Introducing Keep It In The Community for Assets of Community Value

Posted on the 14th September 2018

KeepItInTheCommunity.org is a new website which for the first time establishes a register of all Assets of Community Value (ACVs) across England. Mark Cridge from mySociety explains the project’s aims, and how you can get involved.

Since the introduction of the Localism Act, community groups up and down England have been taking advantage of the opportunities it affords to nominate places and spaces as Assets of Community Value.

And while the Act also requires local authorities to maintain and publish a register of such Assets on their own website, one thing has been missing: the ability to see a picture of how these rights are being used across the country as a whole. Do some regions contain substantially more ACVs than the norm? Are more applications rejected in some places than others? And just how many ACVs have been identified to date? We believe this sort of inquiry is essential if we’re to understand the efficacy of the Act and whether it’s achieving what it was designed to do.

We’re mySociety, a UK social enterprise that runs all sorts of services to help people be active citizens. You may already know our websites FixMyStreet, TheyWorkForYou and WhatDoTheyKnow, for example.

When the Plunkett Foundation came to us with the idea of providing an online tool where ACVs could be plotted and submitted, it aligned nicely with these aims — and we knew that we could repurpose our FixMyStreet platform to fit the bill, since it works well with any project that locates assets on a map and links them to local authorities. Funding from Power to Change and MHCLG made the project possible, and off we went.

The website is now live and goes under the name of Keep It In The Community (or KIITC, pronounced ‘kitsy’, for short).

Our original ambitious plan was not only to gather together and publish all the existing data from the ACV records of England’s many councils, but also to invite community groups to submit new applications to their local authorities, directly through the website. From long experience in similar projects, however, we knew that there would be challenges, and indeed this turned out to be the case.

The huge variety of different formats in which councils keep their records, together with the frequency with which the location of the files in which they are published change, make an automated approach practically very difficult, especially within a resource- and time-constrained project.

As things stand KIITC currently contains a snapshot of all current ACV data with over 5,000 records, from over 300 English councils. This is a very useful resource in its own right, but we’d like to do more.

Over the next couple of months we’ll be inviting relevant council officers to update this data themselves directly on KIITC. We’d like to explore the best way to do this, trialing approaches with a variety of councils – the ideal solution will allow each responsible officer to update the data once, and have it displayed on KIITC and their own council’s website as well. If you’re interested in getting involved with this, please do get in touch.

Once we are satisfied that we have a working solution for keeping the register up to date we’ll be able to switch on the ability for relevant community groups to actually submit and propose new nominations for ACVs right on the website, opening up the process to capture more potential ACVs across the country.

Further down the line we’re aiming to open up access to the site to allow community groups and associated individuals to add more detail to their own community asset – such as photos, descriptive information and accurate links to land registry and other sources. We’ll release more details on this in the coming weeks.

For the moment, we believe that this is still a useful resource for anyone wanting to perform research on the spread and efficacy of the ACV and right to bid legislation across England. Open data projects such as these rely on identifying useful and practical ways for public sector organisations to more easily release data in a common and consistent format so that others can make best use of the information — a task that has much wider implications for all sorts of niche datasets such as this.

If you’d like to find out more please get in touch with us at hello@keepitinthecommunity.org We’d be keen to hear from you if you’d like to help us trial managing your own data on the service. Thanks again to Plunkett Foundation, Power To Change and MHCLG for their support in making this happen.

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