Creating a strong and effective community land trust is a journey. And key to a CLT’s long-term success is a robust and diverse membership.
A critical feature of a CLT is its open democratic structure meaning that anyone can become a member. Community is at a CLT’s core and it’s important that its membership base genuinely reflects the local community that the CLT is embedded within.
Here are three reasons why CLTs should put effort into building their membership and keeping members engaged:
1. Helps build a mandate
There’s power in numbers. Convincing decision-makers to help a CLT prosper is much easier when there are scores of people asking for the same thing.
Let’s look at land as an example. A common way of acquiring land, especially in urban areas, is through a local authority. If you can clearly demonstrate to a council, which itself is a democratic body, that your diverse membership (of constituents and thus voters...) is calling for action (land in this instance) then your CLT is effectively giving the council a mandate to do their democratic duty and act.
Read about London CLT's approach to community organising
2. Genuinely meeting the needs of the local community
One of the selling points of a CLT is that they can genuinely meet the needs of the local community in ways other service providers can’t or don’t want to.
A visible and active CLT has access to community voices in a way that other organisations don’t. Members of a CLT are often more embedded in the community making them well placed to activate more people to take part in shaping their neighbourhoods. This local buy-in is powerful and is often the reason why communities support community-led development over private development.
Spotlight on: PEACH and the E16 community land trust
3. More people, more skills and knowledge
Commonly, CLTs are powered by volunteer hours with a dedicated steering committee. Being a part of a predominantly volunteer organisation means that the hours people can work can be very limited. More people equals more capacity to move your CLT forward.
Another benefit of having more people is having a broader range of skills and life experience that can help a CLT to thrive. By diversifying the skills, experience and backgrounds of the people involved in a CLT mean having greater access to different groups of people and knowledge ultimately building the collective power of the CLT.
Read how Heart of Hastings has created a Bottom Up Development team to make regeneration work
How to do it?
There are many ways of bringing a broader range of people into your CLT with community organising and communication techniques. To help groups achieve this here at the National CLT Network we have produced an Advocacy Toolkit, which you can find here. In it are tips and tricks to increase membership and build productive relationships with councils.
We’ve also launched the Cohesive Communities Fund, a new grant programme that seeks to unlock the skills, knowledge and potential of the community land trust movement by helping groups bring in a broader range of people.