
- Dominated by legal and accountancy advice firms;
- Dominated by larger firms, when most firms active in providing land and building related services are small or medium-sized enterprises;
- Limited in terms of the time available – most helpful when giving a specific piece of advice around a problem, rather than contributing to a developmental exercise and progressing a project in the round; and
- Made available for free after being promoted to firms as helping with their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or staff development activities, rather than generating paid work connected to exciting or innovative projects on the basis of mutual benefit.
We also talked to organisations and firms about their experience of working together and found:
- Some organisations tried to access longer term professional advice by using their Trustee recruitment processes or existing trustee contacts. This sometimes created problems with potential conflicts of interest.
- Some firms felt that organisations had not sufficiently clarified what they wanted to achieve in developing their project. This sometimes resulted in time-intensive preliminary discussions or abortive work.
- Some organisations found that the initial stages of a project called for input from several professionals e.g. surveyors for a condition survey assessment, and an architect for initial design. Putting several types of firm together through the services we examined proved difficult.
- Some firms felt that they had been badly treated when they had provided free ideas and input but were not then included when work was commissioned via an open competitive tendering process.
- Some organisations were worried that free advice would mean poor quality advice or an inability to insist on delivery to a set timescale - particularly in relation to funding bids.
As a result of this research, we decided that Locality Brokers should be developed to address some of the gaps in provision and to overcome some of the common problems experienced. A pilot scheme will help Locality learn how to ensure that firms and organisations can work effectively and efficiently together for mutual benefit and really help projects get out of the starting blocks.
Locality Brokers provides:
- Experts who will broker expressions of interest
- Advice and assistance with the briefing and contracting process
- A focus on mutual benefit – this is not CSR!
Your company will benefit from:
- Access to a new and innovative business
- Early share and presence in this emerging market
- Publicity via the Locality Brokers website
- Examples of your social, environmental and economic impacts
- Demonstration of your expertise in a particular area e.g. with listed buildings, energy generation, housing development, leisure or recreation projects
- The chance to innovate from the ideas stage through to implementation
For community groups and enterprises
- The right professional expertise and experience for your project
- The opportunity to work with property professionals that can help to develop a technically and financially feasible project on terms that suit both parties and are clearly agreed from the outset
- The opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to working in partnership with the private sector on a long-term basis
- Your expertise and capacity in working with other professionals
We believe that the argument is compelling, the process simple and the benefits clear enough to encourage firms and communities to come together for that often spoken of but elusive common good.