"Associative democracy" and leisure services asset transfer

It's always a pleasure to highlight the amazing breadth of the work CIMSPA members do across the sector, and today we're signposting some work which steps back from the bustle of sport and activity management to examine the wider impact of the pace of change in our industry.

Two of our members – Geoff Nichols and Gordon MacFadyen, working with colleagues in academia, have recently had a research paper published in the Administrative Sciences journal. Geoff has kindly written an overview of the thesis, with links at the end to the whole article.


Is the asset transfer of public leisure facilities in England an example of associative democracy?


This paper uses examples of public sports facilities and libraries which have been transferred to volunteer management; termed ‘asset transfer’; to consider if this potentially represents a change in the way the public think about these services and the way they should be provided.

The theoretical idea is ‘associationalism’. This means individuals grouping together to attain a shared purpose or express a shared set of values. It is like a sports club led by volunteers; in that they share an interest in a particular sport, collectively want to provide a way of playing it, and want to promote it.

Volunteering is developmental for the volunteers and enriches the communities they are providing services for. The idea was politically popular just after the Second World War and has a lot in common with David Cameron’s idea of a ‘Big Society’ in which citizens were urged to take more responsibility as the state shrunk. We use criticisms of the lack of progress towards a Big Society to identify limitations in asset transfer.

The catalyst for asset transfer was a desire to reconcile reductions in local authority budgets with keeping facilities open, often in response to local pressure groups. Case studies of eight facilities (some of which are described on the CIMSPA website) show that asset transfer required a set of volunteers with particular skills. Volunteers also needed confidence that they could take on managing an unfamiliar facility. An awareness of local politics or the support of politicians was very helpful; as was help from volunteer support agencies, where it was available. Volunteers were local – with the exception of one facility which had a wider catchment area due to a specialist gymnastics club.

Volunteers had to change from an organisation campaigning to keep the facility open to one capable of managing it. For the volunteers leading the transfer was a huge personal effort. An obvious point is that if such transfers are only going to be practical in areas with a supply of volunteers with high levels of skills and confidence, then facilities in other areas will close. We were aware of several facilities which had closed either because volunteers had not come forward or because transferred had failed. We hope to research these in the future, as well as the ways local authority support is developing as experience of asset transfer grows.

Transferred facilities had a strong sense of community ownership; for example, swimming pools had been used by generations of local residents. They also had a high political profile.

The transfers were a genuine transfer of power to the volunteers. Control over pricing and programming allowed them to be innovative in responding to community needs. For example a pool in Leeds introduced a session for a naturalists group and a community garden. Increasing and diversifying use was important to increase revenue and to broaden the number of people who might potentially take volunteering roles. There was also a tighter control over costs by paying attention to details, for example, type and level of lighting and changing utility providers.

For groups to develop they require time, enthusiasm skills and confidence. Volunteering is not evenly distributed across social classes. When there isn’t an existing group prepared to take on an asset developing one may take years. This time is not available – ideally volunteer development would be part of a long term approach to community enrichment. Volunteer groups in disadvantaged areas need support but budgets of support agencies have also been cut. In the long run groups will need to recruit new volunteers and fund capital costs.

So ‘associationalism’, is a viable way of running some facilities, at least in the short term. However, developing volunteer capacity requires support. Long term viability will partly depend on a continuing supply of local volunteers who see leisure facilities as something to be created by their own efforts rather than provided in exchange for their taxes.

The full article


Is the Asset Transfer of Public Leisure Facilities in England an Example of Associative Democracy?

Nichols, G., Forbes, D., Findlay-King, L. and MacFadyen, G. (2015) Administrative Sciences. 5(2), 71-87; doi:10.3390/admsci5020071

http://www.mdpi.com/2076-3387/5/2/71
http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/87069/

The CIMSPA voluntary transfer research hub


We are expanding our set of case studies, especially to cover ones where asset transfer has been unsuccessful and where local authorities have developed innovative support. If you would like to contact the research team they are:

Geoff Nichols, Sheffield University Management School g.nichols@sheffield.ac.uk
Deborah Forbes, Newcastle University Business School deborah.forbes@newcastle.ac.uk
Lindsay Findlay-King, Northumbria University lindsay.findlay-king@northumbria.ac.uk
Gordon Macfadyen, Northumbria University gordon.macfadyen@northumbria.ac.uk

Incorporated by Royal Charter Charity registration number 1144545

This site uses cookies to store information on your computer. See our Cookie Policy for further details on how to block cookies.
I am happy with this
 

Cookies

What is a Cookie

A cookie, also known as an HTTP cookie, web cookie, or browser cookie, is a piece of data stored by a website within a browser, and then subsequently sent back to the same website by the browser. Cookies were designed to be a reliable mechanism for websites to remember things that a browser had done there in the past, which can include having clicked particular buttons, logging in, or having read pages on that site months or years ago.

NOTE : It does not know who you are or look at any of your personal files on your computer.

Why we use them

When we provide services, we want to make them easy, useful and reliable. Where services are delivered on the internet, this sometimes involves placing small amounts of information on your device, for example, your computer or mobile phone. These include small files known as cookies. They cannot be used to identify you personally.

These pieces of information are used to improve services for you through, for example:

  • recognising that you may already have given a username and password so you don’t need to do it for every web page requested
  • measuring how many people are using services, so they can be made easier to use and there’s enough capacity to ensure they are fast
  • analysing anonymised data to help us understand how people interact with our website so we can make them better

You can manage these small files and learn more about them from the article, Internet Browser cookies- what they are and how to manage them

Learn how to remove cookies set on your device

There are two types of cookie you may encounter when using our site :

First party cookies

These are our own cookies, controlled by us and used to provide information about usage of our site.

We use cookies in several places – we’ve listed each of them below with more details about why we use them and how long they will last.

Third party cookies

These are cookies found in other companies’ internet tools which we are using to enhance our site, for example Facebook or Twitter have their own cookies, which are controlled by them.

We do not control the dissemination of these cookies. You should check the third party websites for more information about these.

Log files

Log files allow us to record visitors’ use of the site. The CMS puts together log file information from all our visitors, which we use to make improvements to the layout of the site and to the information in it, based on the way that visitors move around it. Log files do not contain any personal information about you. If you receive the HTML-formatted version of a newsletter, your opening of the newsletter email is notified to us and saved. Your clicks on links in the newsletter are also saved. These and the open statistics are used in aggregate form to give us an indication of the popularity of the content and to help us make decisions about future content and formatting.