Young ambassadors use green spaces to bring their communities together


The national community charity's Young Green Ambassadors network developed an awareness week that promoted equal access to green spaces.

Name Inclusive Spaces

Provider Groundwork

Earlier this year, young people across the UK took part in a national week of action to celebrate and raise awareness of the value of local parks and green spaces in communities.

This week of action was the culmination of 18 months of planning through the "Groundwork Youth" project to mobilise 100 young people aged 16 to 24 to take environmental action in their communities by providing them with opportunities and experiences to develop their leadership skills.

Ideas for the week of action first emerged during a national youth summit in 2017, which brought delegates together in Birmingham to look at the biggest issues facing young people and develop plans to raise awareness of them.

It was at this event that a Groundwork Youth Advisory Board and the first cohort of "young green ambassadors"- young advocates of positive youth-led environmental action - came together to share ideas, experiences and kick-start a campaign.

Groundwork facilitated focus groups and workshops with both young people and community groups both on and offline. Research commissioned by the youth advisory board found that young people felt there were "far too many barriers" to engaging with their local community and making the most of their local outdoor spaces.

The Inclusive Spaces week of action was born as a result. Taking place from 23 to 29 July, it saw more than 50 events take place UK-wide. Centred around various themes - Mindful Monday, Trashy Tuesday, Feel Good Friday, to name a few - the events gave young people the opportunity to collaborate with their peers, and the wider community and prove that taking an intergenerational approach to community action can work, if communities are given the right support.

The project was enhanced by working in partnership with organisations who have access to networks of community groups and young people - it reached more than 100,000 young people as a result.

The campaign showed that there is an appetite among young people for social justice and they do want to make their voices heard on the issues that matter to them. Those who responded to Groundwork's call to become an ambassador said they did so because they "wanted to make a difference" and many came with a sense of purpose and a clear plan on how they wanted to do so.

For example, participant Ross curated a Feel Good Friday Community Festival, led a number of intergenerational walks in Nottingham and gave interviews on the campaign to local media.

When reflecting on the week of action, it was clear that real and perceived barriers to different generations are still common - but there is also real talent and experience to be channelled from each generation to ensure green and open community spaces remain available to all.

By Stacey Aplin, Groundwork

MY VIEW

By Mica, 18, Grimsby

"Groundwork's Inclusive Spaces campaign has been a unique experience which has allowed me to broaden my horizons in a number of ways from learning how to network professionally, how to run campaigns and advertise and how to write newspaper articles. It has also gently pushed me out of my comfort zone by allowing me to travel around the country independently to campaign meetings and make and work with new friends.

"For my events, I decided to go all out and put on an event each day. From a picnic in a local park where I gave a presentation on mental health and wellbeing to litter picks, community planting days and a festival - each day brought a new challenge.

"The skill I have developed the most would be my ability to speak in public and start conversations with new people, which I'm extremely proud of as one of the main reasons I took part was to meet people from around the country and to put some of my passions into practice.

"Personally I think it's a great experience to do community work as it counters stereotypes of young people. It has also helped me to value my efforts within the community."

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