Social inclusion, green spaces and community led social change, with guests Nyma Haqqani and Paul Ely
Onya: Hello everyone, Onya Idoko here. Welcome to our new podcast Life of PIE. P I E- Prosperity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Life of PIE is an original podcast from UCL Institute for Global Prosperity and features research by our MSc PIE students. Our mission is to start a different kind of conversation with researchers, practitioners, entrepreneurs and policy makers doing cutting edge work, rethinking entrepreneurship and innovation to achieve structural and systemic transformations.
Manolo: Picture yourself in a park. Can you acknowledge how urban green spaces provide vital environmental benefits, such as improving air quality, reducing noise pollution, and supporting biodiversity? In addition, these places have a huge potential. Urban green spaces have the power to bring communities together and provide much needed respite for urban residents to recharge their mental and physical health. Sadly, not all people have equal access to these important public spaces. Ethnic minority groups are particularly susceptible to social exclusion.“Even when ethnic minorities have physical access to parks and other forms of green space, they still aren't using them or participating in them, leading to social exclusion and environmental inequities.”How do we encourage evening minority participation in green spaces? How do we achieve environmental equity where governmental programs have been largely ineffective? Perhaps the answer lies in community-led social change. Community organizations often have better access than local authorities to the minorities of their communities and can reach them in a more effective way. One such example of community organizations managing and protecting their local green spaces are Friends of Parks groups, or more commonly referred to as Friends groups that come under the umbrella organization of National Federation of Parks and Green Space. “We help to share learning amongst different groups, we help in the development of good practice, and we also help to strengthen grassroots community organizations.” In today's episode, we will delve into a piece of participatory action research that, through the lens of these Friends groups, uncovers good practices that have been successful in breaking down barriers to access and encouraging greater participation of ethnic minority groups in northern green spaces. By the end of this podcast, we may ask ourselves what is the potential for other community organizations like Friends groups to improve social inclusion and contribute to creating socially sustainable cities?
Onya: I'm joined by two special guests, Nyma Haqqani and Paul Ely. Nyma used to work in the pharmaceutical industry as an analyst. However, during the pandemic, she was inspired to make a career change in order to pursue work she found more meaningful and where she could feel she was contributing to building a better world for people and planet. She recently completed her MSC in Global Prosperity from the Institute for Global Prosperity. So while this is a podcast for the MSC PIE program, we do welcome our sister program students. That's MSc in Global Prosperity. And Nyma is one of the alumni. Paul is the Trustee for the National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces. And Paul will be talking today with Nyma about her dissertation. I'm going to dive in now and ask a few questions. But first of all, welcome Nyma and Paul and thanks for being here.
Nyma: Thanks Onya, I'm so pleased to be here today. Thanks for having me.
Paul: Likewise Onya. Really pleased to be here today.
Onya: Great. I'm really looking forward to this conversation because we get to talk about, wellbeing, ethnic minorities and urban green spaces. My first question is for you Nyma- what is the problem? Can you set the scene for our listeners? What exactly is the problem?
Nyma: Sure Onya, so my research looked at ethnic minority participation and inclusion in UK urban green space. And the interest for this topic, let me just start with that. It stemmed from when I first moved to London for my Masters. One of the things I absolutely fell in love with was the availability of urban green space within the city. I was never more than a 15 minute walk from beautiful green space, and having that access, I really felt the positive effect of frequenting these urban refuges. Doing a masters can be an intense and often stressful undertaking and taking even just quick breaks to go visit a park, even if it was just to sit on a bench and take in the greenery. It had such a positive effect on my mental and emotional health. I'm also someone from an ethnic minority background and on a lot of my frequent trips to the parks near where I live, which had diverse demographics. In terms of ethnicities, I noticed considerably fewer people from ethnic minority backgrounds at these green spaces. In fact, the statistics report that ethnic minority groups visit green space 60% less than the rest of the English adult population. And that is despite the introduction of legislation and policies aiming to improve the equality of access to green space across the UK. So essentially what that means is that even when ethnic minorities have physical access to parks and other forms of green space, they still aren't using them or participating in them, leading to social exclusion and environmental inequities. It highlights the issue of marginalized communities not feeling comfortable accessing and utilizing green spaces even when they are physically present and available to them. So, if ethnic minorities feel uncomfortable or sense of not belonging in a park, it indicates an issue of qualitative inaccessibility, meaning that the park is not designed or managed in a way that promotes inclusiveness and comfort for all individuals and groups. And there's a body of research that confirms this from academics like Claire Rishbeth, Bridget Smith, Ash Amin and Edwin Gomez. And we could ask ourselves the reasonable question why might ensuring green space is socially inclusive be important? Well, firstly, because doing so is an important aspect of social sustainability, as access to green spaces can have positive effects on physical and mental health, community building and overall quality of life, improving inclusion and participation of socially excluded people in urban green space increases social cohesion. Secondly, ethnic minorities have already started to constitute a majority in some urban areas. And as the UK becomes more ethnically diverse, which it is projected to keep doing, actually it is really important space managers figure out how to make urban green space socially inclusive and enable active participation from these ethnic minority groups. Why? Because volunteer work will continue to remain crucial to managing green space as austerity policies continue. So environmental sustainability is actually dependent on improving ethnic minority participation. And thirdly, diverse and inclusive community participation in urban green space includes positive benefits on urban biocultural diversity. This links biodiversity and cultural diversity, which in turn enhances both social and environmental resilience. And so my research establishes that community-led solutions by community groups have success in improving ethnic minority participation and inclusion in urban green spaces, fostering more inclusive participatory governance of them. And these community groups are often better connected to community minorities, and because they are embedded, they can help bring communities together, leading to increased social cohesion. And because community organizations, they play a vital role in promoting the wellbeing and resilience of a community, which studies have shown that community led initiatives and partnerships as well as community managed projects can actually empower local communities and increase civic participation, leading to higher social returns on investment. They empower local residents to bring about change in their own communities and are considered to be a cornerstone for driving social change. So, because I really wanted to conduct research that would have social impact and incorporate multiple perspectives and knowledge sharing, I chose to do my research through You Sales Community Research Initiative for Students, which partners students with community organizations to produce research. And I partnered with the National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces, or what we call the Nfpgs, and I think Paul could probably tell you a lot more about that.
Onya: Thank you. Nyma, thanks for setting the scene and highlighting some of those issues that perhaps not a lot of people consider or think about in terms of wellbeing and the benefits of green spaces. Paul, I'd like to come to you and if you could maybe tell us a little bit about what the National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces does, what your role is in that organization and how you worked with Nyma.
Paul: Yes, thank you Onya. So National, I should say, we think, 27,000 parks and green spaces within the UK and something like 7000 Friends of Parks groups and Friends of Parks groups help to protect and improve the quality of our parks and green spaces. And the National Federation acts as a coordinating body to help friends groups to better fulfill that role. Some of the tasks that we undertake is we help to share learning amongst different groups, we help in the development of good practice, and we also help to strengthen grassroots community organizations. And I guess overall, we aim to act as a resource, really, for groups. We've been established since 2010 and essentially we're a group that's based on volunteers, though we have previously had funding and we are looking for funding at the moment. And as I say, we're very much about helping communities really to come together to protect and improve their local parks and green spaces. We work with a whole range of partners so people like Natural England and the Heritage Lottery Fund, Keep Britain Tidy, Fields in Trust and also will take part in, you know, national initiatives. So government, you know, back in 2018, established the Parks Action Group and National Federation was the only voluntary organization represented as the voice of the community on that organization. And in terms of my own role. I've been supporting the National Federation for a while purely as a volunteer, and it's only quite recently, from about three months ago, that I've become a trustee myself. And I've always been interested in the area of policy and research. So I've actually been asked to lead on the area for the Federation, and I'm particularly interested in the area of ethnic minority involvement and generally inclusion within parks. So it was incredibly rewarding to be able to work with Nyma on this project.
Onya: Thank you, Paul. Nyma, I want to come back to you and ask, so what was your research question?
Nyma: Yeah, so just to add also to what Paul was saying, it's exactly as you said in the Friends of Parks groups, which I'll probably commonly refer to as Friends groups because that's sort of the shorthand. They're local community volunteers, exactly as Paul was saying, and they're essentially community representatives that amplify their communities voices. So the Nfpgs sorry, the National Federation, they aim to ensure that Friends groups are a true representation of the community embodying, inclusivity and diversity. And so in order to do that, there was a need to conduct research to identify network wide good practice that improves ethnic diversity in their partnerships with local community organizations and the membership of the Friends groups themselves. So the purpose of the research was to explore the self reported success of initiatives that have improved ethnic minority participation in some Friends groups and their green spaces and to formulate good practice recommendations for other Friends groups across the network. And I did this by analyzing what self reportedly successful Friends groups had done to achieve the improvements of ethnic minority participation and what the common themes in the different initiatives were that could offer basis for good practice recommendations.
Onya: Thanks, Nyma. So if you could maybe talk a little bit about how you answered the research question so we know we have the empirical setting now, how did you go about answering your question?
Nyma: Great. So I interviewed participants from six different friends groups in Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, London, Gloucester and Bradford, and the local demographics varied and so this was good for generalizing findings, I would say. Roughly half were friends groups for a green space in an area where ethnic minority groups were majority or near equal majority in the local community, while the other half had local communities where the ethnic minority groups were an actual minority in the local community. And the initiatives the friends groups reported employing in order to improve ethnic minority participation and inclusiveness ranged from partnering with local ethnic minority organizations and community groups, partnering with local youth groups from schools and universities, recruiting persons from ethnic minority backgrounds to be on the board of trustees or core group or hiring a park keeper that was more representative to the local community as well as moving meetings to more inclusive venues, for example, and I extracted five themes from friends groups reports to successful initiatives. And these were namely representation gaining access, diverse activities, youth and facilitation.
Onya: That's super interesting, Amar. And what I'd like to do then is unpack the findings. So I presume that these are the findings, those main themes that you just mentioned.
Nyma: Yeah, sure. So, representation, this encapsulates two things. The first is highly visible representation. So for example, one of the participants reported how he came to realize that the cohesion between the park keeper who served that obviously as a form of authority and the local ethnic minority community was not functioning very well. And so he decided that after the retirement of the then park keeper, he would request that the next one be more representative of the local community. And just that initiative alone, he reports, saw a complete change in the park and the local community using that park. He said it made a huge difference because 90% of the community are from an Asian background and having an Asian park keeper was a key turning point in opening up avenues. So there was reportedly success and highly visible representation like this in the form of an ethnic minority person, invisible leadership roles like park keepers, like friends groups, core group members, or then more passive but still highly visible representation, like events that celebrate ethnic minority cultures and customs, for example, Diwali celebrations in the park. And the vast majority of participants reported that such highly visible forms of representation contributed to success and helped ethnic minorities think about the possibility of participating. So one participant in particular, she said that it helps people think. It's not just for other people, it could also be for me. And then the second factor under representation was the importance of significant links. So a dominant view amongst all the friends groups was that key partnerships with local ethnic groups were critical to improving ethnic minority participation. These included partnerships with health centers, working with ethnic minorities, neighborhood groups or faith groups, for example. And partnering with these kinds of key groups reportedly improved ethnic minority participation either in mere usage of the park or then more active citizenship. For example, one participant related how the local Asian community started a park watch with the friends groups and took to patrolling the park with them at night. And that just evidence is, you know, very active citizenship in how it's like self initiated, and then moving on to gaining access. Sometimes the local ethnic minority community could be very difficult to reach. So one friend's group said that they had tried everything from putting flyers in mailboxes to speaking to local counselors for assistance, but they simply could not reach the local ethnic minority community. It was just very hard for them to reach them. And it was only when they recruited a female representative from an ethnic minority background herself to be in the core group that they had a breakthrough in this representative, she had the trust of the Asian community in the area, especially the women. So it was through her that the friends group was able to get insight through feedback on what the needs of the community were and were then able, able to divide a strategy on how those needs could be met. And this input from the local community is paramount to improving participation and inclusiveness and spatial managers. They need to be open to questioning their own, like preconceived notions about what is required so that they can manage spaces incorporating input from the community to effectively meet their needs. Other groups had similar success in gaining access to their minority community by, for example, holding informal chats with ethnic minorities from the area or having their insider employee trustworthy. Word of mouth communication, which was another recurring theme that came up because that overcomes language barriers by using native language communication.
Onya: Can I just sort of talk a little bit about that last theme? So a follow up question would be, you mentioned a representative that was brought in, a lady who had trust within the community was sort of the key to breaking through in what they weren't able to achieve. My question is, how did they know or how did that solution come about to have someone who was more trustworthy? Was it something that the team came together, had a discussion and identified, we should have someone who is more representative, a woman who has built trust across the community? How did that come about?
Nyma: So the research basically. It was done on proposal sampling. And we managed to find these groups that had had success with certain initiatives that they'd done. So this particular group that had this idea, this was on their own initiative. And it came about, I think, basically, because they tried everything else. They had tried, you know, flyers and mailboxes. They had tried speaking to local local counselors and trying to reach the community in every way that they could think of. And then this was the one thing that they thought, okay, let's try this. And I think they managed to it was a breakthrough for them because it was something that just worked, because gaining access, it encompasses gaining trust and insight, as well as using insider communication. And I think employing that female representative, it kind of did all three of those things really well.
Onya: Thanks, Nyma. Just before we move on with the rest of your themes, I want to bring Paul in here at this point and ask you talked about the role that the National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces plays and you sort of manage the different groups, am I right?
Paul: Probably more a case, actually, of seeking to support mainly through Web-based resources, but also through limited ability, because we are all volunteers to be able to give some direct support to groups.
Onya: And so my question, Paul, is, within your organization, do you create platforms for different initiatives to exchange ideas or to share experiences with each other? To say, this is what worked? Because it's possible that other volunteers, other local groups might be experiencing the same kind of problems as one group. So I'm wondering if there's a platform that allows for these cross fertilization of solutions.
Paul: So mainly at the moment, we make reports and investigations available through our website, which is Nfpgs. But in addition, we like to hold conferences as well, mainly on a regional basis where we're able to bring people together for common discussions. We're kind of organized at lots of different levels, and one of the main ways that we organize is on an area basis. So there's something like 70 area based Friends forums across the UK, which perhaps would be, you know, everyone, you know, living within a region comes together to share experiences and issues of common concern and learn from each other and support each other.
Onya: That's great. Thanks, Paul. Naimo, let's head back to your findings because they're really interesting. Can you carry on to the next one then?
Nyma: Sure. So the third theme is diverse activities, and everyone I interviewed agreed that having a variety of organized activities was key to getting minorities involved in urban green space. This includes activities organized by the Friends groups themselves, as well as independently by the local community groups. The creation of this kind of busy, bustling green space with many activities going on provides ample opportunities for intermingling between different user groups. So let me paint you a picture. So for example, there might be a coffee morning going on in the Onsite cafe, which will attract the health walk group organized for older people. And so then they come in and enjoy a game of dominoes or chess while having some tea and biscuits and talking to people, stopping by from other activities as well. And it just creates a rich tapestry and low barriers to mingling with others. And sometimes the activities described by the friends groups were organized by ethnic minority specific community groups. So there was mention of a Ghanaian and football team that plays on Sundays as well as a Kurdish women's walking group. So this even relates with the representation theme, if you can see as they provide passive but visible representation at the park. And while these kinds of ethnicity specific groups, they could seem exclusionary to others and not embodying the kind of interculturalism that usually is aimed for, it likely helps marginalized groups to participate by doing so in the safety of their own numbers, especially when the community is very tentatively emerging to join the wider community, which was the case in the local communities of some of friends groups I studied. And of course, it's likely that as participation levels rise, ethnicity specific groups will not stay isolated within their own groups, but will gradually begin to mix and interact with other groups as well. And then moving on to the fourth theme which was youth. The vast majority of participating friends groups strongly emphasized the success they saw by involving young people into the green space. This was done in various different ways such as partnering with schools and universities or through Friends group organized activities. So one of the participants, the way she put it was when the children do things, the parents turn up. And it's so true because this kind of passive, low barrier involvement of ethnic minority parents supported the broader learnings for ethnic minority groups of how they too can participate in green spaces. So when they just come by to drop or pick up their kids they see the notice boards about various activities and such that they can get involved in. So even just by coming to watch their child's activity, which allows for an easy, passive observer role, ethnic minority parental participation in the green space increases. And this in turn allows them the opportunity to build relationships with other. Parents, both from the same ethnic background and different around the commonality of their children, taking place in the same activities, which results in a sense of collective community. And the last themes facilitation. So again, a majority of the participating Friends groups emphasize that sometimes encouraging ethnic minority participation required various forms of facilitation. And sometimes this was compensation in the form of funded transportation, for example, because otherwise they just wouldn't be able to take part in the activity. And sometimes it was in the form of facilitating capacity building by sharing knowledge and expertise on fundraising, for example, or legal processes to get approvals from councils. This capability building was highlighted by Nadeem Aziz, who was our community partner from an ethnic minority background. And he emphasized the importance of how those who have specialist knowledge and expertise in friends groups should impart their knowledge to ethnic minorities from the community in order to build their capabilities. He highlighted that one of the reasons people from ethnic minority backgrounds are hesitant to participate actively in friends groups, for example, in the core group itself, is due to their lack of formal education or skills, which then results in a lack of confidence in how they might contribute to the friends group. And other times, friends groups facilitated ethnic minority inclusion by acknowledging barriers to participation, existing in current practices and then making adjustments to them. So for example, one group changed their meeting location from a pub to a more inclusive venue and another group attempted to make local ethnic minorities feel included and more comfortable in the Park's new tea room by inviting feedback on the menu and then adapting it on the basis of their dietary preferences or restrictions maybe. And our community partner from the ethnic minority background, he also pointed out that facilitating inclusivity in this manner, it allows ethnic minorities to maintain their cultural identity and beliefs and be their authentic selves, which is really important because this then makes them feel comfortable enough to open up and share ideas and step up for leadership roles. So yeah, that was all themes and as you can probably see, they're closely interlinked and one successful initiative that the French groups might have talked about often drew on several themes at the same time.
Onya: Thanks, Nyma. That's really interesting. So just recapping these themes you had representation, gaining access, diverse activities, use and facilitation. I guess I'm going to bring Paul in now a little and ask from your perspective, what was the impact of this study that Nyma did for your organization or for the different Friends groups?
Paul: So we are seeking to use Nyma’s dissertation as part of a funding bid to help us with achieving, hopefully, long term sustainability. What we're seeking to do in terms of our approach. We've been in touch with a number of national organizations that work with ethnic minorities and green space, and we're seeking to get them together to establish a steering group for us and help to advise us as to how we can maximize impact by basically disseminating and rolling out this project with different groups. The basis for doing this will be to use the framework and recommendations from Nyma’s report, trial it out with more groups so that we gain more experience and more feedback as to what works with a view, then to writing it up as a good practice guide. And I guess the importance of it is that there's very, very little research available about ethnic minority people and parks. Parks really do tend to be dominated both in their design, in their management, and in who's involved in friends groups by people of the white ethnic origin. So this really is, we hope, something that's going to make quite a difference. And it seems to be part of a trend that I'm observing in parks. And particularly as a result of COVID where usage of parks has gone up exponentially, actually, the question of who's using parks and what are the benefits from parks has gone up the agenda importance a great deal. And I suppose people from ethnic minority communities tend to have worse socioeconomic conditions and also tends to have worse access to parks and green spaces as well. So we're hoping that by being able to really put a spotlight on this, that would be able to start something that will gain momentum and really be a bit of a game changer.
Onya: I hope so too. I want to come to Nyma and maybe, Paul, you might also be able to speak to this as well. But did you, in your research, also look at some of the outcomes or benefits, whether qualitatively or quantitatively, of these initiatives? Perhaps more ethnic minority groups are starting to use a particular park just because of these initiatives that the Friends groups have started to implement, are we seeing sort of outcomes in those users of the parks?
Nyma: Yeah. So the parks that I studied, the friends groups rather that I studied, this was based on self reported measures of success, obviously, and that was kind of observation or then feedback from the ethnic minority community themselves. So the participants in the research, they mentioned that, yes, we are seeing now a lot more ethnic minority background people coming and actually using the park, whereas we didn't see them before. And that might have something to do with COVID as well, but it also overlaps with the initiatives that they've been doing. And we're seeing a lot more active participation in some parks as well where the ethnic minority community is actually self initiating and self initiating and self mobilizing to take part in partnership with the Friends group. So in terms of outcomes, I think, yes, there was reported social cohesion and social inclusion, for sure. Yeah.
Onya: Thanks Nyma. Actually, I think it would be really interesting. I know that your study was on the Friends group and I wonder if Paul might even have an idea of this. I think it'd be really interesting to find out what the ethnic minority communities, the users of the parks, what are some of the benefits that they're gaining. What might have changed? As a result of using these parks more.
Paul: I'm afraid I haven't Onya. Parks are not an area that's well researched. And a lot of the research that's been done round parks and ethnic minorities tends to talk about barriers and is very short on actions to overcome barriers. And what Nyma’s report is going to help nfpgs to do, I think, is to actually give some concrete actions that groups can take. At this stage, we don't know what the outcomes, what the benefits will be, but the types of activities that friends groups get involved in would be things like practical volunteering. So looking after areas in parks, they are involved in events and activities, they are involved in marketing as a group, they involve people in a kind of sense of purpose of looking after their park. So I guess ultimately the best benefits are about improving people's wellbeing and a sense of belonging and the area being a better area to live in or to work in with a better park.
Nyma: And just to add to a point that Paul mentioned, it was really important to us that we frame this research in a very positive light, coming at it from a positive angle. Because, as you mentioned, it's true that research in this area is usually around the barriers to representation or why there aren't why is there, like, underrepresentation? Whereas my research, the gap that it fills is kind of what has worked. This is kind of about the success story of it. These friends groups were successful, so what did they do that worked? And how can we pass that along then to the network of UK friends groups? And that kind of, I think, touches upon the sort of the approach that I took with the research as well and how we're hoping to proceed forward as well with a very inclusive approach. So I chose to undertake my thesis with a strong commitment to participatory action research. And this approach is characterized by active collaboration between researchers and community members to jointly design and carry out aspects of the research process as well as continuously reflect and active resolve problems. And it's honestly an ideal method for addressing real world problems like this and promoting community led social change which was the goal of my research. And so I work closely with three community partners throughout this process Dave Morris who's not here, he's the chair of the Nfpgs and a friends group in London Paul who's here with us today and Nadeem Aziz who is the chair of a friends group in Birmingham. And by making the research process more collaborative and inclusive, by incorporating insight from partners, it helps to reduce first of all the potential feelings of defensiveness or discomfort that can arise when addressing a topic like ethnic diversity. And throughout my research journey I ensured that power we shared constructively with my community partners, and collaboration co creation were at the forefront of our efforts because I had to recognize that the valuable knowledge and insight my partners held, which was essential in guiding and informing the research process, and it really added a depth and richness to the research. And we brought Nadem in a little later on. Actually, it was during the research I initially collaborated with Dave and Paul. And then just through an ongoing reflection on positionality, I recognized the need for the voice of an ethnic minority member within the friends group to be included in the research. So Paul and Dave, they're both of white British ethnicity. And despite my own ethnic minority background as an international student in the UK, I recognized that I lacked a detailed understanding of the lived experiences of ethnic minority citizens or residents in the UK. And so given that the goal of the research was to increase the inclusion of ethnic minorities in friends groups and their green spaces, it was crucial to include the voice of someone from an ethnic minority background who is a member of a friends group. So this led us to seek out and include the voice of Nadeem Aziz, who was our community partner, who was from an ethnic minority background, and whose insight ensured that the research reflected the lived experience of those it aimed to impact and create social change for. And that's how we're hoping to proceed going forward with the project that the Nfpgs is hoping to start.
Onya: Thank you. Nyma and that captures truly what the industry for global prosperity, that approach, taking a community approach involving the citizens, including their voices. And I really like that. I'm not sure what led to that Nyma that reflectivity that point of being reflective and then. recognizing the need to include the voice of an actual ethnic minority. So that that's actually really, really good, what you did there. And just to move on, I guess, from Paul's response and your response to the previous question I asked, that just means, and I'm sure you captured this as well in your work Nyma future studies. So making recommendations for future studies. Your study, of course, is then opening up the box and saying more studies are needed in this area. And we hope that the listeners and those that are interested in this topic would consider looking into this topic a little bit more, perhaps even moving forward to speak to the users of the parks themselves, because it would be really interesting here with these different minority groups, their views, including their voice in the project. So that would actually be fascinating. A follow on from your study. So I'm going to bring this to a close by asking you, Nyma, and then I'll come to you, Paul. So we've had this fantastic conversation which is really timely and important. Now what? So what are the implications of this study and what should your audience do with this information? And by audience, feel free to think about, for example, broadly, think about policymakers, think about users of parks, think about the ethnic groups, think about entrepreneurs, business innovators. What are the implications of this study for the listeners?
Nyma: Right, so that's a great question. Where do we go from here? To improve local, regular and sustained participation in green space from minorities? I formulated several recommendations based on the research findings for other friends groups were struggling to improve their ethnic minority participation in their own groups and green spaces. For example, some of them were just to recruit more ethnic minority persons into their core active group. They can encourage visitors from diverse backgrounds to start their own activity groups, or partner with local schools and youth clubs, make use of trust and word of mouth communication and referrals, things like that. But it's important to keep in mind that local success depends on the specific local context. So it's important that friends groups assess the current level of ethnic minority participation in their green space and then put the appropriate recommendations into action. And my study, it really just adds to the body of research that highlights the meaningful role community organizations can play in effectively driving localized, bottom up efforts towards achieving positive social change. And the NFPGS is planning to take forward the results of this research and a project aiming to use the recommendations that were the research output and establish networkwide good practice. And we are currently working on getting the project underway rightful and have plans to hopefully partner with some national ethnic minority community organizations as well. In terms of just the broader angle on this, I think there's just there's been a general trend towards increasing emphasis on equality and diversity measures in the UK in recent years, and this is reflected in various policies and initiatives, regulations just aimed at promoting equality and addressing discrimination. There's been several social and governmental reasons have probably contributed to this increase and focus on equality and diversity measures in the UK since probably around 2020, including, for example, the Black Lives Matter, which brought sort of racial inequalities to the forefront, the COVID-19 pandemic, which, as we all know, disproportionately affected minority communities and highlighted health and economic disparities. Right. And then the UK's exit from the European Union also raised concerns about the potential impact on rights and on other marginalized groups in the UK. So these events, all of them together, sort of, I feel like, among others, they've led to an increased public scrutiny of existing inequalities just generally, and a greater call for action to address these issues. And as a result, there has been a heightened focus on equality and diversity measures by government organizations and individuals in recent years. And I think this definitely is apparent even in the efforts being taken in urban green space. And I think Paul could maybe tell you a bit more about how inclusiveness and diversity are factoring into even the fundraising proposals that he's working on today for the Heritage Fund, for example.
Onya: Thanks Nyma- Paul
Paul: perhaps some examples. In addition to my role as a trustee, I do work as an independent consultant in parks. And a couple of examples. So one would be from a charity that I've worked with in South London at a park called Myers Fields. And again, this was a charity that really wanted to broaden its representation. So I was able to work with them to recruit trustees from ethnic minority backgrounds. And again, that was very much seen in the same way as we've been focusing here on increasing the offer and involvement. That was very much seen as reaching out and involving people from different communities and then in London Borough of Harringay, which I've been helping work with recently, the friends groups in Harringay have got together and started their own initiative looking at ethnic minority involvement in friends groups in Harringay. And the council itself has employed a community engagement officer because it's recognized that actually it's not talking to the whole community and it needs to start to talk to ethnic minorities, to young people, to older people, disabled people, et cetera. So it does feel, as Nyma was saying, that there's a good momentum taking place at the moment, that it is much more about seeking to be inclusive and involving of everyone in the community.
Onya: Thank you Paul. And thank you both so much for joining us on this episode, this very interesting episode. And hopefully we will get to see more research within this area and create more awareness about the benefits of parks and being inclusive and how this enables social cohesion and a sense of belonging within communities, which is really what we need more than anything now. So thank you both for joining us for this conversation.
Nyma: Thank you Onya, it was a pleasure.
Paul: Yeah, likewise Onya, really pleased to have been able to take part.