Mind launches Ecotherapy – part of our Natural Health Service

Today sees the launch of Mind’s campaign for Ecotherapy and the publication of its Feel better outside inside report (PDF). The document makes the case for Ecotherapy as a mental Health treatment and as preventative public health service for all.

Mind has been one of the pioneering organisations in using the natural environment as a way of encouraging active and healthier lifestyles. In particular, their Ecomind’s project, with the help of the Big Lottery Fund, has been critical to their success.

Valuing local information – a heritage perspective

It is interesting that at a time when we supposedly trust experts and official information less, we seem totally reliant on it when taking decisions about the natural environment and its heritage. Lines on maps, survey results and scientific analysis is presented as our only understanding of reality and then we get all prickly when some grizzled local sticks their hand up and says we are wrong.

They have been walking their dog in that place for 50 years and it just not like that.  In my experience this local information has considerable value, challenging or validating the official sources and providing the detail that can bring the issue to life. In a recent project to do with flooding local people were presented with flood risk maps showing lines that represented an ‘official problem’ – flooded properties. These local people were indignant. “We are not a problem” “We love living by the waterside, we understand how and when it floods and deal with it, come and see for yourselves”.  Now by collecting this local information about one communities understanding of flooding, the project can develop a much more tailored response to that risk.

I would go as far to say that local knowledge is a vast untapped resource. People are surveyed relentlessly to find out what they like (in the vain of 9 out of 10 cats prefer…) but not to find out what they know. This is particularly the case in the Landscape Heritage projects Resources for Change have recently been undertaking with PJ.elements.

In trying to uncover how people want to engage with their heritage, for an Audience Development or Participation Plan, we uncover the local stories about that heritage, providing new information not known by those relaying on the official analysis. Human beings are naturally curious, and magpie like, collect information as they go about their daily business. This information and the knowledge that comes from it seldom surfaces as the people themselves, not being an ‘expert’, do not believe that anyone one else will be interested in it. However, by showing an interest and asking the right questions in the right way people will usually be generous with what they know – often just chuffed to be asked.

We call it Investigative Consultation and use it in a lot of the work we do, helping us develop a rich understanding of an issue or opportunity from the local perspective. This can then be integrated into the official information (and don’t get me wrong we still need the official information as well!) providing a much more rounded picture of our natural environment and its heritage and more engaged local people. So we need to put local information and knowledge on a par with official research and analysis undertaken by experts because at the end of the day everyone is an expert of their local patch.

Mike King
Resources for Change

Greening Crowdfunding

Bristol park in poor shapeSince last year Pete Johnstone has been working with Spacehive to generate interest within environmental and countryside organisations across the UK of the value and potential of crowd funding.  Crowd funding is already big business and the billion pound turnover it generates is only set to grow and it is essential as Pete says that the environmental movement taps into this potentially rich and profile raising source of funds.

Meanwhile, Maddie Yuille from Spacehive explains what Spacehive is all about:

Spacehive is a crowdfunding platform for civic spaces – whether that’s sprucing up the rusty old playground at the end of your street, putting on a street festival to bring your neighbours together, or opening a pop-up shop showcasing local talent.

However, if there’s one type of project we keep seeing more and more of, it’s green spaces. From community growing spaces to pocket parks and forest gardens – Spacehive is awash with green.

Crowdfunding fits this type of project well – the fundraising targets are often manageable figures, coupled with a strong base of supporters who are ready to get out there and bang the drum!

Driving this are a number of environmental organisations hosting their own pages on Spacehive, including Groundwork London, Capital Growth, South West London Environment Network, the Red Rose Forest in the North West and the national playing fields and outdoor space charity, Fields in Trust. We’re also working with Business In The Community to bring much needed volunteers, from some of the UK’s biggest corporates, to work on site – digging, planting, and painting.

Just recently the Red Rose Forest (a forestry charity based in Manchester) successfully hit their funding target for “Stevenson Square Green Makeover”. After having raised nearly £40,000 from 81 funders, Stevenson Square in Manchester’s Northern Quarter will soon see green roofs and hanging baskets sprouting from every corner! Donations from the council, Experian (via a match funding deal with Spacehive) and local people and businesses ensured that this tree-free part of the city will soon be gloriously green.

If you have a green idea of your own, why not give crowdfunding a go? You can upload your project to Spacehive here. Here’s to the keyboard and the trowel!

Maddie Yuille
Project Coordinator

Photo above: This poorly maintained park is suffering and if the local authority struggles to maintain it, maybe local crowd funding could help keep it in better shape.

The Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership Scheme: an exciting challenge

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) recently reaffirmed its commitment to its popular Landscape Partnership programme to which it allocates millions of pounds every year. One of the few such schemes currently in the East of England region is the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership (LP) which is in its development phase.

Last July, the HLF awarded c.£90,000 to the Ouse Washes LP to develop this scheme in detail, with c.£900,000 earmarked subject to a satisfactory stage 2 submission in late 2013. Cambridgeshire ACRE is leading on this on behalf of a wide partnership; it appointed a Programme Manager to capture the information needed for the stage 2 bid.

The Ouse Washes LP focuses the attention on a landscape worthy of conservation and promotion, thereby helping to provide a secure future for the landscape, its heritage and communities. There is a lot to do: the Ouse Washes landscape is not well known, it does not cover any landscape designations, nor is it recognised as a tourism destination. Also, most people do not understand how it all functions and what the threats to this landscape are.

The development phase is progressing well. Nevertheless, it is not an easy process, working within timescales which are such that we cannot afford to waste time. Several projects are now underway, including a Landscape Character Assessment to describe the landscape, and community consultations to capture information about audiences, access barriers and engagement opportunities. Our diverse partners which include community organisations, charities, county councils and statutory agencies, are also developing the 25 or so projects they will be carrying out during the delivery phase.

Timely and effective communications are essential throughout this process, with the partnership and with our diverse audiences. Using good quality imagery is vital in this; the Ouse Washes LP has got access to good resources, including a database of photographs taken by PJ.elements for Cambridgeshire ACRE showing people and places in this fascinating landscape.

If you would like to know more about the Ouse Washes LP, please check out our blog, http://ousewasheslps.wordpress.com/, and Twitter page, https://twitter.com/ousewasheslp.

Mark Nokkert

Ouse Washes: The Heart of the Fens Landscape Partnership Programme Manager, Cambridgeshire Acre.

Launch of the Cambridge Conservation Campus by Sir David Attenborough

An excellent and inspiring speech by Sir David Attenborough on the history on nature conservation was the highlight for me at the recent launch of the Cambridge Conservation Initiative Conservation Campus.

An extract of Sir David’s speech can be seen in the video:


Spacehive is on TV – Inside Out – BBC London Region

The programme will feature the Global Garden, Global Kitchen which aims to create a new community garden and kitchen in Tottenham, London. The fundraising for this project will be through UK crowdfunder Spacehive.

Well worth watching if you want to find out about how crowdfunding works.

Pub is the Hub (UK)

Pub is the Hub has just announced the launch of the new Community Services Fund to help pubs diversify into community services.

Details: http://www.pubisthehub.org.uk/news/story/new_community_services_fund_boost_for_british_pubs