‘Communities in Nature’ is a BGCI project which offers four UK botanic gardens the exciting opportunity to grow and enhance their social roles through piloting their own community-based projects. ‘Communities in Nature’ is not a standalone endeavor. It builds upon a three year work funded by Calouste Gulbenkian which was initiated in 2009 by groundbreaking research into the social role and relevance of UK botanic gardens conducted by the Research Centre for Museums and Galleries (RCMG), University of Leicester. BGCI published in 2010 the report ‘Towards a New Social Purpose: Redefining the Role of Botanic Gardens’ which recommended that botanic gardens relocate their social and environmental roles within a modern framework of values, mission and vision. A summary of the report is also available.
Following the publication of the report, BGCI supported three UK botanic gardens to develop their social roles through small scale projects. Winterbourne House and Garden set up ‘Urban Veg’, a vegetable garden designed as a two way cultural exchange and learning experience between the Islamic communities of Birmingham and the Garden. Ness Botanic Garden, ran a series of science focused workshops for students from a deprived area of Liverpool. Find more details about the gardens’ individual projects and their outcomes in the evaluation report, produced by RCMG, ‘Growing the Social Role – Partnerships in the Community’.
Another strand of BGCI’s work on Growing the Social Role of Botanic Gardens involved commissioning Cardiff University to examine gardens’ potential for promoting biodiversity conservation and sustainability within the Muslim community, as well as fostering inter-faith understanding. The research findings presented in the report ‘Islamic Gardens in the UK’ suggested that botanic gardens should critically examine their visitor profiles, with a view to becoming more inclusive of faith communities. The report pointed out that the fund of knowledge and expertise held by botanic garden staff would also prove invaluable in supporting and enabling faith-based gardening projects.