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Article Review - the Ownership of Assets by Place-Based Community Organizations

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Review: Moore, T., and McKee, K. (2014). The Ownership of Assets by Place-Based Community Organizations: Political Rationales, Geographies of Social Impact and Future Research Agendas. Social Policy and Society, 13, 4, pp 521-533.

In recent years, the shift from top-down governance has been a major issue for governments in the United Kingdom and the rest of the developed world. This has taken form in various nomenclature.  For example, regionalism, localism, neighbourhood etc. The radical concept of localism focuses on a “bottom-up” social and structural reorganization vesting power in the hands of individual members of a community to increase the success and sustainability of individual & community goals (Mohan and Stokke, 2000). One of the contemporary policy agenda related to localism, which has been highly promoted by the UK government is the concept of community asset organizations. Moore and McKee in the article Ownership of Assets by Placed Community Organizations: Political Rationales, Geographies of Social Impact and Future Research Agendas propose more research on the issue.

In their study, based on reviews of research in the field of community asset organisations, their main focus is to have a nuanced understanding of the complexity of assets by place based community organisations; what motivates them; how policy framework has influenced their functions; and also their peculiarity within and across their geographies (in this case, the four jurisdictions of the United Kingdom). They specify the varying nature of community organization in terms of the scale, size and functions ranging from voluntary run groups to multi-purpose organization. However, they share some main similarities in that they are spatially bound, they promote social welfare and they function on a model that does not seek profit for personal gain but rather to reinvest in the community for a common good. They also outline the history of community empowerment and shift in governance across the UK by highlighting some cases such as the New Labour’s “hollowing of the state” and the “Big society agenda”. The authors make it clear that community assets have a strong political acceptance.

Another major concern of the authors is the motivation for communities in the acquisition of community assets and their development. They point out that “...it is often premised on reconstructing responsibility for local issues, moving from a passive role to one that actively shapes processes of local development and provision” (p 525). This is a general rationale. However, with cuts to local government funding in England, there is a threat to the success of the community asset organizations, they argue. It is interesting how they also identify the criticism of assets transfer by some of the researchers to be a way of reducing cuts and handing down dysfunctional services to the community organizations and how this could affect the capability of the civil societies to provide services to their people. They specify how the context of policy agenda is perceived in different jurisdictions across the UK will shape the success of community organization in terms of scale, size and function. Other researchers (see Mohan and Stokke. 2000) share this concern since the politics of the local transcends to other local and national scales. Activities within these place-based community organizations will also affect those who exist outside the boundaries (Shragger, 2001).

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