Ethnic Communities and Involvement in Green Spaces

BEN Focus Group - Manchester

Date: 16th Dec. 2002

Venue: Barnhill Childcare Centre, Mossside, Manchester

Facilitator: Henry Adomako

Scribe: Saleem Oppal

Participants: Liz. Drysdale: Barnhill Childcare Centre. Various ethnic communities - Manager
Mai Young: Wai Yin Women's Chinese Society . Chinese community - Development worker
Daniel Yupet: New Tree Aid. Sudanese Community - Development worker
Shorn Braitwaite: Afro-Caribbean Community - Environmental Activist

Apologies: Ruhel Ahmed, Akeel Quershi, Robina Shar, Sundus Slam, Colin Floyed, Anita Lawsin, Delaina Lawson

Note: When working with community members, sometimes many legitimate unforeseen difficulties can result in a low turnout which may be unacceptable for a focus group. However, because of the comprehensive discussion and the quality of information resulting from the group, it was decided that the report will make a valid contribution to the understanding of issues around green spaces and ethnic community involvement. Additionally, his paper was shared with those who were unable to attend. They felt that they were in agreement with the information.

1) How many of you were interested in green spaces before we asked you to be involved in this focus group?

4 out of 4

2) What is a green space?

There were various contributions from the group about the types of green spaces. Half of the group gave examples of urban green spaces from their immediate surroundings, whilst others referred to green spaces in the countryside and around the urban fringe.

The group defined green spaces as open spaces with greenery and trees.

All of them agreed , when talking about green spaces, urban ones as well as those further afield should be included. This is because as a whole, they can give a related range of experiences to urban ethnic communities and benefit their quality of life in different ways.

Some green spaces named:
Parks Green belt lands
Gardens Woodlands
Lay-bys Wild lands
Playgrounds Waste grounds

3) How have you used green spaces?

“We ourselves are quite environmentally aware, so we are aware of green spaces, but many members of our communities are not making use of green spaces.”

There was also a general consensus that many members of ethnic communities are not aware of the whole range of green spaces locally and further a field.

Ways of using green spaces named by the group:
Walking Playing sport Doing arts and crafts
For shortcuts Chilling out Gardening
Relaxing As lay bys Play
Parties Celebrations Events
Reading Allotments Exercise
Riding bikes Bird watching Fishing
Conservation

4) What would you like to see or do in a green space?

“Many members of our communities are not aware of green spaces locally and further afield. Their use of green spaces is limited. Members of the communities are unsure of what is available in terms of activities. They are uncertain as to whether what is offered may be suited to their social and cultural needs. However given the right opportunities, ethnic communities would feel encouraged to participate.”

“Not only do we wish to see a range of activities made available, but also all green spaces should be pleasant and safe. Additionally, efforts should be made to encourage involvement.”

Here are some of the activities, and aspects of green spaces which they would like to see :
Artwork from a range of cultures
Herb Gardens
Boats on the lake
Keep fit facilities
Water features such as fountains
Activities proposed by ethnci groups
Somewhere for ethnic groups to run their own programmes of activities
Events to bring different communities together, such as festivals
Training to enable newcomers to be interested and to take part in new activities
Watch persons, duty officers, to ensure safety and give information (preferably a local person to increase the sense of community ownership) A base (building) for community groups, set in open space, to enable a range of indoor activities linked to the outdoor environment
Clean toilets, enough of them
Floodlights to increase safety and length of use
Bins, enough of them so the public can easily keep the places litter free
Public telephones
Cafés and kiosks
Monitoring to track of progress in community involvement
Feedback in the form of Community Reports, Youth reports, or on issues
Involvements which develop a sense of ownership - participating on advisory groups, engaging with developing programmes of activities and services, consultation

5) If you have been involved in the care, improvement, or creation of green spaces, please tell us what you did

“Ethnic communities feel that they have little or no information about who is responsible for the care, improvement and creation of green spaces. This lack of information as to who does what is a major issue which results in ethnic communities taking less responsibility for green spaces. For example when they would like to report something - if they do not know where to find the person to speak to, they cannot do it.”

Some examples of taking part in the care, improvement and creation of green spaces named by the group:
Creation of different green spaces (Taking part in preparation of and consultations for new green spaces. Street gardens project. Allotments etc.)
Taking care of green spaces (Mowing grass. General commitment to keeping an eye on green spaces. Taking action if space is being violated. Appropriate mechanism of support structure needed. Picking up dangerous items / litter. Education )

Improving green spaces as volunteers

6) What puts you off using green space?

Personal / Social

Many green spaces are not Comfort Zones ( Many members of the ethnic communities are often uncertain as to whether green spaces are meant for them too, and whether they can use and relax in them)
Feeling safe
Access - how difficult is it to get to, how dangerous roads to cross are for children
Pollution, dirt
Inattentiveness of people using the parks – dogs not on leads
Most green spaces do not have features which reflect the presence of ethnic groups in the neighbourhood and their social and cultural needs
Lack of programmes of activities and services which attend to the needs of different ethnic groups

Facilities

Poor landscaping and facilities
Lack of spaces of the community to organise their own activities
Lack of special needs facilities
Lack of innovative ideas to involve the disabled, e.g. blind people
Green spaces in our areas do not have the standard of facilities and resources affluent areas have

Knowledge / support / Resources

Lack of good information about facilities and activities
Communication channels not obvious:
Who's responsible for maintenance?
Who owns the green space? Who do you ask if you want to do something in the space ?
Who is responsible for programmes of activities ?
Lack of outreach, e.g. information into schools or community groups
Workplaces should also be involved
Community projects should be involved

Main Barriers

“The most important barriers to address, in terms of the use of green spaces by ethnic groups, are the lack of green spaces as comfort zones and the failure to represent the diverse social and cultural needs of the different ethnic communities .”

7) What puts you off getting involved in the care and the improvement of green spaces?

Personal / social

Getting hands filthy in the muck
Difficulty in getting started, motivated
Lack of time
Lack of ownership
Lack of confidence in getting involved
Uncertainty of reception, e.g. will they welcome refugees?

Facilities

Lack of single sex context for activities, which is essential for some ethnic groups
Lack of tailored programmes and services to address the social and cultural needs of specific ethnic groups
Difficult or unpleasant access route to the green space

Knowledge / support / resources

Not knowing what to do, what the activities are like
Domination by white, middle-class people - newcomers can feel like intruders
Lack of a sense of belonging
Lack of awareness of and outreach to ethnic groups
Lack of understanding and support for the social and cultural needs of ethnic groups
Lack of marketing to ethnic groups

Main barriers

“The main barriers include the lack of encouragement and support to get started and becoming motivated, and the lack of time. Never getting past the initial stage means many members of ethnic communities do not get involved in the care and the improvement of green spaces. However , given the opportunity, encouragement and support, members of ethnic groups would probably make an extra effort and appropriate time could be found to get involved. “

8) What puts you off getting involved with the creation of green space?

Personal / Social

Time problems. Creating green spaces is a big commitment
Lack of skills/confidence to undertake something so complicated
Lack of awareness of how much green spaces can benefit the lives of ethnic groups
Fear of being taken over by others and not getting what we want

Facilities

No tools or equipment
Lack of information and expertise

Knowledge / support/resources

No encouragement to start. No one believes in us
No support in general. Most of it is new to us
Lack of assistance with funding and getting other resources such as information or expertise

Main Barriers

“The lack of information, initial support and assistance with accessing funding and expertise are the key factors, resulting in individuals and communities not getting involved in the creation of green spaces. “

9) What will encourage us to be more involved?

Personal / Social

Linking green spaces to everyday issues such as growing healthy foods and getting good value foods - issues which would entice us to get involved
Transferring of skills
Address breakdown of social interaction between different social groups
Sustainable good outlets for information
Community green space projects with good leadership and which reach out to involve different groups


Making friends

Access to funding / resources / knowledge

Easy access to information and expertise
Creation of opportunities to find out about funding
Encouraging ethnic groups to travel out of their usual neighbourhoods to widen their vision
Facilitating networking, visits to other green spaces project to learn from others to encourage and inspire ethnic groups to get involved
Learning about the related cycles of nature, health, knowledge and development

Facilities

Community projects within green spaces
Community green space projects which reach out to us
Projects which invest in and enable community involvement
Easy tools to use
Tools exchange to address access to cheap tools
Local person employed as park warden or duty officer

Main actions

“The main actions needed to encourage ethnic groups to get more involved include having community green spaces projects which reach out to involve us in its creation, easy access to information, employing someone from the local community as a park warden, and networking visits to other green space projects to see what others have achieved and how they have benefited from having new green spaces of their own.”

10) Is there anything that anyone wants to add?

“It is important to take action to bring parks back to community ownership”

“There is a real need to invest resources to kick-start the full involvement of communities in the care, use and implementation of green spaces.”

“The embodiment of spiritual and social feelings, and a sense of belonging for individuals and the communities are extremely important for ethnic communities. Attention must be given to these areas.”

Conclusion

There was real commitment and enthusiasm for actions for green space involvement from the members of the focus group. They all felt that involvement with green spaces can bring about community togetherness and provide significant benefits i.e. the link between recreation and health. However, they felt strongly that this can be achieved only if ethnic communities are given ownership and provided with the appropriate stimulation, skills and support.