Wooplaw Community Woodland Workshop, August 2007

Do we need legal structures?

Formal structures - good or bad?

There are structures (usually limited companies with charitable status) which we set up to enable communities (or community representatives) to gain control over local woods... but these can be unwieldy difficult structures forced upon us by funders and government agencies.

Who is involved?

From the inside looking out - are Boards or other management groups made up of individuals living in the wider community? If so, each member of the Board has links with colleagues, friends and family and so tentacles reach out into the surrounding wider community. At best, these individuals represent a wide range of stakeholders- volunteers, paid staff, funders, members, Councillors and local faiths. At worst, it's a self perpetuating club with minimal links to the wider community.

Advantages and disadvantages

Having a formal structure has advantages, such as covering liability (e.g. limited company), and enabling grant funding. There are disadvantages, too - the formal infrastructure itself then needs to be maintained, which absorbs time and enthusiasm, and may not be what people want to do. "Looseness has allowed a higher sense of ownership… they come and go… it's organic, so it's still here."

Each project starts from a seed...

There is no blueprint for an ideal structure for a community to link with a woodland, no drop down menu. The structures we have are flawed and every situation is different. Each project starts from a seed; maybe a person, maybe an idea. The true structure comes from the seed; that's what's important. Someone in the community has to sow the seed but once it's there it can be encouraged by others through networking and information sharing.

There is no substitute for visiting others and seeing what they have done, as people have been doing at Wooplaw for twenty years.