Green Leadership Programme: Building Community

Our Green Leadership Programme is well underway and now that we’re in month two of six, we wanted to blog about our latest workshop to give you a taste of what the group are getting up to.

Each month, the group get together for a full-day workshop focused on a particular theme, and this session was all about community building. It took place at The Courtyard in Court Hey Park, thanks to excellent facilities provided by One Knowsley. The session was led by Rachel Hardy, Project Coordinator for Food, Land & Wellbeing for Faiths4Change, and included a talk from Jon Hutchinson, Programme Director for Communities at Groundwork Cheshire, Lancashire, and Merseyside.

Rachel started the morning session with a fun icebreaker using a fortune teller as a way of asking questions such as ‘How does spending time in green spaces make you feel?’ and ‘What barriers can people face when accessing your project?’. It was a great way to get the group warmed up and talking to each other about themselves and their work.

Rachel then shared information about her organisation Faiths4Change, an environmental charity based in Merseyside that works to enable communities to take meaningful action on climate change. She used one of their community growing projects, The Secret Garden in Stoneycroft as an example and as a way to prompt wider discussions amongst the group.

Barriers to Community Access

The first discussion prompt was about understanding who your community is. As Rachel explained, by mapping the people you want to reach, you can start to define and understand how they might face barriers to accessing your project. For the Secret Garden, one particular barrier to community access had been the lack of infrastructure on the site. And so, one of the group’s early tasks was to build a shelter and toilet for the community to use while they were there.

Some of the barriers the group discussed from their own projects ranged from the physical, such as locked gates and fences, to the geographical, such as transport. Solutions explored by the group included creating a friendly ‘welcome’ at entrance points to encourage potential participants to come in. For tackling transport barriers, tapping into things like The CTA, or linking with other organisations, such as schools or youth centres to explore the possibility of sharing minibuses.

The group also explored barriers more broadly in relation to societal structures, barriers to active citizenship, and apathetic attitudes to the democratic process. The group shared some suggested reading with each other, as well as signposting to organisations and resources that explore this idea further, including Power to Change and models such as Leading Beyond your Authority.

Community Priorities

The next group discussion focused on the priorities for your community, in particular ensuring that we know what they are, and understand how we can deliver them successfully. Rachel explained how The Secret Garden’s initial priority was as a food-growing project but over time that has taken a back seat over new priorities that have developed from the community, such as social activities and friendships, improvements to health and wellbeing, and increased skills and confidence.

The group discussed ways to evaluate the priorities of their projects, such as with surveys or feedback forms. They touched too, on some of the problems that often arise from collecting the kind of data and feedback required by funders, and explored different ways of doing this, such as the Human Library concept.

After the morning session and a spot of lunch, the group took the opportunity to take a stroll around the grounds of Court Hey Park before coming back together for an afternoon spent looking at communities and intersectionality.

Exploring Intersectionality

Setting up outside for the afternoon session, Rachel introduced the idea of using intersectionality as a way of considering how everyone’s life experiences, characteristics, or identities can differ, and how this can impact how we each interact and engage with the world around us.

Using an ‘identity flower’ as a template, the group were encouraged to self-reflect by listing aspects of their own identities such as nationality, language, faith, culture, and education. This gave them not just an opportunity for introspection but also a means through which to consider how people with differing identities and life experiences, may interact with their work.

An open and engaging discussion followed, full of ideas-sharing as the group swapped stories, tips, and experiences around how to engage meaningfully with a range of different people, communities, and projects.

The day concluded with lots of food for thought and the group will meet again next month at Platt Fields Market Garden in Manchester.

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