Community hubs: Ten strategies for sustainability - Learning from the experience of Safe Regeneration

Traynor, Kerry ORCID: 0000-0001-8180-303X and Simpson, Glenn
(2020) Community hubs: Ten strategies for sustainability - Learning from the experience of Safe Regeneration. [Report]

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The study explores the factors affecting sustainability within Safe Regeneration (Safe) – a community hub organisation in Sefton, Liverpool city region – that has been operating with steady growth for 20 years, working within some of the most disadvantaged communities in England1. We set out to understand what has helped the organisation and what can be learnt from its experiences that might prove valuable to other community hubs. We want to help other community hub leaders in their journey towards sustainability by sharing the experiences of those involved in the success of Safe Regeneration. Key findings We identified ten characteristics that have helped make Safe Regeneration sustainable: 1. Operating as a business: commercially-minded with social values There is a shared understanding that operating a community hub is a business operation integrating strong social values into commercial activities. 2. Adhering to lean principles Organisational growth has been constrained. The core staff team has been kept small and overheads have been kept low. 3. Operating a hub-and-spoke framework A network of interdependent organisations work together like the parts of a wheel. The hub organisation leads project development and subcontracts to the spokes, a consortium of complementary partner organisations. 4. Focusing on asset acquisition and management Acquiring assets has created turning points, prompting new phases of sustainability. 5.Diversified and entrepreneurial More than 20 services are offered on site, serving the complex and varied needs of the local community. 6. Community-led Strategy is developed through a constant two-way flow through three tiers of governance – community, consortia and trustees. 7. Focusing on impact External impact is prioritised over organisational development. 8. Communicating directly Social media and engaging online video enable broad reach and control over message and delivery. 9. Practising generous leadership Members are enabled to take ownership of their role, work and professional development. 10. Supporting the sector Ideas and knowledge are shared freely with others in the sector. We took an ethnographic, participant-observation approach, involving interviews with 27 participants including eight employees and trustees of Safe Regeneration, seven consortium members and eight community hub leaders from elsewhere in the region. We observed events and day-to-day practice over a period of six months between March and August 2019. Conclusions and recommendations In conclusion, we encourage you to consider whether the characteristics we’ve identified for Safe’s journey towards sustainability could help your organisation on its own journey. We are interested in exploring the extent to which these characteristics apply in other settings and contexts. We recommend creating a community hub leadership development programme that can support a new generation of community hub leaders to work together to grow the sector. We also recommend that anchor institutions consider the leadership role that community hubs can play within the rich and diverse community business sector, and the role that community hub-led consortia could play in the delivery of public sector services. Finally, we suggest that further research addresses current gaps in the literature on community hubs, particularly in relation to leadership and acquiring and managing assets. 1 According to the Indices of Deprivation (, 2019) the area in which Safe Regeneration is based is amongst the 0.2% most deprived communities in England.

Item Type: Report
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 02 Mar 2020 11:36
Last Modified: 14 Oct 2020 15:23
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