They are our common heritage; our shared wealth and they belong to all of us that call Plymouth home. We have a dazzling range of woodlands, parks, squares and waterfronts covering some 1600 hectares – over one third of the city’s land area.
As the world changes, the way we think about and care for our parks must also change. With cuts to government spending, a changing climate, loss of biodiversity, growing issues around public health and the impact of global pandemic, our parks are more important than ever.
Plymouth is one of eight places in the UK to win a place on the National Trust’s and the National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Future Parks Accelerator. With this opportunity, the Plymouth Green Estates Management Solutions (GEMS) project will explore how we can bring a new way of thinking to supporting and protecting the future of our parks. One strand of the GEMS project – Enrich – will focus on how social enterprise and community business thinking can be used to find positive solutions to sustaining our parks.
Plymouth’s ability to innovate when it comes to doing things differently is nationally recognised. We are the UK’s first Social Enterprise City. Often described as “businesses for good”, social enterprises trade whilst at the same time helping tackle issues such as public health and the environment. We now have 200 such community businesses, regenerating our neighbourhoods, creating jobs, and providing sporting and cultural activities – even generating local, green electricity.
How can we bring this social enterprise thinking to our urban green spaces?
The Enrich programme, Oct 2019 – Mar 2021
Year one of the Enrich programme brought together over 47 ‘experts’ over the course of six days to learn, discuss, do and decide together about enterprising approaches to our green spaces and how they are managed. When we say experts, in addition to experts in social enterprise, we also mean experts in Plymouth parks. This includes parks users, residents, and communities, as well as council staff. Basically, anyone with an interest in community business and parks.
With social enterprise in mind, outcomes of the Enrich programme could include a new set of guidelines and tools for how we manage our parks; changes to longer term uses to parts of our park estate, maybe for food growing or renewables, or possibly increases in short term uses for sporting or cultural activities. It’s a blank page in an open book.
Year one of the Enrich programme ran from Oct 2019 to Mar 2020, with a fun and inspiring programme, combining ideas workshops, expert seminars, site visits, live project development and social events. We were joined by representatives from our communities, Plymouth City Council, voluntary sector, social and community businesses, universities, public organisations and other businesses.
Now in year two, running from Mar 2020 – Mar 2021, we are continuing to work with our group of experts and community business leaders to develop and introduce new ideas and thinking. This includes, helping a number of park based social and community businesses to start-up and grow, changes to some council and partner working practices, and introducing tools and systems to support more social enterprise activity in parks and urban green spaces.