Tom Carman was hired last month in April as our new Consultancy Coordinator. Here in this blog he shares a little bit of his journey thus far, and how he’s settling in at Shared Assets.

I’m back!  About three years ago I (sort of) left the food activism sector, taking a role in social investment.  At the time I remember writing a blog about leaving the space, which was titled ‘Do Foxes Eat Chlorinated Chickens’ because of that national conversation about food standards post-brexit, and the blog pondered how similar conversations in the sector might be when I return to the sector.  There’s been lots of national conversations since – that workplace pension one, the GDPR thing, the Brexit stuff, and I recently heard something about a global virus.

In my time out, I had the chance to learn lots about systems and was fortunate and lucky enough to be enlightened about the infamous ‘Adaptive Cycle’ – the model that is often used to measure how resilient a certain ecological population is (or isn’t).  One of those Adaptive Cycles reading-rabbit-holes ended with me coming across a paper by some clever bods that had taken cycles seen in ecological populations and applied them to social systems instead.  Once I’d digested and understood what I’d read I was keen to share with someone my ‘awesome’ new knowledge… unfortunately for my partner she was the closest person at the time, so she humored me for a while and then decided to name the diagram we were looking at an “Ecological Squiggle” which I think describes it perfectly!

I like this squiggle a lot and have been pondering where on the squiggle I think I am and how some of the experiences and projects I’ve worked on in the past might add value to Shared Assets and the people and organisations we work with.  At the Real Farming Trust (RFT) I have helped farmers to Explore new ways of accessing land for farming around Europe. My work at Groundwork involved delivering direct support to communities to improve and Conserve their local green spaces.  My work at Ethex has helped Release ~£20m of social investment from a growing network of ethical investors to lots of social and environmental businesses including Community Land Trusts and Common Good Farms. My work at Cultivate Oxford has helped Re-organisise both the co-operative as a business and the local food system, getting good food to members and helping local people make a livelihood from growing food.  I now find myself at the start of the cycle again and I’m refreshed and ready to explore new experiences and adventures with Shared Assets.

I also find this squiggle particularly relevant to Shared Assets work – our work in enhancing ecological systems and in improving social systems.  I’m especially looking forward to working with and supporting the exciting organisation Shared Assets is connected to, to become more resilient themselves and to make our collective social systems more resilient too.  Some of the first projects I’ll be getting stuck in to include helping a Country Park to develop their latest business model, working with emergent woodland social enterprises to create new trading models as part of the Bright Ideas programme and exploring a national land bank concept with community catalysts as part of the Empowering Places programme.

I’m also hoping in time to help grow Shared Assets capacity and skills base so we can bring even more experience to common good land users.  I would love to hear from community groups, local authorities, emergent or existing land based social enterprises and co-operatives or private land owners – particularly those interested in managing land for the common good – about projects we can collaborate on or provide or support to – please get in touch with me through our contact form. I look forward to working with you, and good health and good luck to the farmers!

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