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Introducing Kim, our new Research Coordinator

Kim Graham

Kim has recently joined Shared Assets as Research Coordinator. Read on below to learn more about their background and the projects they are most excited to be undertaking with communities in this new role.

I’m delighted to be joining Shared Assets after a couple of years spent immersed in community-based growing, both as a gardener and a researcher. I’ve long been interested in food and land justice issues and their interconnections, and decided to do a master’s at Coventry University’s Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience as a way to better understand and address these. Doing the degree part-time allowed me the space to get involved in practical community-based growing projects alongside my studies. As well as nurturing plants being vital for my own mental health and well-being, I learned so much more about the benefits and the challenges of growing (particularly in urban spaces) than I could ever have done in a classroom.

I got my hands dirty and engaged with every aspect of our complex ecosystems, from soil and micro-organisms, to flowers, trees and of course, people. This taught me the necessity of building relationships based upon care, solidarity and interdependence, if we are to survive in this world that often seems bleak. For my master’s dissertation, which looked at the management of soil and waste in community growing spaces in Cambridge, I spent many hours talking to and walking with growers around their plots and gardens. I was struck by the ways the shared spaces and flows between groups of growers provided opportunities for meaningful connections with one another and with the natural world. These could be as simple as sharing a meal together at the end of harvest, or helping tidy the allotment on a joint work day, but held the potential to be a basis from which to collectively tackle problems and inequalities. In my research, having a physical space in which to explore ways of living premised upon social and environmental justice, often appeared crucial. This is why the work of Shared Assets to promote land as a common good is an inspiring framework for me to work within. As feminist theorist Silvia Federici (2019: 1) puts it, ‘the commons are today the expression of [an] alternative world’.

"Building relationships based upon care, solidarity and interdependence is essential if we are to survive in this world that often seems bleak."

It is with this background that I am so excited to start as Research Coordinator at Shared Assets. This role will allow me to continue investigating some of the interesting themes which emerged from my master’s and community work, but now as part of a much larger network of people equally passionate about transforming the land system. Three major research pieces I will be supporting with initially are: ‘Urbanising in Place’, which looks at the current and potential role of food growing in managing the flows of food, water and energy in our cities; ‘Ruralization’, which aims to contribute to the development of new opportunities in rural areas and allow new rural generations to realise their dreams; and the State of the Sector Survey of Common Good Land Users, which will help develop new forms of support for people working with the land in a socially or environmentally valuable way, and raise their profile. Although each of these pieces of work has a different focus, they all share an ambition to work collaboratively with communities to evaluate the systemic challenges faced when working with the land, and to produce a range of solutions which help create an environment where common good models of land management can flourish.

Shared Assets’ flexible approach to working will enable me to stay involved in community growing initiatives, whilst hopefully also making an impact at a wider scale. I believe staying rooted in the day-to-day issues of urban growing will complement my work on larger scale research projects, and allow me to approach these with a sense of empathy honed from personal experience of working with the land. Together with you – growers, land managers, community groups, and any other interested parties – I want to build a compelling case for the wide-scale adoption of new models of land management which create community benefits, underpinned by a strong research evidence base.

I would love to hear from anyone interested in managing land for the common good about research questions or projects we can collaborate on to help make land work for everyone – please get in touch with me via our contact form here. I look forward to working with you.

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