GreenSpace's initiative wants to promote park use to BME groups

Employing "community champions" to promote the benefits of green spaces could prove key in engaging black and minority ethnic (BME) communities in urban and rural parks.

The idea of training community champions - people who act as a parks representative - is part of a model developed through a £1m project completed last month.

The Mosaic Partnership's project manager Nina Arwitz shared results of the three-year scheme at GreenSpace's Reaching Out conference, held in Reading on 23 September.The event examined why BME groups might not be accessing parks and how the challenges could be overcome.

Although the Mosaic Partnership, a project hosted by the Campaign for National Parks, focused on national parks, Arwitz described how the model could be used in urban green spaces.

She said: "It is very adaptable to urban parks and we are hoping to do a pilot project to test if it is also transferable to single parents and other minority groups.

"The key is working with the community champions and looking at organisational change. It might be about cherry-picking the things that work within a local authority's budget because obviously not everyone can do everything."

The project had a goal of training 80 community champions by the end of September this year, but actually attracted a total of 217 people in its three-year run.

Arwitz is currently working on a toolkit for local authorities and communities, which is expected to be ready in the next few months.

"We want to make sure the experience of parks is about more than just a one-off visit," she added.

Community champions get different levels of training depending on how much time they can devote to their role, but all are taught fund-raising and organisational skills so their work will be sustainable after the end of a project.

"They don't have to be the leader of their community," said Arwitz. "They can be anyone - from a stay-at-home mum to a director of the local racial equality council."

- See analysis, p14

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