Annemarie Naylor

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= UK-based cooperative and community asset activist; director of Common Futures


"Nowadays, I split my time between traditional community asset (land/building) development and digital asset/enterprise development by communities:

Previously, I established

This involved a focus upon policy at the national level, but also included the development of guidance for the public sector

Over the course of a five year period, we supported the transfer of assets as diverse as castles, piers, libraries, youth clubs, nurseries, community centres and car parks to communities in both urban and rural settings – at the last count, 1,500 transfer initiatives were reportedly underway in England each year. Most recently, I’ve been tasked with looking at the potential for communities to own/manage hospitals as well as take over former Ministry of Defence sites – so, the slow-burn, larger scale, complex assets people might begin to explore in earnest as austerity continues to affect communities in the UK…

More recently, I have taken an active interest in ‘intangible’ assets that might be acquired/developed by and for communities.

So, the projects I’m currently involved in include:

I’m pretty ‘fanatical’ about saving/transforming libraries – so, I also wrote:

I’m currently writing about the impact of changes to rural library services with the Office of Public Management (OPM).

Otherwise, my summer is liable to be taken up exploring the scope to establish ‘data coops’ -"

2014 Overview of Activities

"* Launched the Common Libraries initiative;

  • Supported a number of community owned telecommunication network projects and the Carnegie UK Trust’s Enterprising Libraries pilot programme;
  • Explored the potential for former Ministry of Defence sites – including infrastructure assets – to be community owned and managed;
*Attended OuiShare Fest 2014 and won a prize of a one-week acceleration program in Paris, France; 
  • Made first contact with the P2P Foundation (!);
  • Presented at the Open Knowledge Festival in Berlin and the Off Grid Festival in Somerset;
  • Contributed to an Open Coops Deep Dive in Berlin and Meissen;
  • Launched the Our Data Coop research project;

Worked on numerous library service transformation, action learning and research projects for central and local government;

  • Contributed to Living on the Edge 4 at the UnMonastery in Matera as well as to the town’s successful EU Capital of Culture Bid;
  • Presented at TedxBrum and Locality’s Annual Convention on the subject of knowledge commons development and management;
  • Met SO MANY AMAZING new people and worked with SO MANY OF THE AMAZING collaborators I'm incredibly lucky to know."


Community-Owned Digital Assets

Annemarie Naylor:

"There’s a long history in the UK of community ownership going back over a thousand years - of people arguing against enclosure right through to the Occupy movement in more recent times. What’s interesting is that it appears to stop there, with land and built assets, upon which the old agrarian and industrial economies were based. It hasn’t really been considered by proponents within the context of the knowledge economy. Building the confidence of local communities to acquire and develop their own land and built assets has been core to my work over the past five years. But, more recently, I’ve been looking at the potential for communities to develop digital assets – both tangible and intangible. Locality helpfully sponsored a pilot programme, managed by The Creative Coop, to explore how community knowledge transfer might be harnessed to develop online services and enterprises. Whilst helping Lyme Regis Development Trust, we realised that the community lacked decent connectivity to the web, so the pilot project took that on as well – facilitating a knowledge exchange with which enabled the group to install their own wireless network. There’s also a lot of attention coalescing around libraries – as many as 10% will be managed by communities across England in the near future. So, we’ve been exploring how libraries, as bastions of information, could harness community publishing in its broadest sense and focus upon multimedia production, presentation and archiving rather than mere information consumption, to underpin a new hyperlocal digital asset class. Finally, there is emergent thinking around how open data could be harnessed as a digital asset or endowment by communities to deliver social impact as well as underpin an investable proposition. Could libraries help drive the open data agenda at the local level?" (

Source: interview by Olivia Tusinski of the Open Institute.

On Data Coops

Annemarie Naylor:

"Data Coops There’s huge merit in the open data agenda - with opportunities for greater transparency, enterprise and innovation. But, there are also issues surrounding legibility, analytic capability and ownership from the point of view of communities. Many open data platforms, including, are tech rather than community oriented – failing to start by asking: what is it you are trying to achieve? In addition, a significant proportion of the requests received by the Open Data User Group reveal the challenges the layperson faces when seeking to identify and/or extract information that is useful – in marked contrast to larger corporates and private enterprises keen to benefit from the release of public data. On ownership – we’ve been transferring and endowing communities with land and buildings for over 100 years now. And, if something is to represent an asset, it has to somehow belong to them, at least, such that they can extract social and economic value from it in some way. How does that translate to the world of open data if we hypothesise that it could underpin digital assets and enterprises developed by and for communities? Is there also an opportunity here to harness value from the vast amounts of data generated by community organisations themselves? If these same organisations were supported to better capture information about their offline activities, might there be scope for powerful data coops to develop - where groups could pool information about their activities and associated outcomes and, with that, support the cross-fertilisation of good ideas, increase their competitiveness as well as their social impact?" ((

Source: interview by Olivia Tusinski of the Open Institute.

On P2P Libraries

Annemarie Naylor: "When Carnegie made grants to libraries in the C20th, he described them as ‘instruments for the elevation of the masses of the people’. Libraries were to provide access to learning and advancement for people who would otherwise have limited opportunities – specifically, for education and self-improvement. Carnegie intended, then, that the purpose of a library should be educational, and Carnegie envisaged a facility open to everyone in a community who wanted access to books and learning. The Provision of access to information, knowledge and learning continues to characterise perceptions of the role of librarians in the C21st. And, although libraries are evolving to become read/write, providing access to multi-media and media manipulation tools, we’ve yet to see a thoroughgoing disruption of the C20th institutional boundaries of libraries. That is, we’ve yet to see established a bona fide #p2p platform for the purposes of knowledge exchange founded upon commons principles.

Some libraries have begun to co-locate conventional ‘intellectual property’ with the tools to generate more of the same. Aligning themselves with the pursuit of traditional economic growth even has some libraries formalising that mission: But, intellectual property creates an artificial scarcity of knowledge – and, it subjects innovation to legal restrictions for the purposes of profit maximisation: Traditional intellectual property, in effect, overlooks the long tail - - where locally rooted knowledge and know-how is concerned.

The rise of corporate search would have us believe that the long tail – access to all the world’s knowledge – is no longer mere aspiration. But, search engines control the placement of information listing via algorithm, and limit the diversity of information sources to please advertisers. In effect, search represents the very antithesis of the library as an untrustworthy, automated intermediary. Ironically, search also harnesses the long tail of locally rooted knowledge and know-how to profit from collective intellectual property in the form of #bigdata – uprooted from its origins in time and space and disfigured to discern global trends. This, in turn, is giving rise to concerns about the uses to which our collective IP are being put: How, then, might the library become a trusted #p2p platform for the purposes of producing, exchanging and consuming knowledge and know-how?

Information is, according to some, neutral – and, it is only valuable or powerful when coupled with insight: If information is neutral, and we need to ask the ‘right’ questions to derive genuine insight from it, perhaps we should start here: Then, perhaps we might usefully introduce an Oracle Machine - - to the #blockchain to establish #p2p knowledge exchange underpinned – once again – by locally rooted #humansearch." (via email, May 2014)