Community Building

The Trust’s activities are based on the belief that community development is what people do best for themselves.


What we call Asset-Based Community Development (or ABCD for short) is all about discovering a community’s skills and resources and encouraging people to recognise what they can offer. It isn’t primarily about looking for problems to solve but finding opportunities to develop, not about directing what goes on locally but nurturing development from within.


The Local Government White Paper, ‘Strong and Prosperous Communities’ (2006), sets out a new relationship between local government and its communities. The reforms contained in this paper will give greater say over local services to the people who rely on them. This will enlist communities in the drive to improve services, from waste to parks and libraries.


Torbay Council has embraced this agenda by giving local people more say on how services are delivered through vehicles such as the Torbay Strategic Partnership and local community partnerships. In the same spirit, the ‘Making Assets Work, Quirk Review’ (community management and ownership of public assets) sets out the clear benefits to local groups which own or manage public assets – such as community centres, building preservation trusts and community business enterprises.


Fundamentally, the review talks about giving local people a bigger stake in the future of their area through this model. The Department of Communities and Local Government, in its response to the recommendations in the review, supports the need to ‘monitor effectiveness of mechanisms in persuading local authorities to consider transferring management or ownership of assets to communities’. There are already powers in place through the Public Request to Order Disposal (PROD), whereby communities can prompt a local authority to give serious consideration to the community management of assets. This will be strengthened by the new Community Call for Action which comes into force in Spring 2008.


Torbay Council is responding to this by considering options for the transfer of asset through leases and operational management to the community, for purposes that benefit the communities they serve. This can range from small parks groups to established voluntary sector organisations. Community ‘benefit’ is seen as varied, with a range of activity from local meeting places, such as community centres, to social enterprise businesses offering new employment or training opportunities.


Torbay’s Community Builders encourage people of all ages to get involved in their neighbourhood. With extensive local knowledge, your Community Builder can connect you with like-minded people, groups or organisations in your community.


We have seen lives transformed when people of all ages work alongside their Community Builder to bring positive changes to the place where they live. We have seen so many new friendships and activities happening in the community: from coffee mornings to social dog walking, IT support groups to crafting workshops, memory cafes to singles nights, and most importantly, neighbours helping each other out on a day-to-day basis.


Community Building isn’t so much about looking for problems to solve as finding opportunities to develop, not coming up with barriers to be overcome but ways to move forward. It’s not about ‘directing’ what goes on locally, not imposing from without but encouraging development from within.


When asked, ‘What do you mean when you talk about “assets”?’ Jim Diers, a leading academic and community development practioner,  said that “assets” were the usable places and, of course, the people in every community.


Community Builders help people look at what they can offer and at what’s out there in their neighbourhood – like parks and other usable spaces – to discover what communities might benefit from, and to think creatively about how to achieve what’s wanted.


To sum up, Community Building is citizen-led rather than something imposed from above; it’s about people and about relationships between them; it’s not about looking at what’s ‘wrong’ in a community but looking at what’s ‘strong’; its focus is on place, on neighbourhood and location; and finally, while not in any narrow sense political, it’s about social justice – about being human.


Welcome to Torbay Together – the sharing website, that lets you connect with activities and members in your neighbourhood.


One of the aims of this platform is to reconnect communities and reduce social isolation amongst the 50+ generation across Torbay. However, if you’d like to connect with your community, then this platform is for you whatever your age!


It is also the best place to go to explore a world of volunteering opportunities and is home to the Torbay Timebank.