Networks and support organisations have a key role to play in strengthening and building the capacity of land-based social enterprises. They provide access to things that practitioners often find it difficult to obtain, such as information, markets, and advocacy. Moreover, networks are important to innovative projects as they make it easier to draw on a wider ranges of skills and resources. However, several challenges exist to creating, accessing and maintaining these support systems.
Creating and maintaining networks and relationships requires a specific skill set, one that even experienced practitioners are rarely trained in.
Sustaining networks and support organisations requires resources and capacity. Engaging practitioners can also be challenging, especially when there the direct short-term benefits are not clear.
Where support does exist, it is often focused on specific sub-sectors such as community food growing. This can mean a lack of resources and structures for collaborating outside these silos on cross-cutting issues
Conflicts around values, ideals, goals, representation, governance, funding and alliances can derail attempts at collaboration.
Different land-based sectors face many similar issues. Working together, these groups could identify and campaign on shared policy goals.
What needs to change:
Internal conflicts need to be understood and dealt with as a core part of engagement with diverse groups. There need to be better governance structures and facilitators, and clarity of shared aims, objectives and values.
Practitioners need to acknowledge the value of network and relationship-building across different sectors, embrace strategic and identify support needs.
Support organisations can help practitioners hone their network-building skills. Projects like Power to Change’s Peer Networks programme can help organisations’ develop the necessary skills to create strong and sustainable networks.
Funders can support collaboration between organisations by funding collaborative projects.
Public commissioning should actively support networks to coordinate bids from smaller land-based social enterprises
Scroll down to the posts below to read the latest updates on our work in this policy area.
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Research reports and publications written by the Shared Assets team
This report explores some of the key issues to consider when supporting new land-based social enterprises. The findings are drawn from interviews with 13 representatives from social enterprises who received direct technical, business and training support from Shared Assets between 2013-15. [Read the full report here]
Networks are valuable tools for community businesses, including land-based social enterprises. Through our work on Power To Change’s new Peer Networks programme, we now have the opportunity to develop innovative models to help networks thrive and become more sustainable.
Power to Change’s Peer Networks programme is now in full swing. As we learn more and more about how to run sustainable, effective networks, we’re beginning to apply this knowledge to various aspects of our work with land. First, we look at how diverging identities, values and purposes affect networks of land activists.
Capital Growth is a network for people growing food in their gardens, allotments or community spaces in London. After attending ‘Dig In with Capital Growth’, their exciting Spring networking-do, we take a step back and look at what we can learn from this lively and thriving network of gardeners and food growers.
Community food enterprises are a success story of local collective action and have the potential to make significant contributions to local economic resilience. However despite its success, and the existence of some supportive policy drivers, the sector faces barriers to realising its full potential.
In our work with land-based social enterprises, we often hear about the value of networks. To develop the sector, organisations need to make connections, promote their work and learn from each other. Many also need to grow supply chains and customer bases to be sustainable. This blog explores the role of networks in the sector, and argues for a broader ‘joined up’ approach across it.
What can a community food enterprise in 2014 learn from the HIV service delivery projects of the 1980s? We reflect on how themes from our research into social innovation relate to the UK’s growing land based social sector.
On December 8th we hosted an event about exploring people’s roles in ‘Creating Common Good Land Use’. We learned a lot and this blog introduces some of the strategies we are planning to adopt in response.