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!