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Malvern Community Forest Strategy Review 2017

Introduction

In 2016 the Trustees reviewed Malvern Community Forest’s (MCF’s) strategy, to build on its successes, identify opportunities and challenges and develop responses to them. At the end of the year they proposed changes to MCF’s stated aims and purposes in its Constitution to cover all aspects of what we are doing.  These were accepted at the AGM in March 2017.

The Trustees wanted to involve members and friends in developing a new strategy through this interactive blog.  We want to have an exchange of ideas, rather than voting on a list of proposals we’ve made. The section on Background describes some of the issues as the Trustees see them: are there others we need to address? We have identified some areas of principle, and some options that we would welcome comment on.  We welcome any other principals or other options or proposals.  What else do you think could contribute to MCF’s development?

These conversations were open until November 30th 2017.

A draft strategy will be prepared from these contributions and conversations and posted on this site at the end of January 2018 for comment.  The draft will be finalised at the Trustees’ meeting in April 2018, and circulated for voting on at the AGM in June 2018.

Background

In May 2016 the Trustees reviewed MCF’s strategy of raising funds and acquiring woodlands and other habitats to meet its aim of restoring the character of Malvern Chase. The historic Malvern Chase consisted of 13 parishes, from Powick to Chase End, including two to the west of the Hills.

MCF’s successful projects at the time were Townsend and Prospect Community Woods and Abundance Malvern.  These projects are in or close to the Malvern area, and involve relatively small areas of woodland and orchard.  The Chair and Trustees had been successful in gaining sponsorship and grants from a number of enterprises and public agencies. Work on the projects depended on a core group of 10-15 members all living in the Malvern area, with different amounts and type of support from 30-40 other members.

Expanding current projects or taking on further projects, large or small, would be challenging.  Going outside the immediate Malvern area would require recruiting support local to the project.  Grants and sponsorships are typically given for developing projects or aspects of projects, and it is much more difficult to get funding for continuing maintenance over longer time-spans. As awareness of MCF’s work had grown, significant legacies and other one-off donations had provided some of the needed flexibility for a limited period.

As a first step, we need to increase active membership.  Working on projects. recruiting members and volunteers, finding innovative funding, and widening our activities,  take time and effort.

Towards the end of 2016, the Trustees agreed to update our aims and purposes as written in our Constitution to cover what we were doing in our projects and how we were spending moneys from members and granting bodies.  New Objects for the Charity were circulated to members and were approved at our AGM in March 2017.  The changes were intended to clarify that any woodland or other habitats would be used as well as established and maintained, and that MCF can work in partnerships to meet its aims. (Link to new Objects)

Principles

To provide educational, health and environmental benefits for the local and wider community through our activities

Community access – any projects MCF is involved in must provide access to the site by members of the public

Community involvement – where possible, each individual project will have its own group from the local area to advise and support the project

Build partnerships – MCF will actively build partnerships with individuals, communities, charities and other agencies to meet its aims

Using woodland and other habitats.  Allowing woodlands to revert to zero management over the 300 years it takes is likely to lead to them being grubbed out long before then as ‘wasted land’, ‘unsightly’, or ‘not safe’.   Unless they are close to other long-established woodlands, they may not regenerate anyway through lack of genetic and ecological exchange.

Woodlands have only existed in the UK because they provided fuel and the materials for many other products; wild flower meadows existed because of the way they were previously used for fodder. The greatest health benefits come from being active in these habitats.

What other principles do you think MCF should follow?

Organisational Options

The ‘Growth’ model vs the ‘Organic’ model

The Organic model is the way MCF has grown until now.  We have been approached by other bodies - the Conservators (as they were), the Civic Society - who wanted our help in managing woodland or pieces of land.  Abundance joined forces with MCF to build synergies. In creating Prospect Community Woodland, MCF Trustees identified a piece of land that could be restored and approached the owners; in another, an opportunity was seized through funding available in another project to promote public involvement with Malvern’s Marvellous Trees.

Members and funds have waxed and waned, but steady progress has been maintained.  Our current position of doing as much as we can with the resources we have may be an ultimate limit, or might just be a pause before the next step forward. We spend what we have on our projects, keeping only a small reserve.  The age profile of active members and membership more generally may be a limit in the fullness of time.

The Growth model is based on economic growth and the way organisations – private, public or charities - have to have a steady rate of growth in order to survive.  The successful organisation accumulates capital: financial – substantial reserve funds; human – highly skilled and specialised personnel; intellectual – having protected special knowledge others will pay for; and reputational capital – an established place in the market, based on reliable delivery of quality goods or products.  On this model, MCF is still a start-up: yet to build funds; having a few skilled personnel and mostly dependent on untrained people; intellectual capital consisting of knowledge and skills that have largely fallen out of wider use, or had limited application.  We have mostly reputational capital, with loyal members, a rising local profile, and individuals and organisations that approach us for help.

Public perception of our competitors for funds and personnel might be the Malvern Hills Trust, the Wildlife Trust, and the Woodland Trust.  We are partners with the Malvern Hills Trust in managing Townsend Community Woodland, but neither they nor the other organisations have been directly involved in our other projects.

Following the Growth model would require us to recruit members with specialisms in fund raising, recruiting volunteers and members, and public relations/communication, to work alongside the people who like getting their hands dirty with trees, land and wild-life. This would enable us to attract more funding and provide more systematic training to build skills and knowledge.

What other models do you think we could follow?  What would be your preferences?

What should Malvern Community Forest be doing?

Our current Projects match the activities listed in our Objects in the following ways

Abundance uses particular environmental assets for the health benefits of the local and wider community, whilst promoting the environmental benefits of reducing food waste.  We work in partnership with charities in doing so.  It also promotes associated crafts and skills (making fruit juice; cider making).

Malvern Link Station is establishing and maintaining woodland and other habitats for the environmental and educational benefits of the local and wider community, as well as promotion of MCF and its partners to a wider public.  We work in partnership with charities and other agencies, to increase awareness, knowledge and appreciation of environmental assets.

Malvern’s Marvellous Trees is a project of educational and health benefits, working with charities and other agencies to increase the awareness, knowledge, appreciation and involvement of the general public with established trees in the town and its surroundings.

Prospect Community Woodland is establishing and maintaining woodland and other environmental assets for the health and environmental benefit of the local and wider community.  We work in partnership with the local community and other agencies to increase awareness, knowledge and appreciation of its environmental assets.  The site has been used to host social events and annual training sessions in associated crafts and skills for the general public.

Townsend Community Woodland is developing and maintaining woodland and other environmental assets for the health and environmental benefit of the local and wider community.  We work in partnership with the Malvern Hills Trust to increase awareness, knowledge and appreciation of its environmental assets, and in our new projects providing opportunities to increase involvement in associated crafts and skills.

What changes in priorities would you like to see?  Do we need to add other activities?

Finally, anything else you would like to comment on or suggest?

4 thoughts on “Malvern Community Forest Strategy Review 2017

  1. MaggieJo

    "As a first step, we need to increase active membership".
    In agreement.
    So I believe we first need a strategy for that. Without achieving this no other strategy matters as we won't manage any growth!

  2. Ian Caldwell

    Like MaggieJo I agree we need to increase the number of people participating in our projects. Is it important that they are members?

    We need to emphasize the community part of our name. Our project are they for the sake of the community. We are part of the community and we should not been seen as a separate from the community.

    On the Organisational Options section: I do not think we should use "The Growth model " as implies we are a separate organisation and not part of the community.

  3. Dave Munday

    I too strongly believe that we need to increase our membership and I would like to see more "making" With some of the materials we liberate in the course of our labour, I see that as the next logical step but it will involve a more rigorous governance framework.

    I have mentioned "Shed Therapy" in trustee meetings; this concept is aimed at the newly retired and redundant members of society/community who often become reclusive and suffer mentally through isolation; a bit like the repair cafe but to make useful things from scratch using mainly "Old skills" to try to keep the dark art of green woodworking going for the next generation. Maybe this is too soon for us at the moment but I would like to see it on the horizon.

    I am in favour of the organic model but I would also like to see more aggressive recruitment via promotion of our aims using social media and local news. The recent Langdale wood campaign by local users has generated 1600+ (Mostly indignant ) members and that is some achievement over the 3 or 4 weeks it has been in existence (at the time of writing). Translating that sort of number into paid up active membership for us may be a really difficult ask but they appear to be sympathetic to our aims in broad terms (Promoting woodland use/activity for the benefit of all). I don't think we should hijack their campaign, rather endorse it and publicise our aims to them so that their membership can choose to join us and do some "active" work.

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