Endowing public parks for the 21st century: Piecing together the jigsaw
Antonia Canal is project assistant in the external partnerships team for the National Trust. Through Rethinking Parks, the National Trust is testing whether an endowment could be raised to support all parks and green spaces in Sheffield.
We’re making good progress in our work to design and test our endowment. Throughout our prototyping, we have worked with a diverse range of thinkers, practitioners and activists to generate and test ideas. In November and December last year, we hosted workshops for professionals in the health and wellbeing, and environmental sectors to pull together collective insight and experience. These sessions allowed us to shape our thinking and approach in moving forward with our project, and also helped to create a wide network of supporters.
Partnership working is proving to offer a wealth of ideas and benefits, and serves as an important reminder of the passion for public parks and access to nature.
We’ve continued to consult with key stakeholders over the last few months, and have been pleasantly surprised by just how willing people are to talk to us across the board, even those who we’ve had no previous contact with.
We’re learning a lot from these discussions, and finding that people are generally very interested in our idea, and excited by the opportunity it offers. We’ve also found that there is a real desire to collaborate across organisations and sectors. Partnership working is proving to offer a wealth of ideas and benefits, and serves as an important reminder of the passion for public parks and access to nature. We firmly believe that channelling this passion and expertise is central to unlocking solutions to sustainable funding for our project.
We’re currently looking at where payments to the endowment could come from, and we’re thinking of it as a bit like a jigsaw. We have gained a broad understanding of how many pieces there might be and what the overall shape looks like, but there’s still long way to go. And each time we lay another piece we’re learning a lot.
One example of our learning so far is that our initial scoping of corporate investment has indicated that, though interested in our concept, corporates are unlikely to be the first investors. We need to explore this further, but our thinking is that corporates will be more willing to invest in the endowment once it is up and running, as this will allow them to more clearly understand why it is relevant and how it meets their needs whether that’s employee wellbeing or brand awareness.
We’ve also now got a good sense of the different operating models for the endowment fund, with an understanding of the various pros and cons for each option. Our challenge now is to continue going out and testing these ideas with potential investors, and ensuring political and public support for our ideas through dedicated and thoughtful engagement.