The operating model proposed for replication is a ‘Local community stewardship model’. The model is based on the empowerment of local residents to form a legally constituted organisation to lead on the management of their local park in partnership with the local authority. There are several characteristics of this model as follows;
• The local community is at the heart of the model operating within a legally constituted body with the members of the board made up of local residents.
• At the heart of the model is a social enterprise café generating sustainable funds for investment into the local park, otherwise unavailable to the local authority.
• A member of the local community who is able to act as a leader and galvanising force to lead the local community.
• Community building activities lie at the heart, with people becoming more engaged in their local community, rediscovering self-worth and social connection improving health and wellbeing, increasing quality of life and extending life expectancy.
• The local authority retains the ownership of the land which is critical to enable the local community to feel confident to take on a management role without the potentially inhibiting risk of owning the land
• Local businesses and schools are actively involved in supporting the park project.
What are the benefits?
This approach has demostrated that local residents, when empowered by the local authority and energised by a local community leader, can successfully operate a social enterprise café that has;
• transformed an under-utilised and poorly treated open space into an active local park visited by 5000+ members of the local community annually.
• Drastically reduced anti-social behaviour, vandalism and litter, without increased levels of surveillance, the local community become the “eyes and ears”
• attracted nearly £300k of external funding in less than 10 years, including harnessing donations from local people and businesses.
• Procured and erected a building in the park which operates as a community hub for local services
• Generates a turnover of circa £100k p/a
• Generates profits that are re-invested into improving and managing the park (grass cutting, planting and routine maintenance of the borders
• Saved the local authority circa £45k in annual maintenance expenditure
• Created local employment opportunities
• Has become a beacon for other community building initiatives.
Whilst there are over 5000 “Friends of” park groups around the UK, there are not many examples of groups or communities that established the scale of operation that we have at Hardie Park and taken the approach that we have. Therefore, we have worked alongside the design strategy studio Cohere to produce a summary of our method, highlighting the mindset that has led us to succeed. Read the document here.