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What the land sector taught us at our #MakingLandWork event

Tom Kenny

Our recent #MakingLandWork policy event explored issues around social enterprise land management. The knowledge and energy in the room was inspiring. We learned a lot about the sector and the policy issues we raised. We also saw a widespread desire to make fundamental changes to people’s relationship with land.

It was great to see such enthusiastic discussion about the issues we presented. Even concerns which can seem quite abstract, such as a lack of accessible land data, were discussed with a vigour that emphasised their real world importance. Guests from a diverse range of organisations showed their appetite for change by offering key information and suggesting new directions and questions. Later in the summer we will publish a short report covering each of our policy focuses, incorporating what we learned at the event.

Good communication and empathy were common themes. Improving communication between groups is clearly key to many issues. We are excited about the role we can have in helping organisations communicate more and better. We also know it is crucial to get our message to as many organisations as possible – engaging groups who were not well represented at the event is a priority. Finally, we know that the ‘land-based social enterprise sector’ is a tough concept for people to latch on to. We must do more to develop a clear narrative around the exciting potential of these organisations.

The event also illuminated the sector’s appetite for wider land reform. Through our policy work we want to push land into the spotlight by making people aware of its social and economic importance. Promoting ‘land literacy’, as Andy Wightman described it, is a prerequisite to a popular land reform agenda. Existing policy is not neutral in the land debate and the importance of making ‘big asks’ for major policy changes was a common theme of the day.

So far, we haven’t been focusing on large structural issues like reform of the land market. We believe that making a number of small changes can help facilitate more larger changes in the long term. A strong land-based social enterprise sector could also be a key supporter of wider land reforms, and the former is not dependent on the latter. However, even where our main focus is elsewhere, it is clear that ‘big asks’ should never be far from our minds.

We are now making plans for the next twelve months of the policy programme leading up to another conference next year. In that time we want to refine the issues we have raised and to develop ways of addressing them. This will mean research, building partnerships, developing guidance and identifying policy solutions. We are also excited to be part of building a wider land reform movement. Judging by the passion and ideas on display at the event, we are entering an exciting time for both social enterprise land management, and land reform.

If you missed the event you can see a storify of it here. To be updated about future events please join our mailing list or follow us on twitter or facebook.

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