CAN has welcomed Shared Assets to the CAN³ programme. We sit down with Director Kate Swade to find out more about its work and why the social enterprise decided to join the programme.
Shared Assets provide practical advice, support and training to landowners and communities who want to manage land as a sustainable and productive asset. It also undertakes research, policy and advocacy work to help create an environment where common good models of land management can flourish.
Kate said, “We try and create relationships and structures that are needed to create a more productive relationship with land. That may involve creating a new type of body to take ownership or a lease on some land that is under threat, creating opportunities such as food growing or running enterprises in parks or woodland.”
Shared Assets work with people in a variety of ways, including support with business models, advice about different types of land, facilitation and training.
Kate said, “We call ourselves the ‘think and do’ tank. The ‘doing’ focuses on supporting pioneers who are managing land in new and innovative ways. The thinking focuses on trying to create an environment where those new models can thrive and pioneers can support each other.
Shared Assets wants to ‘make land a thing again’ and raise awareness of why land should be talked about.
“We are keen to work towards the cultural shift in understanding issues surrounding land, such as how the way land is owned, taxed and valued affects the housing crisis, our physical and mental health, and whether our towns and cities experience regeneration, gentrification or decline. People are recognising that it is harder to buy houses and that farmers can’t make their businesses work due to the way we treat land as a commodity and store of wealth. It does feel like this is a time that is ripe for change.
“One of our aims is to encourage people in power to think about land as a strategic policy issue and to provide evidence to inform and reinforce that. Both Conservative and Labour parties mentioned land policy explicitly in their manifestos for the first time in many years and there are other NGO’s, professional associations and activist groups who are working towards a more strategic approach to land.”
The CAN³ programme, which combines the investment and business expertise of the CAN Invest team with the dedicated office space of CAN Mezzanine, aims to scale the growth and impact of ‘post start-up’ charities and social enterprises.
Kate said, “Moving into CAN Mezzanine, Borough has come at a really good time for us because we are five years old and at a turning point in terms of the way we work. We want to learn more about how we can grow our impact and on the CAN³ programme we will receive support and be challenged to think more about the impact that we have.
CAN Mezzanine offers flexible office space to charities, social enterprises and not-for-profit organisations with meeting and conference room hire included in the rate for the space.
Kate said, “The space is more flexible than we’ve had before; we are moving towards a model of more staff working remotely and part-time so it works well to have a space that can grow with us or downsize.
“We’ve never had dedicated meeting rooms before so having that combined with informal break out space is a real bonus because sitting at your desk all day is not very productive. You can take yourself away if you need to concentrate so I think it works for us on many levels.”
Collaboration is a key aspect of CAN culture and we encourage all organisations to network and create partnerships which are often developed at CAN Mezzanine networking events, held every six weeks at each Mezzanine.
Kate said, “We’re a small team but we are good at building partnerships. At our events we bring together organisations that have an interest in land, such as the National Trust and the Forestry Commission, alongside activists and radical food growers, to share their knowledge which is quite exciting.
"We have a partnership with Local Trust that we will be developing over the next six months and we have obvious synergies with National Community Land Trust Network and National Parks England [all organisations have office space at CAN Mezzanine, Borough].
“We look forward to working with other organisations in the Mezzanine and with CAN Invest on refining our impact measurement and financial forecasting.”