A self-assessment survey to help green space friends and community groups reflect and strengthen their activities has just been launched by Parks Community UK, the project to bring together and support those working locally to protect and improve local parks and green spaces.

The online survey is intended to help the thousands of volunteer Friends groups who champion and improve their local UK parks and green spaces.  

"The Better Friends tool aims to help you understand and strengthen the effectiveness of your group," says Parks Community UK. "It will get you thinking about how you operate, how effective you are and highlight areas for improvement." It also collects a number of details about the location and activities of individual groups.

Those using the tool will receive an emailed feedback report with an overall score for their group, plus a more detailed breakdown covering key topics such as:

  • organisation
  • structure
  • strengths
  • effectiveness
  • ambition.

The Parks Community UK website is being developed as a ‘one stop shop’ of information for the Friends Groups movement, with the support of Nesta, the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the National Lottery Community Fund as part of the Rethinking Parks Programme. Once developed it will be transfered to be run by the National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces.

The main aim for the Project is to support Friends’ groups across the country to feel better equipped and more confident in their active involvement with their local park. It seeks to identify key elements of community empowerment and how it can be encouraged, developed and supported.

The Friends of Lordship Rec have been given grant funding from NESTA of £145,000 over a two-year period through NESTA’s Rethinking Parks programme to find and replicate the best models available for the overall management, maintenance and development of parks. They've won the funding because of their success in working in partnership with Haringey Council to attract significant investment for restoration and improvement works in Lordship Rec, for facilitating the active involvement and empowerment of independent user groups, and for the overall growth in both the numbers using our park and the diversity of those users.

Elements of the Parks Community project include:

  • Working with up to 12 Pilot sites over a two-year period to exchange experiences as Friends Groups and for FOLR  to support them in working towards their goals.
  • Providing grant funding to the 12 groups in recognition of the time and commitment required in working with us on the Project
  • Engaging with the 12 local authorities/landowners with a view to promoting more effective partnership working between them and the Pilots.
  • Generating interest in the Project from across the Greenspace sector.
  • For FOLR to capture, share and disseminate learning via peer learning events and by establishing a new website to support the Friends Groups movement and those wishing to support and work with such groups. This website to include a range of learning resources including ‘How to’ guides, best practice case studies and links to complementary websites such as The Conservation Volunteers, Fields In Trust etc. The aim is to eventually ‘hand it over’ to the National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces, the voice of the Friends Groups movement, for long term promotion & sustainability.

The 12 Pilot sites were selected following an open invitation to participate sent to Friends Groups across London. There are also 2 pilot sites in Peterborough and Manchester.

FOLR have engaged Dave Morris and Paul Ely as consultants to deliver the Project on their behalf.

More details of the project can be found here. The Parks Community UK Project is managed by the Friends of Lordship Rec. It is supported by National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces, London Friends of Green Spaces Network, Fields in Trust, Groundwork UK, Keep Britain Tidy, The Conservation Volunteers, Locality and Haringey Council. The Local Government Association has agreed to share learning from the project with its members.