Highlights: Forest owners’ own communities could complement the present expert-driven forestry extension; Enhancing informal interaction between forest owners calls for sufficiently homogeneous reference groups and also new communication contexts; New purposes of forest ownership and innovative forest management practices are suggested topics for novel owner communities; Forest professionals may initiate these communities, but the continuity depends on the owners themselves.
It is a common concern that non-resident private forest owners are less able to make informed decisions regarding their forests. Moreover, the present guidance given by forest professionals is not reaching all owners. In this study, we suggest enhancing knowledge exchange among forest owners by increasing their mutual and informal interaction that could inspire them to co-construct new knowledge. The first objective is to identify present emerging activities that constitute knowledge exchange contexts (communities) for Finnish forest owners. The second objective is to discuss the challenges of current Finnish forest extension and their implications when introducing Communities of Practice as a complementary response to existing, yet insufficient, professional-led extension. Data consist of Finnish forest owners’ and forest professionals’ (n = 43) focus group interviews. The qualitative analysis was theoretically oriented followed by data-driven coding and grouping. According to the results, the role of expert-led encounters is strong in Finland and owners’ opportunities for good mutual communication are rare. Informal communities exist mainly in the countryside among neighbouring owners and within families. To enhance knowledge sharing among owners, one needs to identify innovative topics and activities that would inspire owners to commit to their forest property and perform active silviculture. These communities would operate as creative learning environments allowing participation of different levels. When cultivating forest owners’ communities it is important to consider actors’ roles. Forest owners themselves are responsible for the functions and continuity of these communities, although forest professionals could also initiate new and sufficiently homogenous reference groups for the owners.