Latest projects

We have a national reputation for research, writing, facilitation and critical thinking. Contact us to see how we can help you.

Here are some examples of current work:

  • Our input into Mary Portas’s review of the high streets was described as ‘inspirational and invaluable’. We convened a group of leading thinkers and doers to respond to the review, and you can read more about this in this article or download the full response. Since then we helped organise the UK’s first ‘High Street Camp‘ and have been involved in numerous events on the future of the high street. We have now brought our writing, presentations and resources together in a dedicated section of this website. Julian’s book, How to Save Our Town Centres, was published in 2015.
  • We continue to develop new thinking on urban regeneration in the UK. In 2011 we submitted evidence to the UK Parliament’s inquiry into regeneration, which can be read on the Communities and Local Government Select Committee’s website or downloaded here. The committee’s report cited our evidence on numerous occasions. We have taken some of the ideas presented in our evidence forward in Responsible Recovery, a new report from the think tank ResPublica which sets out people-centred approaches to neighbourhood renewal and welfare reform.
  • We have been working with the Cedar Foundation in Tanzania, looking at how ideas of placemaking and asset based community development can adapted in the context of communities on the edge of the country’s second most populous city, Mwanza. You can read more about this work here.
  • We contribute to events and conferences in the UK and internationally. In May 2013 Julian was the keynote speaker at the Mainstreet Australia conference in Melbourne, and in October 2013 he was a keynote speaker at the international conference on Cities, People and Places hosted by the University of Moratuwa in Sri Lanka. In the UK he has spoken at a wide range of events, including the Future Belfast conference in May 2013, the Belfast State of the City event in October 2012, and a guest lecture for the Interdisciplinary Centre of the Social Sciences at Sheffield University (the links take you to presentations from these events).
  • We worked with Papworth Research and Consultancy Ltd to evaluate the first year of Hampshire’s Local Welfare Assistance scheme, identifying successes and challenges and making recommendations about its future direction. We teamed up with them again in 2015
  • We worked with the Centre for Local Economic Strategies on a research project in Belfast to identify the contribution to the city of its ‘anchor institutions’ – hospitals, universities, airports and port – and how they can work better together for the benefit of the city as a whole.

Some recent projects:

  • We completed a major report on the future of urban parks and green spaces for Groundwork UK, examining the evidence for the social benefits of green space and putting forward options for their future care and management, drawing on the principles of the historic commons. Our report, Grey Places Need Green Spaces, can be downloaded here.
  • We worked with the Bill Sargent Trust to find ways of achieving community benefits from the sale of surplus military land. The final policy white paper, Forces for Good, is available here, and has led to meetings with MPs and policymakers. Our original research report brings together a literature review and recommendations to improve the disposal of military land in future. The issue will continue to be of major importance as the UK’s armed forces are reorganised following the Strategic Defence and Security Review 2010. As a result of this work Julian Dobson was asked to join the advisory panel for the Wessex Institute of Technology’s Defence Sites Heritage and Future conference. His paper for the conference can be downloaded here.
  • Following our submission to the Portas review, we worked with Action for Market Towns to produce a short publication highlighting their work on the future of town centres (see below), and we supported Genecon in analysing the evidence of change on the high street over the last ten years, and likely future trends. You can download the evidence review here.
  • We acted as a rapporteur for a series of events on community assets for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. This involved attending each event, writing a blog post immediately after and producing a short summary of key themes which is downloadable from the JRF website. The final event in the series took place in July and you can download a summary of the entire series of events here, or see more at the JRF website.
  • We helped The Mersey Forest respond to government reviews of woodlands and forestry. This has included preparing briefings and producing a pamphlet on the future of community forests – see bottom of this page. We also prepared a briefing to inform a round table discussion which we facilitated and which fed into the review process.
  • We’ve also done pro bono work for Incredible Edible Todmorden, summarising and explaining their work, and we produced the book telling the Incredible Edible story.
  • Throughout 2010 and spring 2011 we worked with colleagues at Winning Moves and Beam to deliver the Regeneration Academy placemaking training scheme for Bradford Council – a major project training up more than 400 staff in placemaking, project management and leadership.
  • We worked with the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust to run a series of workshops on schools and the ‘big society’.
  • We researched latest thinking in the world of public service commissioning and surveyed local authority staff to assess current and future trends in local government procurement for Groundwork UK.
  • We worked with the East of England Development Agency and the Centre for Local Economic Strategies to train economic development professionals and policy researchers in writing skills.

These are just a few examples of our work – please get in touch if we can help you.