A summary of discussion and projects to consider the future of local parks under the Rethinking Parks initiative, led by Nesta as one of its exploratory projects on new ways of addressing social and economic challenges, has just been published. NESTA - formerly known as the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts - has partnered with the Future Parks Accelerator, The National Lottery Heritage Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund to share learning and ideas from parks and greenspace innovators across the country, and to take an opportunity to rethink the future of parks. It's now produced a report sharing the content from speakers at an event held in October and other contributions on the topic, to help spread the ideas and learning.
Nesta says that "in recent years our parks and greenspaces have been under huge threat." This has been a result of austerity and the demand placed on local authorities’ budgets to support statutory services such as social care, non-statutory services like parks have been facing budget pressures.
Over the last seven years, Nesta, in partnership with The National Lottery Heritage Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund, has provided two rounds of funding and support for organisations and partnerships to develop innovative ways of managing and financing the UK’s public parks. Rethinking Parks has backed 24 innovations, with £3 million in funding and support, to test and replicate ideas. Innovations experimented with a broad range of ideas – tapping into the public willingness to give in new ways; mobilising the skills and energy of communities; developing ways to generate and use data to create smarter parks; designing approaches to use spaces in more environmentally friendly and financially astute ways; using parks assets to generate renewable energy and income, as well as developing new ways to engage with local businesses.
The Future Parks Accelerator, a collaboration between the National Trust, National Lottery Heritage Fund, and the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government is supporting nine places to help local authorities transform their green spaces to enable these valuable places be more financial sustainable, and ensure that communities can continue to benefit from them for generations to come.
October's event, co-hosted by Carrie Deacon, Director of Government and Community Innovation at Nesta, and Victoria Bradford-Keegan, Delivery Director at the National Trust leading the Future Parks Accelerator, shared the learning from the innovators from across the country. Together with partners Drew Bennellick, from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Tony Thapar, from The National Lottery Community Fund, the team sought to help spread the ideas and learning, and keep innovating for parks and greenspaces at the forefront of priorities.
"Our experience of working with parks innovators up and down the country, both inside of local authorities parks teams, and outside in universities, community organisations, social enterprises and charities, shows there is a real community of experimenters, activists and entrepreneurs working to enable our parks and greenspaces to evolve, adapt and continue to be at the heart of our communities," says Nesta. "But to face the challenges and opportunities ahead, we must continue to adopt and spread the mindset, habits and tools that can support this innovation. The challenges and opportunities ahead create a loud and clear call for us to keep innovating for the future of our parks and greenspaces."