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

Parks are important to us all, they are public places where we can come together, play, learn, grab a cup of coffee, enjoy and feel part of nature, but in the light of government funding cuts, climate change and issues around public health local councils are facing a huge challenge when it comes to maintaining these green spaces.

So, what is the answer to this? How do we maintain our parks and ensure they remain thriving, fun, biodiverse spaces for us all to enjoy?

This is where social and community businesses can provide the answer.

Social and community enterprises are often run by local people and create impact and benefit for that area and the people who live there. By operating within and taking on assets in parks that the local authority can no longer run, positive outcomes are created for everyone. The community enterprise has a place to operate from and support to start up, local people have more autonomy and say about what happens where they live, visitors to the park have more activities they can get involved in, the park gains more caretakers and people to look after it and the council builds new relationships with communities to overcome challenges.

What’s not to like!

This resource hub has been created for anyone interested in finding out more about how to set up an enterprise in a park, if we’ve piqued your interest, we recommend you take a look. You can find advice, links to useful documents and websites, case studies from enterprises already doing this, and videos and information about funding and taking on assets.

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Community engagement is key!   

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 important.  

Involving people in what happens where their lives is a powerful thing and can create lots of benefits from gaining on the ground expertise, new ideas, new relationships and collaborators and even volunteers wanting to support your business or project. In a wider sense, people feel more ownership and connection to the places they live.  

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

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Owning our spaces and places   

Taking on buildings, assets or physical spaces can be daunting, but incredibly rewarding. Having your own base to run your enterprise, deliver activity and connect with people is a useful thing, especially as a community enterprise.  

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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Which model is for me?  

It is important to understand what your enterprise is going to do, how it will do it and who it will benefit before deciding which business model or legal structure you want to incorporate as. 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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How do we pay for all this?   

There are a whole host of ways to finance your enterprise from grants and funding applications, loans and social investment, crowdfunding and community shares or traded income. Depending on your legal structure you may have access to some of these and not to others.  

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 one form, 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 funding options available.

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Understanding 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, connecting people to nature and the environment around them or supporting young 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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