I’m very excited about my new job with Shared Assets; it’s both a great opportunity and a really interesting organisation that I think has arrived on the scene just at the right time. I’ve always felt that projects focussed on land and buildings are special, somehow: the natural and built environments affect everyone in a neighbourhood, whether they’re engaged in the life of an area or not. We all know how enlivening well-managed, interesting and safe spaces can be, and how likely we are to want to spend our time in them. An undermanaged or neglected site, building or neighbourhood can drag an area, its people’s spirits and its economy down with it.
Done right, land based community projects can respond to local needs, reinvigorating local economies and reinforcing the distinctiveness of a local area. The creation of a 21st century concept of the commons could go a long way towards dealing with some of the problems that the business practices of the 20th century have left us with.
I’ve spent a lot of time working with community groups who have viable and sensible aspirations for their areas but are unable to get round the table to discuss them with the landowner. This gets frustrating for all concerned.
But I understand that landowners have businesses to run and that facilitating community management of parts of their estates can seem at best a distraction.
What excites me about Shared Assets is the focus on creating value – for landowners, communities and the environment – from land that has been undermanaged or seen as a liability to date.
What we can offer is a service to landowners who have the foresight to see the communities they work within as potential assets and sources of value rather than annoyances or liabilities. We can work with groups who are imaginative and ambitious enough to see the potential in currently underused pieces of land and help them create sustainable and viable social enterprises that bring benefits to their organisation as well as the wider local community and environment.
We can be the broker that helps build the relationships in local communities that can create lasting and sustainable change. That all feels like very exciting work to me, and after a grand total of seven days in the job, I’m already pretty confident we can make this work.
Watch this space!