Ethnic Minority Youth Participation in the Built and Natural Environment

Participation to raise awareness and build aspiration for employment

Black Environment Network (BEN) in partnership with the Westerhailes Multicultural Welfare Project (WMWP) decided to address the lack of ethnic community representation in the environment and heritage sectors by promoting opportunities for participation and employment.

This is the first project of its kind aimed at young people combining opportunities for them to enjoy the environment, and gain awareness of environmental responsibilities with an introduction to volunteering and employment opportunities.

Two-way process of awareness raising

Between October 2003 and June 2004, five heritage and environmental organisations contributed staff time and resources to prepare the project. Then over a period of a fortnight, young people from Edinburgh’s ethnic communities and the organisations’ staff engaged with each other. This helped broaden everyone’s experience. It gave the young people a chance to connect culturally and socially with Scottish greenbelt landscapes and museums and build a positive image of the sector. It also gave staff, such as countryside rangers, museum curators and even a boat captain, the opportunity to develop appropriate ways to enthuse them and talk about a range of careers.

Making it happen

Workers took part in BEN’s Diversity Training to assist them in gaining an understanding of ethnic environmental participation, enabling them to begin to address barriers, promote employment and open out their services to new audiences.

“The best thing about the trip is making friends”

Over 60 young people from ethnic communities took part in five educational and interactive visits to heritage and built and natural environment sites. They participated in activities such as tree planting, visiting an exhibition and learned how to document their work through diaries and photographs. Organisational staff told stories about how they started in similar ways and developed thei interest into their chosen career paths. An exhibition of the young people's photographic work was staged at Edinburgh City Art Gallery in May 2005.


The Future

Partners are building on the success of this project. While nurturing and sustaining their work with these young people, they are also reaching out to other excluded groups. New potential participants are coming forward, stimulated by word of mouth contact between different ethnic communities.



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Ethnic Minority Youth Participation in the Built and Natural Environment