• Harriet Bell

Making ELMs work for Commons - the board takes shape

WARNING - Before commencing reading the material beneath please be aware this is more novella than blog, maybe grab a cuppa, make sure you don't need to go and check stock in a few mins, wait until you're having difficulty sleeping etc.

As the Advisory Team has discussed ELM over the last many months the idea of some new body for Dartmoor keeps arising - in response to spatial priority setting, blended finance but particularly in our recent discussions (available in the blog archive) on making ELM work for the Commons.

So, a subsect of the main Advisory Team met virtually on the 19th of October to delve into the notion of a new Dartmoor Board for ELM delivery.

Ahead of the call the Project Officer circulated some information on an approach to setting up and running boards known as Project Governance or Carver Governance.

More information can be found here:

It seemed like a good approach because:

  • In contrast to the approaches typically used by boards, Policy Governance separates issues of organizational purpose (ENDS) from all other organizational issues (MEANS), placing primary importance on those Ends. Policy Governance boards demand accomplishment of purpose, and only limit the staff's (read graziers/farmers) available means to those which do not violate the board's pre-stated standards of prudence and ethics.

  • The board's own Means are defined in accordance with the roles of the board, its members, the chair and other officers, and any committees the board may need to help it accomplish its job. This includes the necessity to "speak with one voice". Dissent is expressed during the discussion preceding a vote. Once taken, the board's decisions may subsequently be changed, but are never to be undermined. The board's expectations for itself also set out self-imposed rules regarding the delegation of authority to the staff and the method by which board-stated criteria will be used for evaluation. Policy Governance boards delegate with care. There is no confusion about who is responsible to the board or for what board expectations they are responsible.

  • Evaluation, with such carefully stated expectations, is nothing more than seeking an answer to the question, "Have our expectations been met?" The board, having clarified its expectations, can assess performance in that light.

Here are some examples of End Policies for Policy Governance Boards.

Download PDF • 405KB

What would usually follow is just the discussion notes. However, what follows here is the discussion notes, plus some snippets of research and then they've all been combined together into a proposed board model.

The snippets of research are not properly referenced but come from:

  • Elinor Ostrom's book "Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action" Ostrom is a Nobel prize winning economist who spent decades studying hundreds of models for managing what she refers to as 'common pool resources', which we may now think of as natural capital - fresh water, forests, grazing land, fishing grounds etc.

  • The New Economics Foundation's paper, "Co-production: A Manifesto for growing the core economy"

  • Chris Short's paper, "A Common Purpose: A guide to agreeing management on common land"


Pre-discussion notes:

  • Set broad policy framework based on the manifesto pledges on which government is elected and through co-production (we hope) with stakeholders

  • Guided by Nolan principles

Dartmoor Land Management Board

Discussion notes:

  • Empowered to make decisions

  • Resolve issues/sort problems

  • Guided by Nolan principles

  • Independent check of livestock management at Commons Association level

  • In charge of the framework

  • Big stick/responsible for governance

  • Sets framework for money management

  • Define what can’t be done

  • Reward, recognize good delivery through celebration

  • Clearly define achievement objectives

  • Ensure agreement is compliant with Commons legislation

Project officer notes (largely copy and paste from Elinor Ostrom, Common Purpose Report, Glover review and nef Co-Production manifesto):

  • working with stakeholders to create increased levels of awareness of the issues and values related to their common and the range of possible solutions that would tackle the one while respecting the other. By developing an increased understanding of all stakeholders’ views, and agreeing the problems before proposing solutions this approach seeks to promote the development of sound, effective management proposals based on co-operation

  • Involve everyone in co-production of the scheme

  • Devolve real responsibility, leadership and authority to ‘users’, and encourage self-organisation rather than direction from above

  • Develop individual and community resilience

  • Manage open, inclusive and regular communication between all stakeholders

  • Complete unanimity may not be possible but a broad consensus should be the aim

  • Do not prescribe management options

  • Facilitate 5 year partnership management plan process

  • The law, as explained in Defra guidance, defines the ‘benefit of the neighbourhood’ as the health, comfort or convenience of the inhabitants or any populated place in or near any parish in which the land is situated, and is considered in the context of the enjoyment of the common as an open space

  • expertise in consensus building techniques may be necessary. It might be possible to receive some external help, or to seek the involvement of a neutral chairman or facilitator

  • Common information base

  • The overall objective is to accommodate the aims of as many interests as possible whilst causing least possible disadvantage to others

  • Arbitrator simply helping parties find methods to resolve disputes that arise within the set of working rules to which the parties themselves have agreed

  • The central agency must have sufficient information so that it can correctly impose sanctions

  • Enhance the capabilities of those involved

  • Target-based plans

  • agreement of common goals among diverse actors

  • set long-term plans to widen funding sources; − provide targets and actions against which their performance can be measured; − be used by the National Landscapes Service to hold landscapes to account for delivery, and support with the allocation of central resources

  • the articulation of the priorities for landscapes that safeguard beauty, natural capital and public goods for people

  • Natural Capital asset register

  • restore nature, and make it resilient – and grasp the economic opportunities which come from properly accounting for and protecting nature

  • deliver benefits which could then be expected to exceed the sum of their individual efforts

  • with clear targeted actions to recover nature, underpinned by robust assessments of the state of nature and natural capital in our national landscapes

  • As partners conservationists, farmers, commoners, land owners and all forms of land managers

  • Ambitious, action focused collaborative

  • Partnership and compromise should allow land to work for nature, without conflict with people.

Other areas to consider:

  • Approve applications?

  • Coordinate knowledge exchange/advice/training?

  • Monitoring and verification?

  • Coordinated list of local approved ELM advisors?

  • Market Dartmoor a place for blended finance investment? Coordinate the sale of carbon and biodiversity credits? Manage the funds from those credits as a community budget?

  • In line with Glover review recommendation National Park Management Plan – be the body which connects Dartmoor to the wider landscape?

Dartmoor Land Management Board Finance body

Discussion notes:

  • Guided by Nolan principles

  • Makes payments at the request of the Management Board in accordance with pre-set ELM payment framework

Other areas to consider:

  • Should this body be set up and staffed to trade carbon/biodiversity credits for Dartmoor?

  • Should this body be set up and staffed to attract philanthropic investment into Dartmoor?

  • Should this body not just attract the investment but manage it for the community?

Combined draft organizational purpose Dartmoor Land Management Board:

Dartmoor’s land management stakeholders will co-produce a management plan for the landscape and seize economic opportunities to:

  • Recover, conserve and enhance natural beauty, biodiversity and natural capital, and cultural heritage.

  • Actively connect all parts of society with Dartmoor to support understanding, enjoyment and the nation’s health and wellbeing.

  • Foster the economic and community vitality of their area in support of the first two purposes.

The plan will be determined using natural capital approaches, informed by accurate data, identify spatial priorities, set clearly defined objectives and its delivery against those objectives will be monitored and assessed.

Accordingly and in order of priority:

1. The board will enhance the capabilities of all those involved in the delivery of the management plan in order to deliver the best possible outcome.

1.1 The board will work with stakeholders to create increased levels of awareness of the issues and values related to the management of Dartmoor and the range of possible solutions to enhance delivery of the management plan.

1.2 Manage open, inclusive and regular communication between all stakeholders.

1.3 The board will provide a clear framework for the delivery of the management plan which will include setting spatial priorities for Dartmoor within ELM and identify management actions which are prohibited.

1.4 Devolve real responsibility, leadership and authority to farmers, commoners, foresters, land owners and all forms of land managers responsible for practical delivery of landscape management, and encourage self-organisation to deliver the management plan objectives.

1.5 Act as the arbitrator when disputes arise between stakeholders engaged in the practical delivery of the land management plan, upholding the delivery plans set by Commons Associations (or equivalent), the board’s power will be to financially penalize any stakeholder in receipt of funding managed by the board if they compromise delivery of the management plan.

2. The board will be responsible for attracting both public and private financial investment into Dartmoor and determining the framework through which that money is attributed to stakeholders in order to deliver the management plan objectives.

3. The board will be responsible for gathering, holding and making accessible to all stakeholders the data for the Dartmoor landscape which is necessary for the development, delivery and monitoring of the land management plan.

3.1 Receive, evaluate and report on land management plan delivery by actors in receipt of funding for delivery of land management plan objectives.

4. Celebrate and reward those delivery bodies who perform well in implementing management plan objectives.

Commons Association (or comparable Farm Cluster Group/Management Areas/Tier 2 and 3 etc.)

Discussion notes:

  • Very local approach on the ground

  • Confidence in the room that what’s agreed will be enacted

  • Day to day management

  • Stock counts

  • Mapping and condition assessments on the ground

  • Monitoring

  • First port of call for contracts for delivering work

  • Coordinating groups of farmers to deliver public goods through practical hands on action

  • Sets grazing levels for Commoners/graziers

  • Coordinating livestock management within the area

Project officer notes (copy and paste from Elinor Ostrom, Common Purpose Report, Glover review and nef Co-Production manifesto):

  • Use peer support networks instead of just professionals as the best means of transferring knowledge and capabilities

  • Provide mutual support systems that can identify and tackle problems before they become acute, encourage behaviour that will prevent them happening in the first place, and advise people who find themselves in difficulties

  • Seek any necessary permission

  • Decide and document who does what and when

  • Implement the agreed management, together with regular monitoring and review

  • System permitting identify the specific objectives for their common

  • Connection with national strategy

  • “strong partnerships and the agreement of common goals among diverse actors"

  • Determine their own contract and ask the enforcer to enforce only that on which they have agreed

Combined draft organizational purpose Commons Associations (or comparable farmer group):

Members of this Association commit to one another to co-produce a delivery and monitoring plan for their Commons, in accordance with the objectives articulated in the Dartmoor Management Plan, and then self-organize to implement their delivery and monitoring plan, reporting results to the Dartmoor Land Management Board.

Accordingly and in order of priority:

1. The overall objective is to accommodate the aims of as many interests as possible whilst causing least possible disadvantage to others and a 5 point process will be followed:

  • Identify the spatial priorities and objectives outlined in the management plan which are applicable to the landscape under their management.

  • Get the perspectives of all group members on which spatial priorities and objectives to include in the delivery plan.

  • Examine the range of management options available to address the issues.

  • Select the most appropriate management options, decide and document what the group will be doing, who will do it, when they will do it alongside how each activity will be monitored and who will be responsible for the monitoring. Complete unanimity is desirable but may not be possible, broad consensus is sufficient to finalise the delivery and monitoring plan for submission to the Dartmoor Land Management Board who will uphold the plan in case of dispute and whose financial arm will distribute any relevant funding to group members based on the plan.

  • Seek any necessary permission, then implement the delivery plan and monitoring plan, reporting back to the Dartmoor Land Management Board.

1.1 Changes to the delivery and monitoring plan may be proposed by individual members based on their on the ground experience, time permitting changes need to be approved in advance by the Association but they may be approved retrospectively. The individual will be financially responsible if changes are not approved retrospectively and instead referred to the Dartmoor Land Management Board for arbitration.

2. The Association will undertake to support the Dartmoor Land Management Board in gathering data on their Common necessary for the development and monitoring of the Management Plan.

3. The Association will support peer to peer learning networks to enhance the implementation of their delivery plan, bringing in external facilitation, advice and contractors as and when needed.

4. Resilient Commons Associations will always work to develop their communication, collaboration and consensus building skills.

4.1 Committing to abiding by the outcomes of the development and monitoring plan process; operating openly, honesty and in ways which enhance trust between members; acting inclusively at all times and all levels; share a common information base; share responsibility for outcomes and implementation.

4.2 Provide mutual support systems that can identify and tackle problems before they become acute, encourage behaviour that will prevent them happening in the first place, and advise people who find themselves in difficulties. Only referring disputes to the Dartmoor Land Management Board or Commoners Council as a last resort.


Discussion notes:

  • Practically managed the landscape through grazing and other means

  • Work within the management framework of the Commons Association to deliver the objectives set by the Dartmoor Board

  • Monitoring and reporting in on the ground of public goods delivery

  • Contract to provide public goods

  • If changing activity from Management Association need to submit justification for change to Commons Association

Project officer notes (largely copy and paste from Elinor Ostrom, Common Purpose Report, Glover review and nef Co-Production manifesto):

  • Each commoners actions need to be noticeable

  • Herders themselves can make a binding contract to commit themselves to a cooperative strategy that they themselves will work out

Misc. Discussion Notes

  • Needs to integrate with everything else because you have land elsewhere.

  • Land outside of National Park could come into other agreement with other spatial priorities.

  • Home farm and common separate – although acknowledging the two are linked but same agreement, liability issues clear.

  • Fear of payment reclaiming is the biggest challenge.

  • Management board coordinating policy across commons and home farms

  • Challenge of borrowing authority from the Commoners Council - would have to rely on power of money only

  • Dutch cooperatives – people can be removed

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