Many areas of our towns and cities are nature-deprived and people of colour and other marginalised groups are more likely to live in areas with fewer green spaces. Being unable to easily access nature can result in worse physical and mental health outcomes and reinforces wider inequalities.
How might we create an inclusive funding space and learn more about what works at a local level to address this nature deficit and connect people with nature and each other?
What if….we set up a small one-off time-limited fund to support or kickstart a portfolio of hyper-local nature projects to better understand the barriers communities are facing and mobilise their energy and creativity to share learnings more widely.
What we did
Our £10 000 Local Nature Innovation Fund supported 11 projects designed to engage people in nature-based activities, whether growing and preparing food; foraging; participating in a solidarity circle; running events in the countryside for people of colour; sharing skills and knowledge or educating children about food growing and nature.
Projects were run by and alongside groups most impacted by living in nature deprived neighbourhoods, including people of colour, low-income households, the disabled, refugees and migrants, the elderly, those struggling with their mental or physical health or social isolation and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
What did we test
It was also an opportunity for us to try out a new approach to catalysing innovation. Could micro-granting be a useful tool for NGOs looking to nurture change at the grassroots? Could we share learnings between the projects and build connection between them? Could we build trust in a short time to play a useful role in coaching and encouraging?
What did we learn
Groups valued our light touch approach as funders and responded to our focus on collaborative learning not outcomes. We ditched feedback forms for two hour-long coaching conversations, encouraging groups to explore and shift objectives as they tested out ideas – and not to fear failure. They appreciated our approach as a sounding-board and mentor and our flexibility as to how they spent the budget.
Small amounts of money are enough to provide focus and impetus and to turn ideas into practical experiments. Having the resources to test an idea on the ground can create more opportunities to grow the project further.
We held a celebration which made space for some of the project organisers to connect for the first time. We are capturing insights from our conversations, sharing ideas and publishing learnings and stories from the different groups. We have improved our understanding of what works on the ground and how this might feed into policies that better meet communities’ needs.
If you'd like to know more about our experience of using micro-granting to foster grassroots change, or find out more about the individual projects, please contact us. Read stories from Kingsmeadow@MadeForever, Mountford Growing Community, Hull Food Partnership and Friends Flourishing and Oxford City Farm. More to follow.