About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

The award

Groundwork North East has been awarded £80,017 through the Rethinking Parks programme to develop and test the impact developing longer term partnerships between businesses and parks friends groups can have in sustaining public parks.

Rethinking Parks is a jointly funded programme between the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Big Lottery Fund (England) and Nesta.

This project guide provides information on what the Darlington team tested throughout the project and offers advice to others interested in exploring a similar model.

The idea

Darlington Rethinking Parks plans to reignite philanthropy in Darlington where parks were once created and donated to the town by wealthy Quaker business owners for the benefit of the people of the town. There is a clear demand from business within Darlington to make a meaningful contribution to the wellbeing of the community. The project will engage businesses to contribute not only money and manpower towards volunteering days and improvement projects, but also seeks to engage businesses in giving their advice and skills to improve the strategic management and operation of parks. Rather than one off or ad hoc contributions from business this project seeks to enable businesses to make a long term and sustained commitment to parks in Darlington.

The desired impact

The team is hoping to see, at the end of the project, that the Parks selected are thriving and the Friends capacity increased as a result of business input. We would like businesses to have a connection with their local park on some level, contributing towards the everyday management of the park through to the longer strategic goal.

“We are so excited to be delivering such an exciting project. We determined and enthusiastic that our idea can work to secure the future of Parks in Darlington. With our strong working partnerships with all involved we really believe that the everyday user will see a difference over the next year to their local park.”

The team

The team has been working together for over 2 years on smaller one-off projects. Its members are enthusiastic about the parks in Darlington, and they collectively thought of the idea of Darlington’s Rethinking Parks project.

Members of the team:

  • Lisa Locke – Groundwork NE & Cumbria: Main applicant and facilitating the overall delivery of the project
  • Rob George – Darlington Borough Council: Land owner
  • Katie Blundell – Darlington Cares: Introducing businesses to the idea


Lisa Locke: [email protected]