About the CLT Center

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The Center for Community Land Trust Innovation is a not-for-profit nongovernmental organization established in 2018 to promote and to support community land trusts and similar strategies of community-led development on community-owned land in countries throughout the world. The Center provides the following services: (a) collecting and curating historical materials documenting the origins and evolution of the worldwide CLT movement; (b) conducting, cataloging, and disseminating academic and non-academic research; (c) producing case studies, directories, guides, and other educational materials; and (d) providing training, referral, and technical assistance for organizers and practitioners working with CLTs and similar strategies for the equitable and sustainable development of place-based communities. The Center publishes books and monographs under its trademarked imprint: Terra Nostra Press.

Purpose

The purpose of the Center for Community Land Trust Innovation will be to further the development of the community land trust model both in the United States and abroad.  To support the development of new community land trusts and the training of community land trust practitioners, the Center for Community Land Trust Innovation will engage in activities that include but are not limited to the following:  (a) maintaining and curating historical materials; (b) conducting, cataloging and disseminating academic and non-academic research; (c) producing and publishing case studies, directories, guides, and other educational materials; and (d) training, referral, and technical assistance services.

The Center’s larger, aspirational goal is to foster the creation of more just societies across the globe. For purposes of the Center’s work, in both the strategies it promotes and the organizations it supports, justice has a three-fold requirement: systemic racism and other social and economic barriers to inclusion must be dismantled; equitable access to land, housing, and land-based resources must be secured; and any hard-won gains in inclusion and equity must be sustained over time.

What lies at the heart of the Center’s commitment to community-led development on community-owned land is a conviction that community land trusts can be (and should be) effectively used to achieve all three. This malleable, versatile strategy, with its many variations and applications, is capable of moving the places we live a bit closer toward justice – and making justice last.

Areas of Focus

INNOVATION:  The Center for Community Land Trust Innovation will foster new ways of conceptualizing, structuring, and applying the community land trust model that go beyond the provision of permanently affordable housing. Initial priorities of the innovation program will be to explore uses of the model in promoting security of tenure in informal settlements in Latin America and South Asia, as well as securing land for urban agriculture in the US – and elsewhere.

HISTORY:  The Center for Community Land Trust Innovation’s history program is tasked with maintaining and curating historical materials originally collected in the digital archive, Roots&Branches. This archive will continue to document the growth of the community land trust movement in the United States, while devoting increased attention to the origin and evolution of community land trusts in other countries and in Puerto Rico.

RESEARCH:  The Center for Community Land Trust Innovation's research program will catalogue and disseminate both academic and non-academic studies that examine the formation and performance of community land trusts. It will also evaluate the policy environment within which community land trusts either prosper or fail to thrive.

Origins of the CLT Center

The Center for Community Land Trust Innovation is an outgrowth of Roots & Branches, an online archive launched in 2014 to track the origins and evolution of community land trusts in the United States. Over the next few years, this collection of historical documents, photographs, videos, and profiles grew larger and its focus grew broader, encompassing CLT innovations in the USA and CLT developments in other countries.

Endeavoring to enhance the permanence and relevance of the website they had created, and to create a new platform for researching current CLT practices and for exploring novel variations and applications of the CLT model, the Center for Community Land Trust Innovation was launched in 2018, with significant assistance from the Global Land Alliance.

Part of the underlying rationale for the Center for CLT Innovation is the belief that community land trusts have much to offer the world’s 1 billion people who live as squatters on lands they neither own nor control. The Center’s leaders also believe that CLTs can be used more widely to secure reliable, durable access to food production sites, thereby contributing to healthy communities, local self-reliance, and the global community food system movement.

Guiding Principles

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The Center for CLT Innovation is committed to supporting organizations that build a culture of belonging, actively inviting the contribution and participation of those who live or work in the place-based communities they serve. We are dedicated to removing barriers to participation and opening doors for representation, both in the organizations we support and in the Center itself, for people of all identities and differences, including those of race, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, tribe, caste, social-economic status, and language. We recognize, too, that throughout the world these same identities and differences create systemic inequities in the ownership and use of real property. The Center is committed to promoting models of tenure that ensure more equitable access and more secure use of land, housing, and land-based resources by populations that have long been subject to exclusion or displacement by market forces and political elites.

Strategic Focus:  Among the many strategies employed around the world for assisting people and places in need, the community land trust (CLT) has proven especially adept at promoting local development that is both equitable and sustainable. The Center was founded to raise the international profile of the CLT and related models of community-led development on community-owned land, while supporting their incubation in regions and countries where CLTs are in their infancy or unknown.

Geographic Focus:  Most CLT development to date has occurred in the Global North. The Center will maintain and expand the online archive, Roots & Branches, documenting the origins and evolution of these northern hemisphere CLTs which are found mostly in the USA, England, Canada, and Belgium.  The majority of the Center’s activities, however, will be focused on the Global South, where the community land trust (CLT) model could be an instrument to secure land tenure for hundreds of  millions of persons living in informal settlements, thereby extending the model’s reach on an unprecedented scale. Our secondary priority will be on urban agriculture, where land insecurity places many growers at risk of displacement. Here, the Center is likely to devote as much attention to the Global North as to the Global South.

Building a Global CLT Movement:  We believe that movements bring energy and hope to people, organizations and governments advocating for social justice and equitable access to land and other natural resources. We will work to facilitate connections between activists and grassroots organizations engaged in similar issues, and bring additional resources to their efforts through our connections with global entities.

Collaboration Not Competition:  We commit to seeking alliances — and not falling into turf battles. Where duplication of efforts exists, we will seek ways to harmonize our efforts. We will also work collaboratively on approaches to funding in order to avoid unnecessary competition, and to ensure fair allocation of resources.

International Collaborations:  Learning + Doing:  While maintaining collegial relations with existing CLT networks in the Global North, we will seek to develop and to support new collaborative efforts in Africa, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and South Asia. These collaborations will be framed along the themes of (a) learning and (b) doing. LEARNING will involve information sharing (such as digital platforms and peer exchanges), as well as placed-based and distance learning instruction (workshops, courses, conferences, webinars, etc). DOING will focus on bringing together teams of experienced practitioners to work collaboratively with local activists, attorneys, NGOs, and government officials to help establish new CLT programs.

Information Sharing:  We will aim to create an online set of resources to serve the global CLT movement, with a focus on emerging CLTs in the Global South. This will include (a) an online archive of historical materials pertaining to the growth of the global CLT movement, (b) collection and dissemination of research on CLTs and related models of community-led development on community-owned land, (c) documentation of CLT innovations and best practices that lift up exemplary organizations, projects, and model documents. These resources will be produced in multiple languages in order to cater to a global audience, and other considerations will be made to ensure accessibility to those with visual and hearing impairments.

Conferences/Peer Exchange Gatherings: We will seek to support regional conferences and peer exchange gatherings by providing structured curriculum about CLTs and their application to informal settlements and urban agriculture.