Shared Assets is developing a dedicated policy and research function. We will be bringing together all of the great practice that is happening around land and begin to create policy positions and campaigns that support the development of the land-based social enterprise sector.

We are really pleased to be able to announce that, thanks to the support of the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, we are developing a dedicated Research and Policy function. We have appointed Tom Kenny as our new Research and Policy Officer, and as well as helping us to develop our research services Tom will be leading a new programme of work focussing on the policy issues facing land-based social enterprise.

Shared Assets exists to develop a new relationship between people and the environment, one that is replenishing for both. We have done a lot since we were established less than three years ago, all of it focused on the support and development of new models of management and governance of land and natural resources: the woodlands, waterways, parks, open spaces and coastal areas that contribute so much to our quality of life.

We have supported over 30 community groups and social enterprises with ambitions to take productive control of land in their communities. We have carried out significant pieces of research into woodland social enterprise and community woodland management, and our original research has uncovered some new insights into the particular issues associated with scaling up community-led innovations. We have also undertaken a range of consultancy work supporting local authorities to develop new ways of managing their green and open spaces.

Shared Assets was established to achieve change through practice – through working and supporting with the people who are actively making change happen on the ground – and we are going to continue to do that. We have been increasingly aware, though, that there are real strategic and overarching issues that prevent many of the great people we work with from doing more and doing better.

Whether it’s securing a new governance model for public green space, setting up a wood-fuel social enterprise or negotiating with a developer for access to community space, land is the common factor that connects all the organisations we work with. Land is the factor that links many of the innovative attempts to build a new economy and create new benefits for the environment and society.

Over the next six months we will be mapping policy issues and the work being done to address them across the land-based social enterprise sector, and having individual conversations with as many of the people doing work in this field as we can. Over the following 18 months, we will bring those working on and affected by issues relating to land policy in a series of events and workshops.

There are three aims of this work:

  • To better define, understand and join up the land-based social enterprise sector
  • To create a shared understanding amongst land-based social enterprises of the policy changes needed to support their work, including an evidence base and campaign plans
  • To develop a coherent knowledge base that brings together information about the range of land-based social enterprises and is open, accessible and flexible.

So why do we need be developing our policy work at this time?

Public policy creates significant impacts on land-based social enterprises including rising land values, concentrations of ownership, and restrictions imposed by the planning system. Whilst there is a lot of good work being done to address some of these policy issues in individual sectors – housing, food growing, woodlands – there is currently little joining up to see where the common issues lie across the land-based sector, and where some shared solutions might be found.

Of course the situation is not the same across the UK. Most notably the Scottish Government has recently committed itself to a Land Reform Bill in the current Parliament, following the deliberations of the independent Land Reform Review Group. We will be reviewing the impacts of the different approaches to land policy across the U.K as part of our work, and as part of our recruitment process we asked all applicants for the new Policy and Research Officer role to look at the current Scottish proposals. We were really impressed with the calibre of the articles and the variety of approaches that people took and so, with their permission, we’re publishing them here. You can find the summaries and links below.

We have argued since we established Shared Assets that there is a need for greater political debate about land. We’re delighted to see positive debate about land issues occurring in Scotland and hope that over the next couple of years we can begin to generate similar debate across the rest of U.K.

If you want to be kept informed about this work as it develops please sign up to our newsletter, or contact us if are doing work that you think can contribute to the debate

Candidate submissions on Scottish Land Reform:

We asked people to respond to this question:

The Scottish government’s recent programme for government included proposals for land reform. Please consider the impact these proposals might have on the sustainable management of land by communities and social enterprises, and the potential for developing a similar land reform agenda in the rest of the U.K.

The successful candidate, Tom Kenny wrote a comprehensive review of the Scottish Government’s proposals, illustrated with examples of their potential impacts. Tom is a social researcher with particular interests in environmental management, crime, and social change. He is interested in how research can shape the public debate and improve society

Dr Luke Whaley approached the subject from the angle of commons governance and co-management of resources. He has just completed a PhD looking at adaptive co-management of water resources among English farmers at the Water Science Institute at Cranfield University.

Abby Crisostomo analysed each proposal step-by-step, bringing an American perspective to UK policy. She is an urban planner and water specialist with community development experience who has just arrived in the UK from Chicago and now works as a sustainability consultant.

Becky Pullinger’s article was a comprehensive review of the proposals and compared them with community based regeneration programmes in Wales. She is an environmental policy specialist with an interest in conservation currently working for BirdLife Malta.

One applicant who wants to remain anonymous wrote a compelling case for a Land Value Tax as an approach to UK land reform.

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