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The start up process

Setting up a Development Trust is a complex process likely to take a year and involve the very different complexities of creating both a successful small business and establishing a voluntary body.

The process does not fall neatly into stages - and it won't 'run on rails.' There will be false starts and diversions, conflicts and compromises as well as moments of creativity and celebration.

The process is complex because it involves creating a structure which works for the people involved and delivers project, while drawing in funds and help from many sources. It involves much more than buying a company off the shelf, changing the name, and getting started. This section describes the process in general - there is also a section on the stages in more detail.

Development trusts may be started 'bottom-up' by local groups or individuals, or 'top-down' through the support of a public or private sponsor. Whatever the starting point, an effective trust must deal with a number of tensions:

  • The partners on the Board will come from different backgrounds with different priorities - there may be no initial team spirit.
  • To stay in business when initial core funding declines the trust should rapidly develop projects which are income earners. These must help pay for the cost of running the trust and subsidise socially desirable projects which lose money.
  • Projects and running the trust will demand a wide range of Competences from the small team of staff and Board.
  • While struggling to set up the business and develop the first projects, the trust staff and Board must also gain the support of local groups and individuals.

Unless these issues are addressed in the setting up process the trust may spend many years dealing with internal conflict or facing criticism from local people and groups who resent the new-comer.

The process described here is designed to bind together the 'hard-edged' tasks of incorporation, business planning and project development with 'softer' issues of team building and community involvement.

The building blocks

The three main building blocks in the process, bringing together the different strands, are:

Communication and commitment. This may start with a few conversations of enthusiasts, then move through the formal and informal processes of workshops and presentations, newsletters and exhibitions to a formal launch.

Planning and projects. Mapping out the process, deciding what the trust will do, and developing a business plan which will ensure the trust is financially sustainable in the long term.

Structure and staffing. Building the organisation, creating the systems, recruiting the Board and staff, and training them.

The stages

While bearing in mind that the start up process isn't completely linear, it may be useful to divide it into four stages:

Getting started and planning the process. Finding out whether a trust is appropriate, and what is involved.

Building the partnership. Gaining the commitment of other by giving them some ownership of the projects the trust will carry out and forming the steering group which will shadow the Board.

Developing proposals. Turning research, project ideas and funding opportunities into a bid for resources.

Forming the trust. Creating the formal structure, recruiting staff and Board, setting up systems.

These stages are developed in more detail in the next section.

Start up checklist

When starting the setting up process consider:

  • Do you understand the nature of Development Trusts and how they differ from other organisations?
  • Do you know who are the key interests in the area, and their concerns?
  • Do you have a broad understanding of the local economic, environmental and social issues, problems and opportunities?
  • Is there an obvious geographical area of operation for the trust?
  • Do you have some initial guidelines and principles to suggest for the process and the trust?
  • Are you prepared to be open about why you think a trust is worth setting up?
  • Will you try and broadly define the type of projects - social, environmental, economic - you think the trust should tackle?
  • Can you test your first ideas informally with others likely to be sympathetic and prepared to join a first steering group?
  • Are they likely to promote or support a setting up process involving local public, private and community interests?
  • Can you nominate or employ a development officer to run the process, and raise other setting up costs?
  • Are you likely to be able to raise core funding to run the trust if other local interests support the idea of a trust?
  • Are there fixed milestones in the setting up process - perhaps dates by which bid for funds must be made?

These issues are dealt with in more detail in the next section Stages in the the start-up process