Democracy, Community and Our Community Benefit Society (CBS)

We have created a social enterprise called a Community Benefit Society (CBS), which applies commercial strategies to maximise community and environmental benefits. This short video explains our governance approach.

We received excellent help from the Plunkett Foundation’s ‘Make Local Woodlands Work’ programme, which offered us critical support in deciding on a suitable legal framework for the project.

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Signing the CBS documentation

We decided to become a Community Benefit Society (CBS) because it is the most democratic option for a project like this. Anyone can become a member as long as they buy one £50 share. Each member gets one vote, so no one person can ever dominate the decision-making process.

Initial Members Shares were offered in Autumn 2018. We currently have around 50 Members and hold an Annual Members Meeting each autumn.

Whole group with hail VLowRes v1
Visioning Day – Photograph by Jules Bristow

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The CBS Management Committee

Members of the CBS vote for (and can stand to be) members of the Management Committee which makes decisions on and directs the strategy and day-to-day activities of the woodland. Current Members of the CBS are:

Marina Robb (temporary co-chair)

She is Founder and Managing Director of Circle of Life Rediscovery CIC and The Outdoor Teacher Ltd, organisations that aim to transform education and health through nature. Laughton Greenwood CBS brings together all my passions – love of the land, opportunity to increase access for vulnerable groups and be part of an exciting pioneer regeneration project that we hope will be championed in multiple ways! I am an advocate for the integration of environmental, education and health and wellbeing services, and am committed to finding ways to live well with nature.

Marina Robb was voted onto the MC in 2018.

Mads Ryle (temporary co-chair)

I grew up playing outside in the Ouse Valley, with parents who instilled in me a deep love of the natural world and an awareness of the threats it faces. I have a background in youth work, writing and communications, and campaigning, and have been involved in many organisations. I am also trustee of a youth arts charity. I now work as a gardener as well as for the global ecological justice organisation http://www.terra-justa.org. Being involved in the CBS is a fascinating experience which is allowing me to learn a huge amount about the complexities of understanding and managing the relationships between human communities and their environments.

Mads Ryle was voted onto the MC in 2018.

Theresa Hoenig (Treasurer)

I have enjoyed a successful and varied 30 year career in adult education, culminating in the role of Deputy Principal, directing curriculum and student experience at Working Men’s College. As part of the executive group managing a college with a £5million annual turnover I have developed a keen awareness of the importance of sound financial management and how to ensure it in practice. I have always loved spending my free time out of doors, with interests including walking, cycling and photography. Laughton Greenwood fascinated me from my first introduction when I brought my grandchildren for a Wild Day Out and as a result I have spent the past 10 months as a co-opted member of the Management Committee as Treasurer helping to ensure we have the finances to carry on the excellent work that has been started in this lovely woodland.

Theresa was co-opted onto the MC in the autumn of 2019.

Roger Ross – landowner and acting Secretary

Hi. I’m an elder, who is passionate about the environment and community…currently working on connecting up the many levels of interacting with the natural world, I live on the Downs south of Lewes in happy valley. I was born in Chelsea and escaped from London in 96… I’m still connected to the auction business in started in 79. I have the privilege of working with so many charities and social businesses.

Roger was voted onto the MC in 2018

Gordon Winrow

I was brought up on the outskirts of a Lancashire town and was very fortunate to have access to woods and moorlands. At age 17, I came to London as a Civil Servant, then joined the airline BEA/BA and later formed a Travel Management company. My interests then were mainly sea-going, walking and cycling. Having retired, I joined the now Laughton Green CBS.Two years later, I still enjoy being involved in a project that is restoring these splendid woods, which also satisfies my interest in birds and wildlife (RSPB). I feel privileged to be part of a keen, bright team, particularly as l am not on the doorstep, being domiciled in London or Hastings.

Gordon was voted into the MC in 2018.

Charlie Irving

Having a local Woodland to go to, with a rich diversity of Trees/Wildlife and Community is something I really value. I have also been coming to these woods for many different events, work and personal fitness times over the years and have seen the woodland change in many ways.The benefits of having this relationship in my life is what first inspired me to become a Member and Shareholder. After a few years of deepening this connection and finding out more, I could really begin to appreciate the importance of Humans being in ‘right relationship’ to the Natural World. Over time, I began to witness how a careful and well thought management plan could provide more opportunities for further growth and diversity; not only in the landscape and wildlife, but in the diversity of local people wanting to connect and enjoy the Woodland. I have since felt inspired to become a new Committee Member and hope that I can support local people in feeling the same way that I do about the Woods.

Charlie was co-opted onto the MC in the summer of 2020

Daniel Ford

Daniel (he/him) is a Director of Rewilding Education, a Community Interest Company seeking to inspire radical changes in education, schooling and learning by creating and promoting healthier, fairer, and wilder ways of educating children, young people, and adults. He has worked in Further Education for over 15 years and is deeply committed to a more-than-human-centred education. His recently completed PhD, entitled ‘Between the Factory and the Forest’, was partly conducted at Laughton Greenwood. He lives in Sussex and loves being outside, wrapped in a blanket, waiting for the first stars to appear.

Daniel was co-opted onto the MC in the summer of 2020

Hannah Oakman

Kia Ora! I’m Hannah, 23, and on an OE from New Zealand after finishing my Development Studies degree last year. Since being in the UK I’ve developed a passion for gardening, and I’ve been volunteering at Rodmell Food Forest since December 2019. I’ve been studying two RHS papers to improve my knowledge in the field since May. My motivation to join the CBS is to contribute to the preservation of green spaces, boost the CV, and interest in the therapeutic benefits of being outdoors and connected to nature. I’m excited to meet new people and get stuck into future projects!

Hannah was co-opted onto the MC in the summer of 2020

Subhadassi

I recently stopped working for a charity in Brighton where I had been the chair/ director for 5 years.Before this role I worked as an artist/writer for 15 years. My freelance work included working as a creative facilitator in organisational development, as well as teaching creative writing (particularly poetry) and other work. I love being outdoors, and a lot of my creative work happens in or is stimulated by the outdoors. I hope to bring some of my experience of working with/in organisations, as well as my creative inspiration and perhaps my writing skills into this project. I have eleven year old twins and live in Ringmer.

Subhadassi was co-opted onto the MC in the summer of 2020