Funder by the Department of Human Services Auspiced by Our Community

Help Sheet

Developing a community assets register

Whichever community you're working with and for, the first step in developing a community assets register is to accurately describe your community's role and support bases.

You will also need to know what organisations or groups share your space, or overlap with it, or border on to it. Knowing your community can stop you wasting your time by pushing programs that don't fit with what the community wants or needs or doubling up on what someone else is doing.

What sort of community are you?

You first need to decide how far your reach extends at this stage of your group's development. Are you area-based, covering a suburb, a town, a city, a state? Are you group-based, serving people in an interest group, wherever they live? Are you activity-based or issue-based, relying on the support of people who are interested in the same things you're interested in?

Whom do you serve?

It may help you as a starting point to write up a detailed description of how you see your community. Your headings might be something like:

Don't just note down facts, like numbers and costs and phone numbers - it can be just as important to know about people's opinions, hunches, prejudices, unspoken assumptions, and allegiances.

Who or what else is of importance to your community?

Who are the stakeholders - people who are not actually a part of your community but think they have rights in the area? Who are your allies, the people you work closely with? Who is your competition, if any? Who, if anybody, regulates the area? Who are the community leaders? Who are the gatekeepers - the people who can encourage or discourage new developments?

Who else has lists? Can you copy them? If you can't copy other people's lists, can you use them - send out a flyer to another organisation's membership; put an advertisement in its newsletter; have a link to your group on their website?

Who are the leaders? Who are the people who are respected and followed? Politicians, ministers of religion, doctors, school principals, spokespeople for self-help groups, heads of clubs or societies, business leaders, (and each name you get will give you a couple more). Will they help you? What do you have to offer them in return? Remember, every contact can direct you to a range of new possibilities. Use the following headings to list your community assets and potential obstacles.

1. Government

What layers of government - national, state, regional or local government - are working in your area? How good are your links with them? How good are their information services? Do they have databases you can access? Are there government grants for which you can apply? Are there other government resources you can use or borrow?

2. Other non-profit organisations

You want to identify the bodies that can help you and the bodies you have to deal with. You will need to consult available local and general databases and you will probably need to look around on your own account for the pieces that have been missed. Our Community has a very full list of Australian community groups, and this can be very useful. Go to the Directory of Organisations at and search by interest group or postcode.

In general, local government is the next stop for information on who and what is working in the region. The churches provide an alternative series of networks that you can hook in to, and also offer a range of physical resources - halls, meeting rooms, etc. - to support your community activities.

Record all the organisations that have been working in your area and then list those that may not have been active up to now but might become involved in the future if you approach them.

3. Private sector

You may also want to investigate the possibility of making common cause with local business and industry. As well as individual businesses in your area, there will be organisations such as Rotary or the Chamber of Commerce that will be able to give you an overview and help you to network and forge links.

Private business can provide assistance, sponsorship, or allies

Get to know the sector.

4. Media

Keep a contact list of all the media sources in your area - the local paper, local radio station - as well as the larger state media organisations. Use them for a two-way information flow; reporters generally have a good feel for what's going on.

Future trends

As well as knowing what is available now, you will also need to know what opportunities and constraints may be placed upon your group by the circumstances of the community - the economic cycle, how much people trust each other and want to get involved, and how all these things are developing over time.

The best way to get this information is by asking people. As you develop your listings of community resources, use it to bring people together to discuss the situation. Use their conclusions to guide your group or organisation.

The initial community overview needs to be updated and modified as circumstances change, and as your initiatives change and develop.

Mailing lists

Your mailing list is an asset, but it needs constant maintenance. People tend to move around, change their telephone numbers and email addresses. This means that you have to keep your lists up to date, and that means you can't rest on your oars - you have to invest resources continually just to stay where you are, let alone grow.

A mailing list is an asset because it has so many practical uses. People may want to donate, or serve, or volunteer, or answer questions, or participate. Don't neglect it.

Membership lists

Remember, your most important and useful asset lies within your own membership list. It's a vital resource, and one that must be maintained and serviced. Under circumstances where housing can be precarious, updating lists can be tricky, but keeping in touch with your members is very important. Take all opportunities to communicate with your members.

What Next?

You will need to keep abreast of what is happening in your community, and you will need to have that information in a form that can be passed on from one person to another and will not simply be lost when somebody leaves.

You've collected and organised some very important information and at the same time now have a realistic picture of your true assets.

You now have to ask whether you need to change the way you do things, develop new programs, or adjust the direction of the group or organisation.

A good next step is to bring this to the notice of your Committee of Management, so that you can go over what you've got and reflect on what it's telling you. Clear off the agenda, open up the debate, and work directly on your strategic plan.



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