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    Urban Agriculture in shared spaces: the difficulties with collaboration in an age of austerity

    St Clair, Rebecca ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4080-1289, Hardman, Michael, Armitage, Richard and Sherriff, Graeme (2020) Urban Agriculture in shared spaces: the difficulties with collaboration in an age of austerity. Urban Studies, 57 (2). pp. 350-365. ISSN 0042-0980

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    The expanding critical literature on Urban Agriculture (UA) makes links between the withdrawal of state services and the institutionalisation of volunteering, while observing that challenging funding landscapes can foster competitive environments between third-sector organisations. Where these organisations are forced to compete for survival at the expense of collaboration, their ability to collectively upscale and expand beneficial activities can be compromised. This paper focuses on a lottery-funded UA project and draws predominantly on observations and interviews held with project staff and growing group volunteers. Research conducted in Wythenshawe, Manchester (UK), highlights difficulties experienced by organisations attempting to function in an environment disfigured by depletion, illustrating conflicts that can arise between community groups and charitable organisations competing for space and resources. Inter-organisational dynamics are considered at two scales: at the grassroots level between growing groups, and at a structural level between project partners. In a landscape scarred by local authority cutbacks and restructures, a dearth of funding opportunities and increasingly precarious employment, external initiatives can be met with suspicion or hostility, particularly when viewed as superfluous interventions. The resulting ‘siege mentality’ reflects the need for organisational self-preservation but perhaps paradoxically results in groups with similar goals and complementary ideologies working against each other rather than in cooperation.

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