Our writing and research

We have a national reputation for lively, thought-provoking and insightful writing in a wide variety of forms.

We have written groundbreaking research reports, analysis and commentary, feature articles and news for a very wide range of audiences – from senior executives and policymakers to residents of council estates in Sheffield.

The following examples give a flavour of the breadth of work we have done. We like challenging and innovative projects!


Our research report for ResPublica, Responsible Recovery, sets out a people-centred agenda for regeneration policy. It examines the failures of previous approaches to neighbourhood renewal and welfare reform and argues that successful policy needs to draw on the idea of ‘sustainable livelihoods’, strengthening the local assets and capacities that enable households and communities to function well.

In 2012 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. It has also been accepted for inclusion in the Digital Library of the Commons at Indiana University in the US.

In early 2012 we also updated our research for the Bill Sargent Trust on 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.

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 also helped Genecon LLP produce a comprehensive review of the trends affecting high streets and town centres, and their implications for UK government policy. This was published alongside the Portas Review in December 2011.

In 2010 we conducted detailed research into local government service commissioning for Groundwork UK. This project fed into the organisation’s annual Executive Forum and combined a survey of local authority service commissioners with an analysis of new trends and influences on commissioners’ thinking.

Previous projects include an internal evaluation of a social enterprise programme in Wigan led by Re:generate, evaluation of a facilitation training programme financed by Yorkshire Forward, and production of a series of research summaries for Natural Economy Northwest.


Julian’s writing is nationally known through his work in founding New Start magazine and leading its editorial team for more than seven years. He continues to write for a wide variety of publications and websites, as well as producing the blog Living with Rats. He is a regular blogger for the Huffington Post.

He has written a guest editorial on the future of town centres and high streets for the Journal of Town and City Management, as well as articles for the Local Government Association and Placemaking 2012, and on ‘urban acupuncture’ for Green Places magazine.

During 2010 Julian wrote a series of articles for New Start setting out a new agenda for regeneration (see below), helping to influence the national debate about the future of cities and communities in difficult economic times.

In 2011 we worked with The Mersey Forest to produce a policy paper and organise a round table event as a contribution to the national review of forestry policy. Julian’s policy paper on the future of community woodlands, also written for The Mersey Forest, was published in January 2011 and can be read here.

He has produced a series of case studies and papers for Natural Economy Northwest. Working with the former regional centre of excellence, Renew Northwest, he wrote a series of research and practice papers including a highly regarded summary of lessons learned by exemplar regeneration projects in northwest England. More details can be found on our resources page.

Other projects have included a series of briefings on community renewables for Yorkshire Forward; creating and producing a community magazine for 23,000 homes in the north of Sheffield; and editing a comprehensive toolkit on community land trusts for the University of Salford. You can find out more on our case studies page.