In 2018 we announced the latest group of projects to be awarded grants from the Rethinking Parks fund. In this round, we were looking for organisations and partnerships who were well placed to replicate and adapt the most promising approaches to help run parks more sustainably, drawing from what they had seen others implement or test elsewhere.
Five months on, Ishrat Karim from Walsall Borough Council is introducing us to Walsall Connecting Greenspaces, the model that inspired them, their partnerships and their objective.
Below is Ishrat's introduction to the project:
What’s the idea?
We will test the creation of a clear and compelling ‘innovative sponsorship model’ to engage local business in supporting parks and greenspaces in Walsall.
To create a sustainable future for parks and greenspaces we know that we need ambitious new business models, management tools and partnerships. With this in mind, the Walsall Connecting Greenspaces team will engage with local businesses and the local community to set up a Parks Community and Business Network. It will include representatives from the public, private and volunteering sectors who will shape an innovative sponsorship model for parks in Walsall.
What is an “innovative sponsorship modeI”? In a nutshell, it is a model whereby corporate volunteering packages are tailored and sold according to the needs of businesses and their Corporate Social Responsibility focus. This will range from a one-off litter picking activity to a yearly subscription to gardening sessions for a larger group of employees.
Not only could this bring more financial stability, but it could increase volunteers’ wellbeing and health, and support the work that Friends groups do in parks.
Who is working on the project?
We are collaborating with the Greenspaces Forum, the organisation representing all the Friends groups in Walsall and local businesses via the creation of the Walsall Parks Community and Businesses Network.
Walsall Council, like many across the country has seen its park budgets significantly reduced in recent years. Whilst we have successfully leveraged additional funds for developing our green spaces we want to test ways to better engage local businesses.
In developing our ‘innovative sponsorship packages’ we took inspirations from
a) the London-based Park Hack, which developed a forum of park innovators
b) Darlington Rethinking Parks project which focused on corporate volunteering to maintain the city’s green spaces
c) Thrive, a UK charity which provides corporate volunteering opportunities for local businesses with a variety of interests in greenspaces.
What will the project achieve and how will other parks learn from your work?
Walsall Parks and Greenspace Service has been under increasing pressure for the last 5 years and it is now crucial that we work hand-in-hand with the community and the private sector to explore alternative management models to protect and improve our parks whilst generating income from sustainable sources.
There is a clear demand from businesses within Walsall to make a meaningful contribution to the wellbeing of the community. Similarly to the Darlington project, the project will engage businesses to contribute not only money and volunteer time, but also seeks to engage businesses in giving their advice and skills to improve the strategic management and operation of parks.
We are convinced that an approach combining the three models will help rejuvenate and sustain our parks as well as creating links between people that may be operating in sectors with conflicting interests.