More than bricks and mortar

Good facilities are integral to an inspiring and healthy environment, so how can leadership enable the financing, planning and managing of facilities in a way that leads to profits and not losses? How can we make the most of our facilities?

Facility development, from a minor refurbishment to more sizable construction jobs should be undergone with great consideration. Well thought out facilities are not simply a vanity project. They help attract interest, provide a tailored space in which users can teach, learn and conduct research, and are part of the wider distinctiveness and/or economic strategy.

Research shows the increasing importance of the role of social enterprise in local and regional economies through knowledge creation and knowledge transfer. Facilities play a crucial role in meeting those needs and providing places where knowledge exchange can happen. However, they can be an expensive commodity to provide and maintain.

The question however shouldn’t be whether buildings are worth more than the brains which they would contain. An assessment of which is more valuable to the creation of  knowledge- its human resources or the facilities- is difficult to evaluate. However, better facilities contribute to a higher quality of knowledge simply because that would attract a higher quality/quantity of human resources.

Similarly, a non-targeted injection of funds into projects won’t guarantee survival or an increase in quality. Development without a good strategic plan could lead to liquidity issues. Many institutions have operated on the assumption that the more they build, spend, diversify and expand, the more they will persist and prosper. But instead, the opposite has happened.

Have a plan, and stick with it

So how can facilities be planned, utilized, and managed? How are we to deal with technology which permeates all areas of our society and what is its role in facilities management and development? It is necessary to explore and research what an effective learning environment looks like, what the benchmarks and performance indicators of effectiveness are, and how to make facilities financially and environmentally sustainable.

Community based and driven development projects have become an important method of the disenchanted in this world to aid in the development of facilities.

A review of their conceptual foundations and evidence on their effectiveness shows that projects that rely on community participation have in some cases been particularly effective. There is evidence that such projects create effective community infrastructure. Recent studies establish a causal relationship between an outcome and participatory elements of many community based socially inclined development projects.

Several qualitative studies also indicate that the sustainability of community based initiatives depend crucially on an enabling institutional environment, which requires government commitment, and accountability of leaders to their community to avoid “supply & demand-driven” development.

External agents strongly influence project success, but facilitators are often poorly trained, overly idealistic and lack realistic vision. The naive application of complex contextual concepts like participation, social capital, and empowerment is endemic among project implementers and contributes to poor design and implementation.

The evidence suggests that community based and  driven development projects are best undertaken in a context specific manner, with at least a mid to long-term horizon and planning with careful and well-designed monitoring and evaluation systems. – It’s really you

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