The New Barn-Raising: A toolkit for citizens, politicians, and businesses looking to sustain community and civic assets

German Marshall Fund of the United States

Author +
Gareth Potts

Year: 2014

This toolkit outlines a range of policies and practices through which politicians, citizens, community and civic groups, charitable foundations, unions, and businesses are endeavoring to sustain community and civic assets such as parks, theaters, libraries, art galleries, recreation centers, senior centers, and museums. The toolkit draws heavily on extensive research conducted in three U.S. metro areas — Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Baltimore — in 2012 and 2013 as well as examples gleaned from elsewhere in the United States. The research focuses on city- and state-level policies, but refers to national policies, organizations, and programs when relevant.
In the short term, the toolkit offers a range of tactics that can be used to raise awareness, money, and help but certainly no quick-fix solutions — especially for more disadvantaged neighborhoods and cities. However, over the longer-term, the toolkit plots out what needs to happen for a future in which more people use and enjoy community and civic assets. The toolkit offers novel ideas on awareness-raising, notably around the marketing of assets. It outlines a wealth of governmental and non-governmental means to fund these assets, and it provides strategic thinking around how volunteers can help. Above all else, the involvement of so many different stakeholders should augur well for the effective governance of the assets and, as a welcome by-product, strengthen peoples’ connections, pride, and engagement with their communities and cities.



Raising awareness about your assets

  • Auditing your community and civic assets — how does your area do?
  • Who could support your assets?
  •  Your message — getting your case for resources right
  •  Delivering your message — messengers and media
  •  Draw attention to your “asset offer”

Raising money for your assets 

  •  Your state or city can use a range of tax mechanisms to sustain assets
  •  Your asset managers need to use money as efficiently as possible
  •  You can also charge user fees for assets and their resources
  •  You can rent space in assets to generate income and enhance assets
  •  Your local government can secure resources for assets by transferring them
  •  You can raise money and awareness by selling goods and services
  •  Your networks and, increasingly, technology are important to securing donations
  •  Charitable Foundations can add to your asset base in novel ways
  •  Your businesses can gain benefit by giving to assets
  •  National-level funds can help offset inequalities between areas

 Raising help for your asset 

  •  You first need to think about why you can benefit from volunteers
  •  You need a framework to produce a volunteer strategy
  •  There is a range of mechanisms for you to involve volunteers
  •  There are some key practical tips to bear in mind if you want to use volunteers

Concluding thoughts 
What has the toolkit shown?
Where does the New Barn Raising concept go from here?