I’m the treasurer for Galleywall Nature Reserve, where the committee have a long-standing wish to get more people both coming along to the reserve, and becoming involved in running it. I offered to run a programme of summer events hoping to tackle this problem, and decided to use it as a design project.
Design brief: create and run a series of short monthly events over the summer, to encourage more people along to the reserve.
For this project, I tried out Deano Martin’s design process. This has these steps:
- Initial analysis
- Establish aim and objectives
- Gather information
The initial analysis was that we wanted both to run some events at the reserve over the summer, and to focus on getting more people along and involved. I was also aware that we had limited resources. My main idea going into the design was to try to get as much as possible out of these events (eg publicity, visitors, long-term improvement of the reserve). (Integrate rather than segregate, Obtain a yield)
I spoke to the other two committee members, and established the client aims:
- Maintain current setup (meadow, pond, etc) through existing planned maintenance work.
- Get more people through the doors.
- Get more local involvement in the reserve (at any level!).
- Get more long-term/committed involvement.
- Find new committee members!
- Some money available (within limits; but we could spend a few hundred pounds if needed).
- Canopy (for bad weather) recently set up, so could run events in the rain if necessary.
- Sturdy tables under canopy.
- Compost loo onsite!
- Specific activity knowledge and resources available:
- Mini-beast collection kits and information sheets.
- Water animals collection kits and information sheets.
- Plant ID sheets.
- Previous bat/bird box making experience.
- Acrylic paint and brushes (brushes a bit manky though).
- Various tools and hardware (saws, gardening tools).
- Knowledge about the reserve and its wildlife (other committee members).
- Experience of running public sessions (other committee members).
- Permaculture knowledge and some workshop running experience (me).
- Permaculture planting area of reserve.
And our constraints:
- Very limited time from committee members.
- Very limited human resources.
- Reserve is small!
I also did some brainstorming about what we could do that would make the reserve more attractive and increase local awareness of it.
I used two forms of analysis: SWOC (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Constraints) and input/output.
Looking at my analysis above, I designed a programme of 6 monthly sessions over the course of the summer. Each session would serve at least two functions (Integrate rather than segregate, Design from pattern to details):
- Fun activity to encourage people to come to the reserve.
- Photos for publicity after the event: facebook updates, blog updates, email (see publicity list, below).
I also tried to get extra outputs whenever possible.
(See Evaluation section for photos of what happened.)
- Sun 18 May: Sign-making
Help make some more signs to go on the habitat wall outside the reserve. All materials provided.
Additional function: better signage for reserve, so people passing have a better idea of what it is.
(Obtain a yield)
- Sun 1 June: Big Lunch 2014
Bring some food to share as part of the Big Lunch 2014.
Additional function: connect with larger organisation (more publicity).
(Use and value diversity, Integrate rather than segregate)
- Sun 15 June: Open Gardens Weekend
We’ll be opening the reserve as part of London Open Garden Squares Weekend. There will be a few activities for adults and children, and hopefully some refreshments for sale.
Additional function: connect with larger organisation (more publicity), sell some cakes for a bit of money.
(Use and value diversity, Integrate rather than segregate, Obtain a yield)
- Sun 20 July: Nature Trail
Help make a nature trail around the reserve. All materials provided.
Additional function: create an activity for future use by visitors.
(Obtain a yield, Use and value resources, Use edges and value the marginal)
- Sun 17 August: Make a Window Box
Make your own window box to take home. All materials provided (though limited by numbers).
Practical note: this is a re-run of a session from last year, placed in the month when fewest people are likely to come along.
(Catch and store energy, Use and value resources, Creatively use and respond to change)
- Sun 21 September: Beekeeping
Learn about beekeeping from an expert.
Additional function: connect with local beekeeper who will be placing a hive in the reserve; provide more hooks for publicity.
(Use and value diversity, Integrate rather than segregate)
- Sun 19 October: Intro to Permaculture
A quick introduction to permaculture, a sustainable way of living and growing things. We’ll look at your own homes and gardens (or even just windowboxes!) as well as at the reserve’s permaculture garden.
Practical note: a version of a workshop I’m already giving elsewhere this year (so maximising output/minimising input for me!).
(Catch and store energy, Use and value resources)
- Physical flyer: design and print by end April 2014. Distribute early May 2014, with a second batch late July 2014. Places to distribute:
- The Blue (local market/shopping street).
- Local libraries.
- Local city farm.
- Time and Talents.
- Local primary schools.
- Local churches.
- Local children’s centres/toddler groups
Flyer designed and printed April 2014, initial distribution done May 2014.
- Newspaper: place three ads across the summer in local paper Southwark News.First one done May 2014.
- Website/blog and Facebook:
- Create page on website with event information. Done April 2014.
- Blog: week before each event publicising it.
- Blog: week after each event, with a writeup and photos.
- Additional posts as feasible/as there’s something to write about.
- Publicise/share all posts on Facebook.
- Additional reminder post on Facebook a couple of days before each event.
- Promote events on the Blue FB page as well.
- Email to mailing list the week before each event.
- Link up with Project Dirt.
- Use existing link with Hourbank.
- Send information to Gill Kelly to go in Southwark local activity roundup.
- Send to SE1 activities webpage to add to their directory. Done April 2014.
(Use and value diversity, Use small and slow solutions, Integrate rather than segregate)
General publicity improvement plans
- Website redesign (Use and value resources, Observe and interact, Obtain a yield):
- Add map to contact page. Done May 2014
- Add “next session” info in sidebar. Done June 2014
- Look at landing page: is there a clear call to action?
- Regular blogging (see above).
- Look for guest bloggers?
- Create a proper mailing list and a template for sending publicity emails. Done May 2014
- Improve Facebook page description and information. Done May 2014.
- Link with other local sites. (Integrate rather than segregate) Done May 2014.
- Post at least once a week (see also above).
The implementation details (timing etc) were a part of the design above. Budget was not a major issue and nothing planned was very expensive so I did not create a formal budget.
The main implementation requirement was in my monthly planning for each session, and in the publicity campaign.
The publicity requires 30-60min per week, which is a tolerable time commitment. The planning of sessions is another 2-3 hrs per month.
(Links go to write-ups on the blog.)
Session 1 (sign-making):
- Forgot to bring paper along to capture email addresses/contact details.
- Forgot to take photos.
- Did get people stopping by who had never been in before.
- Successfully drew and painted two big signs.
- Extra input needed: varnishing the signs, hanging them from the fence (planned for the Open Gardens weekend).
- Total cost: £96
Session 2 (Big Lunch):
- Went very well! 11 adults and 6 children.
- Linked up with some people involved in other community projects who were happy to help publicise.
- Ran mini-beast hunts and pond-dipping with existing resources.
- Total cost: £0.
Session 3 (Open Gardens Weekend):
- Big problem: failing to get signed up in time to actually be in the programme.
- No particular activity to do.
- Total cost: £0.
Session 4 (Nature Trail):
- Photos didn’t show up in time so wasn’t able to do it as planned.
- Didn’t describe activity very well.
- Only two people showed up.
- I was able to finish it over the course of the next couple of months and we now have a nature trail available for visitors to the reserve; so that aspect was a success but it was all done by me in the end and took a lot of effort.
- Total cost: £10
Session 5 (Windowbox making):
- Wasn’t present for this one but understand that it went well and several people took windowboxes away.
Session 6 (Beekeeping):
- Went very well! Beekeepers were great, as was their bee-frame.
- Total cost: £0.
Session 7 (Permaculture Intro):
- Reasonably successful but I would like to work on it a bit more.
- Difficulty of doing this as a drop-in session.
- Proposed ‘activity’ didn’t really work.
- Try doing a 10 min talk another time?
- Laminated sheets/posters are available for next time.
- Total cost: £25
- Extra publicity, and being able to have a flyer with specific sessions, went very well.
- We could still have done more work handing out flyers (but this is very time-intensive). We now have a flyer holder thing outside the reserve for future use.
- Several of the sessions have had knock-on positive effects:
- Sign-making: one sign is now up (Nov 2014) and the other one is ready to go up when the new gate is up. (Update: second sign went up spring 2015.) This makes it much more obvious what is happening in the reserve.
- Nature trail: the nature trail is now available (as a laminated sheet in a weatherproof holder) for visitors.
- Permaculture session: laminated posters available for another session next year.
- In general we definitely attracted more visitors to the reserve, which is positive for the future.
- We didn’t do enough to capture names and email addresses.
- Most sessions were run by me, which I would rather not do again as it was very time-intensive.
- Rest of committee are keen to do a similar thing again next year. (Suggestions for next year: another sign for the far end of the fence; bug hotel making; beekeepers again; permaculture again; art session run by someone else.)
The main difference between this and our previous way of doing things is that we are more focussed on the aim of getting more people into the reserve. This has in turn meant deciding to provide more activities, and to advertise more thoroughly in an attempt to reach more people. In a sense this is a continuation of existing other work (replacing the fence with a habitat wall a couple of years ago made the reserve more obvious from the outside, for example) but this design allowed us to bring things together more clearly. It also ‘stacked’ certain aims, for example the session where we made signs then meant we had signs to put up to draw more attention (and thus hopefully more people) to the reserve. Given the how little time the existing committee have this made a big difference to what we were able to do in a year.
Update, 2015: we are indeed reusing a large part of this design to run a similar series of events in summer 2015. I have made a point of sharing responsibility around more people this time as I found it a bit stressful to be running most of the events myself. The signs we made are now finally up on the fence, which is great.
- Positive: SWOC was helpful for this design, as was the Input/Output.
- Negative: I didn’t sufficiently consider the realities of delivering the programme (and so ended up doing more work than I had intended myself).
- Interesting: The beekeeping which was probably the event I considered/’designed’ least was the one that was the most popular.
- Earth care: The Intro to Permaculture session got people thinking more about this; the links with the beekeepers (the reserve will have a hive next year) also promotes earth care.
- People care: The long-term aim is to spread the workload of maintaining the reserve over more people (by getting more people involved), and this is beginning to happen. Short-term I didn’t consider this enough when designing the programme.
- Fair shares: Trying to share this little piece of nature with a community that doesn’t have much access to the natural world.