We identify both barriers and aids to establishing different types of woodland-related social enterprises
News from Forest Research: February 2012
The Forestry Commission has long recognised that supporting woodland-related social enterprises can help to achieve local and community development objectives. However, there has, to date, been little empirical evidence to substantiate this. As a result, Forest Research was asked to identify both barriers and aids to establishing different types of woodland-related social enterprises.
Such organisations operate primarily to achieve social and environmental objectives, reinvesting any profit to achieve their goals or further their business. Over the past decade there has been growing interest in the potential contribution that these enterprises can bring to society. There has also been an increasing effort to encourage civil society organisations to take on the management and/or ownership of physical assets such as land or buildings. Interest in both agendas has been heightened by the Government’s commitment to ‘Big Society’, which focuses on empowering communities to take more control over their own destiny.
Using case studies from across Britain, the project identified a number of challenges facing woodland-related social enterprises. These included: difficulties in finding funding, the imposition of bureaucratic and institutional hurdles by public bodies, and public sector procurement and asset transfer processes that assess ‘best value’ in purely economic terms.
Critical enabling factors identified included: the availability of financial and non-financial support, the existence of sufficient capacity within communities, strong leadership, and facilitative mechanisms such as the National Forest Land Scheme that operates in Scotland.