Why do we need to build more enterprising, community led activity in our parks and green spaces?

Parks are important to us all. Critical for our health and wellbeing, they are public places that shape how we live.  Places where we can come together, play, learn, grab a cup of coffee, enjoy and feel part of nature.

However, we all know budgets are under pressure and have been for many years.

How can we all play our part in helping Plymouth’s green spaces thrive?

Social and community enterprises, run by local people, are part of the solution. These locally rooted enterprises help people and nature thrive. They often use buildings or spaces that are hard or costly for the council to maintain and give local people an opportunity to shape, look after and enjoy the places where they live.

From 2019-2021, as part of the Green Minds and Future Parks programmes, Plymouth City Council have worked in successful partnership with Real Ideas, Power to Change’s Empowering Places programme and a range of local organisations to produce this Resource Hub, and support more community and social enterprise in parks and natural spaces.

This resource hub has been created for anyone interested in finding out more about how to set up an enterprise in a park. 

Specific topics include community engagement, ownership of assets, choosing the right business model, financing and impact.  It also provides links to useful documents and websites, case studies from enterprises already doing this, and videos and information about funding and taking on assets.

Where to Start

There are a wide range of reasons to start a community-led enterprise in a park, and even more ways to do it. Here we explore the work that has already been carried out, meet some incredible organisations who are already on their way, and the local authorities supporting the effort.

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Engaging your Community

The most successful social/community enterprises and projects are those that engage directly with the people they intend to benefit, so understanding who your community are and what they need is extremely important. 

Local people can offer on the ground expertise a variety of points of view,ideas and information, and even become volunteers to support your business or project. Effective community participation can help enterprises create solutions that deliver unique social impact and innovative outcomes.  

This section explores some of the ways in which you can identify and engage with your community.

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Owning Assets and Spaces in our Parks   

As a community enterprise, having your own base from which to deliver activity and connect with people can be a critical tool to deliver effective outcomes..  Taking on buildings, assets or physical spaces can seem daunting, but can also be incredibly rewarding.

In the broader sense having more assets in community ownership means spaces don’t remain empty and underused, they are filled with things that communities need and want and ensure that they stay in community use for the long term.  

Find out more about how you begin the process of taking on an asset, the options you have in making this happen and the key things to think about, by exploring this section.

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Choosing the right Business Model

It is important to understand what your enterprise is going to do, how it will do it, and who it will benefit before deciding on the right business model or legal structure. The function of your enterprise will often help you settle on the form.  

The following section will take you through the different legal structures and the benefits and drawbacks of each, to aid you in making this decision.

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Finding Finance

From grants and funding applications, loans and social investment, crowd funding and community shares or traded income, there are a whole host of ways to finance your community enterprise. Depending on your legal structure you may have access to one or many of these.

Having a good idea of where your money is going to come from is an integral part of your business planning – and you don’t need to stick to just one. Having a mix of funding sources is a good way to ensure the sustainability of your enterprise. 

Within this section you’ll find a range of resources explaining the various types of financing options available.

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Understanding your impact  

Impact is often described as ‘the particular difference you want to make in the world’. Having a clear idea about what this might be is essential, it’s the driving force behind your enterprise, the thing that everything you do comes back to. 

This could be anything from improving the well-being and mental health of the community, nurturing biodiversity, or supporting people into meaningful employment. 

Once you have defined the difference you want to make, you can then begin to draw out your activities and outcomes and how you will monitor and evaluate this. 

Discover more about impact, how you settle on this and how you can monitor what you do in this section.

Resources:

  • School for Social entrepreneurs – How to measure your social impact
  • Eco Biz – Meeting Plymouth’s Green Minds: This webinar recording explores the change happening in Plymouth and the new wave of businesses that are restoring nature and supporting our communities, whilst helping our economy build back better. These local organisations share their stories, experiences, and impacts of running businesses in Plymouth’s natural spaces

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