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Where you may find help developing your centre

Help and funding may come from many sources, but your local council is a good place to start....so...

What can your LA do for you?

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Local Authorities

It is vital to involve Local Authorities in your project, on as many different levels as possible. Get their support, use their power and their services. They are:

A source of advice

Start asking questions as soon as possible; they are there to help with Building Regulations, environmental advice, Health and Safety issues, property availability, data and statistics, economic development and forward planning and a whole lot more. Ask for a copy of their strategic plan - see where your project fits in.

A local power centre and decision maker

Love them or hate them, the powers that be will affect what you do - and can actively help if you make the right advances - and get them talking to their colleagues in other departments. Invite people from key departments to your meetings - ask them how they can help.

At the very least they can write you letters of support to funders

A source of funding

Local Authorities generally feel hard up these days, but your project may fit into a variety of different funding programmes. It can come down to asking the right question. Make a "shopping list" of things you need, and find out where these fit local authority plans.

Ask about assistance for regeneration, community training or capacity building, economic development, small business support, building refurbishment, IT development, library development, partnership with schools, childcare initiatives, disabled access and any thing else you can think of.

A conduit to other funding

If they have no funding, ask for contact names in other agencies and in other sectors - the TEC, the Chamber of Commerce, private and corporate funders, links with higher education. Ask about European funding and regional funding programmes.

A provider of services

What services do the local authority control that your client group would like in your centre? What are their plans for making their services available online or via video-conferencing? Will they supply you with leaflets and information sheets? Will they send staff to talk to your target group on a one-off or regular basis?

A possible customer?

Local authorities need services themselves - and sometimes they need space. The best way for a funder to support a project in the long term is by buying services from that project. If your project has plans to trade, what services could it offer local authorities?

Enterprise Agencies

In the UK, help to start an enterprise has been regionalised and can vary from region to region. Contact your local TEC (LEC in Scotland), or Chamber or BusinessLink (sometimes you will find two or three rolled into one organisation).

Ask how many Enterprise Agencies operate in your region. Ask what help there is for business start-up. Sometimes there will be government and voluntary sector agencies working side-by-side - maybe a Co-operative Development Agency.

Ask who helps community businesses to establish. Is there a local or regional community development project or capacity building project that will help you? When you contact an agency, ask if they have a Business Advisor who understands community or not-for-profit enterprises.

Telecottages or Telecentres

Some of these help with business creation and/or community development. Contact the Telecottage Association to find out which one is local to you.

Architects

An architect's advice is often needed in developing a building for community use. Architects are expensive; each one will tell you something different; an Architect's Feasibility Study will not give you the same information as a Community Development Consultant's Feasibility Study.

Try to recruit an architect to your group. If you employ one, choose one with experience of designing community space and working with community groups.

Consultants and Community Development specialists

Consultants can be expensive, but not as costly as making a serious mistake in planning, investment or fund raising. Some funders will pay for a consultant's Feasibility Study. Choose if possible a not-for-profit or community development consultant, one who has experience with your type of project, or in your area. Ask for recommendations or references from previous clients. If you are a rural organisation try the NREC (National Rural Enterprise Centre)

There are Community Development organisations which help with particular aspects. For advice on legal structures, try your local Co-operative Development Agency, or, at national level, ICOM. You could also try a local solicitor, but beware - this is one of the most expensive forms of help but not necessarily the best. Make sure you choose one with recent hands-on experience of legal structures for community groups.