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Land Explorer, the Digital Commons and our next Industrial Revolution

Shared Assets - Tue, 2019-05-07 12:49

Who owns the Land around us was the political question for many centuries. You were disenfranchised if you didn’t own land, with no representation in parliament. But what about data on Land?

While our economy is very different today, some questions remain the same.

  • In today’s digital economy, 70% of the 10 most valuable companies are digital (up from 20% 10 years ago).
  • Economist and social theorist Jeremy Rifkin says we’re in the 3rd Industrial Revolution and that Data is now where utility value resides.
  • If this is the case, are we in danger of losing digital “real estate”, through land grabs and enclosures?

Platforms are most often owned by Venture Capital – “Rentiers” that control labour, resources and money; simply by dint of having capital and controlling access to markets or data. Often the “rent” charged is extortionate – 50% or more.

As Global Corporations erode our democracy, are we losing our representation and ability to democratically participate in decisions that affect Land use, our communities and our environment?

With moves from our government to allow better access to data, to inform our decisions on Land, here at Shared Assets we’re considering:

What value does Land Data have?

  • How should it be owned? (and not just the data, but the platform that is the “gatekeeper”)
  • How do we fund better access to this data?

The question of Who owns England (and the rest of the UK) remains as important today, though I’m curious as to who owns (and controls) our data?

The story of Land acquisition and ownership, the history of our land, what it is now and how it might be owned and shaped in future is all data. It has a correlation with the story of the commons…

The internet and our digital lives are a “place”. A place where there are squatters, spaces to meet, discuss politics, socialise, do business and research. It is often a public place, sometime a private place, often a place where access is controlled and where there are gate keepers.

Our digital world has seen gold rushes, land grabs, mergers, acquisitions and enclosure; monopolisation by a capital class. Platform coops are a response to this with decentralised democratic ownership & fair access; a Digital Commons.

Commons have a resource, rules and a community. We have a resource (data and platform) and a community of users, so what are the rules? How does this fit together?

We’ve explored cooperative ownership through Cooperative UK’s Unfound accelerator programme. A cooperative structure feels like a good fit: multi-stakeholder with a value proposition between five groups:

  • Workers
  • Government corporations (Ordnance Survey, Land Registry)
  • Local Authorities (with obligations to provide access to land for allotments and self build)
  • Communities and Community led-development
  • The Land Professionals (that help service these needs), shaping our environment

So we’re considering the governance structure and how this operates, with representatives from all stakeholders, for the benefit of all participants and our communities; not just developers, venture capitalists or shareholder primacy.

After our grant applications for further funding for Land Explorer have been turned down from NESTA, Big Lottery’s Digital Fund, Social Tech Trust and Ordnance Survey’s Geovation, I have to ask: are we doing something wrong? Is the service not needed or the value proposition (that better access to information on Land can support our communities making better decisions on the land around them) flawed? Or is it that our proposed cooperative ownership model, doesn’t fit with traditional views on company ownership?

Certainly, where Geovation are concerned, this might be the case; with the team there very excited about our proposals, but the application form only allowing for traditional “what is your expected PropTech company valuation and what equity stake are you willing to part with” questions. Our proposed ownership model is new and doesn’t fit this old paradigm.

  • Do we need another service for Estate Agents and Developers (however much profit it might generate)?
  • Or do we need a Platform with democratic access, for our communities, with shared benefits?

So we’re soul searching and putting it out to collective wisdom. As users of Land Explorer, you can expect to receive a survey shortly, so you can help answer some of these questions and we can understand what next for Land Explorer. How do we support a Digital Commons, what does this look like and how could it be funded? If you’d like to participate in this research, help shape the future of Land Explorer and our relationship to data and access in our Digital environment, please register now.

At Shared Assets, we believe that there needs to be stewardship of our Land Data, for our children and our children’s children. That to change something, we need to know it and be able to benchmark and measure change over time. How we can adapt, build in resilience, restore and regenerate our environment is crucial, when considering the unfolding climate catastrophe. Geospatial data and tools to plan are an essential part of this decision making and our response, to the greatest challenge we’ve ever faced.

We need to promote common good data use, with shared benefits. We invite you to be a part of the story of Land Data and the Digital Commons.

When I wrote a blog last year (Land Explorer – our journey so far), we were eagerly awaiting the outcome of the geospatial commissions deliberations and looked forward to where our journey would take us next (and to Summer!)

With our new features launch planned for this summer, we are still looking forward to the release of data (now scheduled for 2020). For our test users, we’re adding:

  • Land Registry Data: National Polygon Service, title, deeds plans (Commercial & Corporate open access)
  • Land for sale: both private and public: Local Authority Assets, Homes England and private Land sales

…and we’re now looking forward to this summer!

#CommonGoodLandUse #SharedBenefits #SharedAssets #PlatformCoops #Unfound #DigitalCommons #WhoOwnsData #CommonGoodDataUse

We’re always interested in your views and opinions – if you’d like more information on Land Explorer, how it can help you, or to be involved in workshops and discussions about the tools that we’re developing, please get in touch!

The post Land Explorer, the Digital Commons and our next Industrial Revolution appeared first on Shared Assets.

Categories: News from partners

How do we use Neighbourhood Planning to fight climate change?

Shared Assets - Wed, 2019-03-13 13:20

In very simple terms, a neighbourhood plan is:

  • A document that sets out planning policies for the neighbourhood area – planning policies are used to decide whether to approve planning applications.
  • Written by the local community, the people who know and love the area, rather than the Local Planning Authority.
  • A powerful tool to ensure the community gets the right types of development, in the right place.

So how can we use this framework to combat climate change?

We can use our neighbourhood plans to educate, communicate and measure our progress. Writing in space for small farms (notoriously difficult to get through planning), map our bioregions and catchment areas, find and locate suitable sites for sustainable energy and plan our housing needs with suitable green spaces.

  • Define energy use
  • Map sites
  • Measure biodiversity and natural capital
  • Record carbon sequestration by plants and in our soil

All of these are important if we are to build in resilience, plan for adaptation and work towards restoration.

On Saturday 9th March 2019 I attended a conference on: Climate Change and Neighbourhood Planning.

I was both disturbed and heartened by what I learnt.

We are facing an extinction event. We must ACT NOW. This is not hyperbole. This is a fact. The science is indisputable.

As I write this, members of Extinction Rebellion are setting off from Land’s End to walk to London, for the International Rebellion on 15th April to force our governments to take action to combat climate change.

While I’ve been familiar with the science for a long time, it was terrifying to sit and listen to Professor Stephan Harrison, outlining the dire consequences of our inaction.


We are losing 200 species every day. The amount of energy Earth is accumulating because of the greenhouse effect is equivalent to 4 Hiroshima sized nuclear bomb being detonated EVERY SECOND. That’s 24 in the time it’s taken you to read this sentence. Our sea level will rise by at least 20m, or maybe 100m by the year 2100. Large swathes of Asia and Africa will be intemperate zones impossible for human habitation – leading to mass migration. We’re suffering massive biodiversity loss and our food will be scarcer and scarcer and countless millions will starve to death. It’s no longer climate change; it’s climate catastrophe. An emergency.

Like many, I find this hard to internalise, as I sit in an airconditioned office in London; having had a pint in a quiet pub last night.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report last autumn warned that humanity has just 11 years left to take emergency action in order to prevent catastrophic climate breakdown.

So how can we ACT? What practical steps can we take now, to mitigate the dreadful future that awaits us and our children?

I was heartened and given hope, at Exeter University’s event Climate Change and Neighbourhood Planning,  where I learnt more about how we can use Neighbourhood Development Planning, to combat climate catastrophe.

We have a chance, however slim, of keeping the worst affects at bay and can play our part by acting now.

With many Parish and Town councils joining local authorities in declaring a Climate Emergency, Neighbourhood Planning is emerging as one of the tools in our arsenal to deliver the urgent change we need. How we, and our communities, use the land around us and manage our planet’s finite resources is integral to any solution.

By declaring a Climate Emergency, at local level, groups hope to give Cornwall Council a mandate to act bravely and urgently in addressing barriers to swift change. And we do need change – for instance it is currently really difficult to get small farming plots through planning.

Amongst others, we heard from Dan Stone at the Centre for Sustainable Energy; who’ve published great guides on Neighbourhood planning, looking at how we produce sustainable energy.


Actions were discussed, including:

  • Calling on Westminster for resources and support
  • Working with other local authorities, Parish and Town councils that have declared a Climate Emergency
  • Sharing best practice and creating national associations
  • Maximising use of previously used land (both brownfield and contaminated land)
  • Mapping substations and capacity
  • Creating local energy grids and markets

I was given further hope hearing a group from Chacewater (who I don’t think would mind me describing them as our “elders” – bearing in mind, that I’m getting to Grandad age myself…) talking about their NDP.


For my part, I held a workshop on our mapping software Land Explorer. If we need to start leveraging our NDP’s to mitigate climate catastrophe, we need to be able to map stuff. Where is it? How do we change it, where does it go…? What does it look like? We also need to benchmark and measure progress over time.

We should consider ownership of the platform (as a resource and digital commons); as data is now where utility value now resides. It’s important to be custodians of our data for future generations. Finding a way between the state and the market to combine government data, with crowd sourced and other information.

So at Shared Assets, we’re evolving Land Explorer to provide tools for Permaculture Design Environments, helping to find land suitable for self-builders and Community Land Trusts for housing (delivering net zero carbon homes), sites suitable for sustainable energy and spaces for growing healthy food; delivering a cooperatively owned community asset, to help us plan.

We’ll help plan and measure progress towards delivery of sustainability goals, at local level to make NDPs a living process – not a static plan.

It’s a start. “It’ll take us all and it will take us the rest of our lives, but that’s the point”, Cradle to Cradle.

Act Now.



The post How do we use Neighbourhood Planning to fight climate change? appeared first on Shared Assets.

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