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Community-made content which you can improve Case study from our community

Torbay Community Development Trust - Change to Survive

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Torbay Community Development Trust share their journey of change and innovation in order to become sustainable, survive into the future and serve the local community.


We operate in a coastal area made up of three towns, Torquay, Paignton and Brixham, which is dominated by the tourism industry led by a predominantly seasonal, low-wage economy with unemployment significantly above the England average and a population profile that the rest of the country is predicted to replicate in 30 years time (ageing). Parts of Torbay exhibit symptoms of severe deprivation, poor employment prospects being a contributory factor.

The issues we faced

As Community and Voluntary Action Torbay (CVA), we had limited contracts with the public sector and were running out of money. We were offering fairly limited support to our members and weren’t hugely valued either by our members or stakeholders. We needed to explore ways in which we could survive in a changed environment of less public spending. Together with a number of other organisations, we decided something different was needed; something that was fit for purpose and would survive into the future. 

The actions we took

Discussions were held with the lead Councillor and the CEO at that time. This led to an event being held with over 120 representatives attending from the whole range of local community and voluntary sector organisations. We called it force for change. One of the options presented at that discussion was creating a Community Development Trust (CDT) because it is:

  • Community based, owned and led
  • Engaged in the economic, environmental and social regenerations of a defined area or community
  • Independent but seeks to work in partnership with other private, voluntary and public sector organisations
  • Self-sufficient and not for private profit.

We applied to BIG Assist for a voucher to help us in three areas; sustainability, measuring impact and setting up a volunteer centre. 

Positive outcomes

As the newly formed Torbay CDT, our relationship with the local authority changed dramatically and in May 2013 we were awarded funding of £170k p.a. for 3 years, a decision which was passed unanimously.

Our philosophy is that everyone has something to offer. We wanted to move away from the traditional model where dependency is fostered, where organisations can’t operate without our help, and adopt a different model. We don’t currently have a formal membership offer and are exploring the idea of an organisational Timebank where organisations register their skills and knowledge, which they trade between themselves. We all have needs and we all have skills we can offer, so we’re trying to encourage sustainable sharing, so it’s not a one way relationship where a larger organisation has all the expertise that the smaller group is dependent upon. Based on a sharing model, funding isn’t always necessary to implement an idea. If equipment is necessary to achieve something – is there an organisation this can be hired or borrowed from?

Issues and outcomes


Volunteering is important to us and as the CVA we had a matching bureau run by volunteers which didn’t get many people through the door and wasn’t serving the community as best it could.

Using a BIG Assist voucher we worked with a consultant from South West Forum who was an expert in volunteering. Together we developed a strategic plan to improve Torbay’s approach to volunteering which was approved by our board of trustees and we’ve recently recruited a very experienced volunteer centre manager and are working towards becoming nationally accredited.

Measuring Impact

As an organisation we wanted to be able to measure our impact. We ran two workshops where we engaged with parties who were interested in the social impact of our sector.

But we didn’t want it to just be about our impact. Our success is the success of the organisations we support and we’re currently finalising a new social impact measuring toolkit coproduced with, and for the wider use of, Torbay’s voluntary and community groups.


To exist in the future we need to be an organisation that generates its own income. One of our successes is Our Ageing Well programme which won a £6 million grant from the National Lottery Community Fund to look at reducing social isolation for which we’re the lead organisation.

We’re also exploring a slightly more risk taking approach to how we might generate income and are in dialogue with the local public sector to see if there could be a mutually beneficial approach to the release of assets into the community via our ownership. Building an asset base is something we’d like to start small and grow.

Negative outcomes

There weren't any negative outcomes as such. We're doing lots of things and we need systems in place to make sure we come across as coherent and organised

Lessons learnt

We’re continuing to look into new ways of working; definitely innovative and possibly slightly risky and we need to be able to support local organisations to do the same.

The future

Having the BIG Assist voucher has been a catalyst. As the newly formed Torbay CDT we had a skills deficit in most areas apart from funding. Our BIG Assist voucher allowed us to buy in expertise so we could investigate how to make our existing assets work better and explore other possibilities such as community regeneration projects.


Page last edited Oct 09, 2019

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