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Our new Research Strategy

Kim Graham

We’ve put our latest thoughts on the research work we do out into the world – what do you think? 

Last October, I did a blog which explored the importance of research to the work we do at Shared Assets, and as part of the broader common good land movement. Building on that, we’ve expanded the information on our website about the sort of research we do, why we do it, and how we do it.

We think this is important for two main reasons:

  • To hold ourselves accountable to our community and research partners
  • To highlight the skills and expertise we can offer potential research funders and clients

Let’s look into why both of these are important in more detail.

Shared Assets knows it’s just a small cog in the emerging movement for land reform in the UK, and we want to amplify the insightful contributions of our wider community. We’ve always had this ethos, with making our research outputs freely available online is one way we have tried to build a ‘knowledge commons’ which can support physical, land-based commons. With our recent transition to a Community Interest Company (see more on this in Mark’s blog here), it’s even more important for us to formalise the ways we give back to our community, that being – people and organisations across the UK currently responsible for the use or management of land in ways that provide shared social, environmental and economic benefits, and those who seek to do so in the future. Our new Research Strategy gives much more detail on the ways we want to do research in order to support this community, and will help inform the choices we make about the research projects we get involved in. To summarise, research undertaken by Shared Assets aims to be:

  • Participatory – We start from the premise that the people with expertise on common good land use are the people who work with the land everyday, or would like to, and as far as possible we will use methods that involve people affected by the issues being researched in the design, implementation and evaluation of research, allowing a wider group of people to learn new skills and build stronger relationships within their communities
  • Generous – We will endeavour to compensate people for their time and effort in research projects, and aim to channel money directly to the sector via research work. At times this may mean we suggest another person in our network to take on a piece of research about which they have specific experience of or expertise in
  • Accessible – We will consider ways to make research participation accessible for anyone who wants to take part, for example by paying transport costs or considering the timing and location of research events. We aim to be proactive in finding ways to involve people who are under-represented in the land sector because of structural inequalities, including those around race, gender, and class. We will also usually share both the summarised findings of our research, and the datasets produced freely online, so others can learn from and build on our work. Results will often be anonymised to protect research participants/co-researchers but where people find it empowering to be named and recognised for their work, we will include identifying details with their explicit consent. We will also try to avoid academic or overly technical language, so everyone can engage with the results of our research
  • Timely and relevant – We don’t want to undertake research for research’s sake, we want to investigate the most pressing issues our community of common good land users and stewards are facing, and be ready to present findings at key moments to spark change (e.g. inputting into a new piece of legislation, or submitting evidence to an enquiry)
  • Practical – We don’t want research that many people have put time and thought into to gather dust on a shelf, so we will present findings in creative ways so they become tools which can be referred back to again and again as a basis for forward planning, ongoing action and inspiration

We know we have more work to do to fully live up to all these principles, and hope having these clearly and publicly laid out will help us to do so. Our reflection on and further development of our research practice will be ongoing, and we welcome any thoughts or feedback from people previously involved in research with us to enable us to learn and do better.

In our seven-odd years of operation, Shared Assets has honed skills in areas such as facilitation, event convening, and participatory research, and constructed a wide network of knowledgeable peers. To keep being able to do much-needed research on the land sector and get more money into it, we need to advertise ourselves to a wide group of potential funders and collaborators, from academic action research coalitions, to public sector tender opportunities. By operating pragmatically at lots of different levels, we should be able to lead research which fits our values, and support others doing work which contributes to our overall aims. To better evidence how we are doing this, as part of our strategic planning for the next few years, we’re strengthening our internal mechanisms for measuring the impact of our work, centred around five key areas: Agency, Action, Advocacy, Evidence, and Opportunity. This should enable us to more easily share the ways we as an organisation, and in combination with other groups, are making a difference. Watch this space for more information on how this develops over the coming months. 

For now, we have plenty of research to be getting on with, and are seeking collaborators and partners for many aspects of this. You can check out our current research and opportunities to get involved here. Also, if you have an idea for research loosely related to land, community or the environment, or are looking for a thoughtful research partner on one of those topics, don’t hesitate to get in touch via research@sharedassets.org.uk.

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