Between 2011 and 2015 our Natural Communities programme developed, applied and learned from an innovative participatory approach to community environmental engagement. The programme was initiated in response to a need across the UK to increase skills in engaging communities with the environment and was supported by Scottish Natural Heritage and through the Heritage Lottery Fund’s ‘Skills for the Future’ programme. Thirty five Natural Communities trainees worked together with 24 partner organisations and over 49,000 volunteers from a range of communities to connect people to nature at more than 200 local green places across the UK.
The Approach has initiated longer-term improvements within and between communities across Scotland, moving away from short-term interventions and building community capacity and confidence to take ownership of their local greenspace, managing it to fit with the priorities they have identified.
Sharing the learning
The Natural Communities Approach to community environmental engagement can be simply defined as working together to understand, celebrate and protect our natural heritage. A short guide based on the experiences of the programme trainees outlines the Natural Communities Approach.
The Natural Communities Approach provided impetus for community engagement that we had long aspired to achieve but never managed to deliver, because of a lack of staff time to develop contacts and trial different approaches. As a result of which we now have some techniques that work and a significant number of local contacts to deliver these with. We’ve also learned a lot about what we’re trying to achieve at the Moine Mhor, increasing the focus of our community engagement and our understanding of what works there and what doesn’t. – Alan McDonnell, SNH