SET UP A TOWN TEAM
Setting up Town Teams was the first on a list of recommendations for High Street revitalisation that government advisor Mary Portas made in 2011. The idea is that a wide range of stakeholders with an interest in a local High Street comes together to work collaboratively on tackling the issues of a local High Street and work on a bright future. Town Teams typically consist of representatives from local business, key landlords, the Council and local residents.
Town Teams organise a range of activities, from small and large events, to business support and High Street branding and marketing activities. They are looking to bring long-term change to the High Street. As Mary Portas put it, “this should be game-changing stuff and thoughtful engagement, not just the usual suspects round a table planning the Christmas decorations.”
DEVELOPING YOUR IDEA
The Town Team should aim to establish itself as a local expert. You turn yourself into an expert by reading existing research on your High Street and talking to many people.
Setting up a Town Team is a long-term effort. You will need to invest considerable time, ie a couple of months, to develop your ideas based on other people’s input. You should employ a range of methods to gather ideas from different people. For example, you could hold:
– A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis of your High Street with local traders, community groups and other stakeholders to assess these aspects of your High Street
– High Street walking audits with traders and community groups
– Street stalls to talk to residents and other visitors
– Action planning workshop with your Town Team and other important stakeholders
Talking to as many people as possible will help you create your team as more and more people may express interest in contributing.
Having gathered ideas and a core team, it is time to write a plan. This could be a simple action plan or a more sophisticated business plan. In any case, the plan should set out:
– who you are
– what you want to do
– how you are going to do that
– what impact you want to make
The plan will help you stay focused and communicate your story to the outside world.
Make sure your plan contains a mix of actions with impact in the short and long term. It is easier to get people’s support if you can show right from the start what kind of impact you can deliver. Have a look at the Events section to find out how you can quickly set up an initiative.
ORGANISING A GROUP
A Town Team is usually formed by a steering group with local stakeholders, such as local traders and residents. If there is a Town Centre Manager, he or she should be a key person too.
Running a Town Team and activities requires a broad range of skills. It is important that all the skills you need are present in your team. It is worthwhile to spend some time in the team talking about this, for example through an audit.
If everyone’s skills are clear, it is time to divide roles. As a minimum, your team should have a:
– Chair (this could be a rotating position)
Other roles could include:
– Press Officer
– Events Officer
As the Town Team grows and initiates different activities, you may want to set up different sub-committees or project teams to keep general meetings short and focused on the core business of the Team.
Formalising your team
Most Town Teams start as a collection of individuals in an Informal Partnership or Association. It is usual to have a Constitution or Terms of Reference. In such an arrangement all team members are personally liable, and any property and/ or contracts are held by individuals on behalf of the organisation.
Once you have properly started you might want to consider turning the Town Team into a formal organisation such as a Community Interest Company or a Charity.
Which legal form you choose depends on many factors. The National Resource Centre is your best starting point to find out which form suits your Town Team best.
Legal structures for not for profit organisations
Routemap to choose a legal structure
Your Town Team can also be part of, or connected to a Traders Association or a Business Improvement District. This has the advantage that you can raise funds for the Team via a membership fee. To read more about this, read further under fundraising.
Partnerships are key for Town Teams to deliver the actions you set out in your plan. Key partners can include:
– Large Retailers
– Property Owners
– Police, Local Authority
– Chief Executive
– Transport providers
– Market Operator
– Shopping Centre Managers
– Independent Retailers
– Local Community Groups
Depending on the type of initiative you are working on, you can build a partnership with one or multiple organisations.
Roughly, the steps in setting up a partnership include:
– explore each organisation’s goals/interests and identify overlaps and differences
– discuss which of these goals could be reached together
– discuss what project could be developed together to reach these goals
– discuss what resources (people, money, space, etc) are needed for the project and which resources each organisation can contribute
– write a Memorandum of Understanding to formalise the partnership and the contributions of each partner
Setting up a Town Team is a long-term effort and, as many activities are usually run at the same time, it requires very good project management skills.
The Association of Town Centre Management advises that a Town Team Manager as well as an Assistant Town Team Manager is designated early on in the project to ensure that these skills are present in the team.
They also advise that the Town Team Manager gets certain powers over the steering group:
– Town Team Manager has total authority and responsibility to take action or delegate.
– Town Team Manager should make recommendations to the Steering Group before acting.
– Town Team Manager should carry out the intentions of the Steering Group.
– Town Team Manager is responsible for monitoring or observing an activity.
You don’t need to have licences and insurances for setting up a Town Team. However you might need those for the individual initiatives you organise. Read more about what kind of licences and insurances you might need in the other sections of the Toolkit.
Once your Town Team is up and running you will of course want as many people as possible to know about you and your activities. There are many ways to promote yourself and let people know about your work.
Branding and logos
To make your Town Team visible and your activities recognisable it is advisable to develop a brand style that fits your purpose and audience.
Make sure your branding is unique and attractive for your target audience. Your audience will likely be both traders and the broader local community. Therefore, if you’re hiring a graphic design studio to develop the brand, hire a local studio that knows your High Street and its people well. And maybe they want to volunteer their time to a local cause? Once the first ideas for a brand have been developed, ask for feedback on the concept design from key stakeholders. Once your brand is finished, use your logo on all your correspondence and make sure you use it consistently.
Websites are an effective way of communicating information about your Town Team to a wide range of audiences. Don’t rely exclusively on websites though. There are still many people (especially the elderly) that don’t know how to access or don’t have access to the internet.
Make sure your website includes:
– an about page – explaining who you are, what your goals are and a short summary of your main activities
– a team page – showing who is in the Team and how they can be contacted
– activities/project page – listing the different activities or projects
– a join or get involved section – explain how people can get involved (eg volunteering at events)
– events calendar
– a contact form for general enquiries
It is not difficult to build a website. There are online templates that you can easily adapt to build your own free website. However they usually don’t provide you with a unique web address (like www.yourtownteamname.org). However you can buy an address and simply link it to the address you get from WordPress or Wix. Include your website’s address on all your correspondence to draw people to it.
Social media offer quick and easy ways to keep local people connected to your activities. Open a Twitter account with a memorable and relevant name and post messages frequently so that you communicate you are an active Town Team. Make sure you mention your Twitter account on all your correspondence so that people can easily find you.
Facebook is a good place to create a community around your Town Team. You can post events, upload photos and people can respond to your activities on your message board.
Working with local media
Local newspapers and radio and are a cost-effective way to spread the word and reach older people in particular. It is important to develop good relationships with local newspapers and radio. One way might be to find someone for your Town Team who already has established contacts with local journalists.
When you are about to reach out to the media you need to have a story. Think well in advance about what makes your story newsworthy. Journalists like stories that have a human aspect to it, so try to angle it that way. For example use local people to illustrate your story.
If you are sending a press release, follow up with a phone call and be prepared for a journalist to have additional questions. Make sure you know your story inside out!
Sutton Town Centre Manager
24 Denmark Road, Carshalton, Surrey
Economic Development Team
24 Denmark Road, Carshalton, Surrey