Our recent ‘Hubs’ event saw Making Local Woods Work bring together a range of Woodland Social Enterprises and specialists in the fields of woodland management and social enterprise to wrestle over the definition and potential for woodland social enterprise hubs. This is an emerging field with a ‘hub’ broadly defined as an organisation which seeks to develop the local market for woodland management and woodland products. This might involve creating the space and skills to encourage networks of small enterprises.
Hubs offer woodland advice, provide contracted services, wood product development and marketing services. Currently, woodland ‘hubs’ are often private enterprises and this session allowed the opportunity to think about how the model can be adapted to be socially enterprising and support social enterprises. David Dixon from National Association for Areas of Natural Beauty and Norman Dandy (MLWW) set the scene inviting presentations from key organisations already delivering or exploring the ‘hub’ model in practice. We heard from Andrew Bell (North Devon Biosphere), Tim Selman from MLWW group Wyre CLT, Paul Orsi (Sylva Foundation) and Neil Donaldson who joined the proceedings by video-link from Argyll Small Woods Cooperative – a MLWW group based on the West coast of Scotland.
The afternoon session was led by Kate Swade from Shared Assets who helped the group start to define social enterprise models for woodland ‘hubs’ and the support that was needed to see the model succeed. One of the big lessons was that ‘hubs’ tend to be grounded in local context, led by the availability of resources and skills and as such can look very different in different places.
This was a positive start to what will be an ongoing conversation supported by MLWW. Those involved are keen to keep in touch and work together in outlining the role for ‘hubs’ and developing a clear strategy with regards to the purpose and opportunities for ‘hub’ social enterprises. We’ll continue to explore this in the coming months and are currently arranging a follow-up event in October at the Sylva Foundation. The Sylva Wood Centre is an exciting new hub for small businesses and craftspeople who design and make in wood. The Centre provides dedicated space, equipment and an inspiring community of woodworking professionals.
If you are interested in coming along, or would like to be included in ongoing conversation around hubs do drop us a line and we’ll include you in our future communications.