9. Theory of Change
The evaluation of Part 5 of the Act was informed by Myers et al.’s (2017) Theory of Change (Figure 1). Throughout the design and implementation of the research, the theory was used as a reference point. This section reports on the final stage of the evaluation: the development of a revised Theory of Change. The revised model is based on emerging findings from the primary and secondary data collected during the evaluation (presented in Sections 4–7). Proposed revisions to Myers et al.’s (2017) Theory of Change are indicated by dashed lines in Figure 9.
In addition to the two activities identified by Myers et al. (2017), one proposed activity has been added to the revised Theory of Change: Relevant authorities ensure community transfer bodies are aware of all available asset transfer processes. Prior to the introduction of the Act, some relevant authorities in the sample, including RAs 1, 2, 5, 9 and 10, had already transferred assets to communities. As such, there may be different processes available within a single relevant authority to support an asset transfer. Interviewees commented on the distinctions between, and advantages and disadvantages of, the asset transfer request and alternative asset transfer processes. For example, given that changes to the Public Finance Manual allow relevant authorities to offer discounts to communities, there were benefits to transferring assets outside of Part 5 of the Act. At the same time, however, there are clear benefits for communities who use asset transfer request as they have a right to appeal, and the property cannot be offered for sale on the open market once an application has been submitted. As noted by one relevant authority:
“A community group has actually got some protection by going through the Act so, first and foremost, they’ve got a right to appeal that they wouldn’t have if they did it outwith the Act. The other thing is that if they make an asset transfer request to us in advance of us marketing something for sale or for lease, we’re then prohibited from offering that for sale or for lease on the market… So, for community organisations, it actually benefits them going through the asset transfer process.” (RA 9)
Ensuring that community transfer bodies are aware of all available routes to asset ownership, control and use, would allow community transfer bodies to identify the route that best aligns with their aspirations.
Importantly, the Theory of Change (Myers et al., 2017) proposed that relevant authorities provide disadvantaged communities with additional support to develop asset transfer requests. Interview findings suggest that a key part of this activity should focus on building the capacities of community transfer bodies. Supporting communities with capacity building – or, indeed, access to individuals with relevant capacities – would, as CTB 2 note, ‘level the playing field’ and support disadvantaged communities to develop asset transfer requests. This has clear implications for addressing inequalities.
An additional output has been proposed in the revised Theory of Change model: community transfer bodies pursue alternative routes to ownership, control and use of assets. This new output is a potential consequence of community transfer bodies gaining awareness of all available asset transfer processes and thus relates to the proposed additional activity, discussed above. Pursuing alternative routes to asset ownership, control and/ or use represents an exit pathway from the asset transfer request Theory of Change and is therefore not linked to intermediate or longer-term outcomes.
From the interviews, there are examples of relevant authorities transferring assets outside of the Act, but using the Scottish Government Guidance on asset transfer requests (2017) as a model:
“It’s not gone through the formal process although we use the Scottish Government’s Guidance quite a lot essentially to consider the best value assessment and the assessment of what they offered and we had to do a business case for that and get it approved by the Scottish Government. As I said, we used it as a sort of model so that we understood better what was involved in the process for transferring to a community.” (RA 5)
The use of Scottish Government Guidance on asset transfer requests (2017) to ensure transparency and good practice when relevant authorities transfer assets to communities outside of Part 5 of the Act can be considered an unintended consequence of the implementation of asset transfer requests. Importantly, other pathways enabling asset transfer can also lead to specific intermediate and longer-term outcomes; these, however, were beyond the scope of this evaluation.
The evaluation highlighted two additional potential outcomes for inclusion in the Theory of Change: Increased obligations of community transfer bodies and Community cohesion and capacity building.
Firstly, in terms of community transfer body obligations, as highlighted at Section 6.3, some interviewees reported that they felt new pressure as the transfer of an asset also meant the transfer of responsibility to the community bodies. For some community transfer bodies, new responsibilities were perceived positively: assets would act as a springboard to achieve aspirations and deliver benefits to the community. For one community transfer body in this sample, however, given the lack of support and funding to enable the community to develop the asset, the responsibility of an asset had quickly become a burden on the community. As a result, the community transfer body were questioning the future sustainability of the asset. Given the potential negative outcome of such circumstances, in Section 10 we present some recommendations in relation to this new intermediate outcome.
The second potential outcome relates to community cohesion and capacity building (Section 6.4). The evaluation highlighted that asset transfer requests may support the stability and sustainability of community bodies, and create a stronger sense of community identity and cohesion. The participatory nature of the asset transfer request process had, for some community transfer bodies, enabled a stronger sense of community, cohesion and involvement – an underlying rationale behind the Act.
Given the recent enactment of Part 5 of the Act, no revisions have been made to the long-term outcomes. Over time, as asset transfer requests become embedded across Scotland, additional longer-term outcomes may emerge.