People Power in Parks

Green Space Volunteers

Friends of Parks groups and individuals that work in the community for the community on a voluntary (unpaid) basis are vital to Birmingham’s green spaces. For our purposes a green space is any space that a community regards as a green area, accessible to the local community. This includes: parks, allotments, nature reserves, country parks, public open spaces, cemeteries, wildlife corridors (including rivers and streams), woodlands, playing fields, community gardens & the bit of green at the end of the road. There are volunteers that help in all these settings and the national FPA project sees volunteers as vital to the future of parks and green spaces.

The Aims for the FPA project:

To develop and test new models for green space volunteering in Birmingham that will ensure equality of access to the benefits volunteering brings both to Birmingham citizens and our green spaces.

  • To increase the diversity of volunteers within green spaces.
  • To better understand motivations and barriers of volunteers in providing support to green spaces.
  • To develop better recording systems for capturing volunteering activity and volunteer numbers.
  • To make residents more aware of volunteering opportunities within the City.

Future Parks Accelerator Community Volunteering Co-ordinator

This new role for the project will be supporting our volunteer offer to two key pilot sites, Dawberry Fields Neighbourhood Park and Ward End Park. Employed by Birmingham Open Spaces Forum the two part time VCs will aim to get a better understanding of volunteering motivations that will enable us to develop a wider range of future opportunities and, ultimately, will raise participation and diversity in green spaces.

At the end of the pilot, they will be able to demonstrate the process of attracting and supporting volunteers to green spaces, looking at the barriers and opportunities, to disseminate out across Birmingham.

Volunteering achievements so far (February 2021)

  • Health and Wellbeing pilot (Witton Lakes) there are now opportunities to be “walking buddies” accompanying people who are not keen on walking alone so they can get out and about in parks again or even perhaps for the first time. Volunteers can also help take a bit of parks to people at home by taking seeds, compost, and pots to people so they can grow at home. Things like peppers, herbs and flowers can be easily grown on a windowsill.
  • Jobs and Skills (Ward End Park) volunteering opportunities with the Ranger Service, Wildlife Trust, and other green organisations can provide a great pathway into training courses like the B&BC Wildlife Trust and BCC joint project “Natural Prospects”. Although Ranger led volunteering stopped in parks when the Covid19 restricts came in and have not yet restarted, conversations about how opportunities to volunteer can be advertised are ongoing tying in with the development of a green digital platform. Working with partners like the Skill Mill, National Trust, Birmingham Trees for Life, Birmingham Tree People, TCV and others we will be able to connect volunteering to jobs and skills through the green showcase being developed in the Jobs and Skills pilot.
  • Children’s (Dawberry Fields Park) volunteering: When we look at opportunities for young people to volunteer it very much depends on age. Pre Covid19 there were always opportunities for Work Experience placements with the Ranger Service and Birmingham Wildlife and Conservation Park, but not so many opportunities for year 10 pupils in other areas connect to green jobs. We have been looking at how we could provide a better range of volunteering experiences through the Young Park Ambassador Role. Family volunteering opportunities are also being explored as we are developing the Friends of Dawberry Fields Group.
  • Housing tenant green space volunteering opportunities are being considered both through the governance for the Natural Environment Framework and the Citizen engagement Framework through the Communal gardening proposal and advertising general opportunities through the Green Users Guide section in the BMHT Home Users Guide.
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