14 Dec 2021
Commoning Possibilities is a partnership between Garvagh People’s Forest, St Columb’s Park House in Derry/ Londonderry, poet Anne McMaster and the Rural Community Network. Through this partnership, they are inviting, connecting and inspiring citizens and supporting institutions in the care of Garvagh Forest, St Columb’s Park and surrounding communities.
Their vision is to engage with members of the public about the management and care of shared natural spaces and resources in their community, which are contributing to the challenges surrounding extractive economy, wellbeing, biodiversity loss and climate change.
The project runs a participatory budgeting process involving local citizens and groups imagining, designing, voting on and delivering projects in and around Garvagh Forest and St Columb’s Park. These projects are focusing on ideas that are either about contributing to ‘caring communities’ or supporting the ‘care of the forest or park’ or both. The learning from the project will be used to develop insights about how communities can work towards great co-management of natural heritage for the common good.
Grainne O’Neill, the project officer at St Columbs Park House, said “Participatory Budgeting can be described as local people deciding how to allocate part of a public budget, it is a way for citizens to have a direct say on how public funds can be used to address local needs’ This is a really exciting opportunity for us to hear from our communities about ideas they have to address some issues that they as a community face. We put out an open call for ‘project ideas’ to our local community of Park Users asking them to submit a bid for an idea that would benefit both the community and their shared spaces.”
Grainne said that the three key criteria for submitting a bid was that they were safe, legal and viable and that there was a connection with St Columbs Park. “There are some amazing ideas that range from the Praxis group becoming Climate Ambassadors in the Park, Oakgrove PS who want to create a forest school area in their grounds, to a 15-year-old young person who wants to use artwork to highlight environmental issues within the park and many, many more.
The Participatory budgeting process provided a pot of £7,500 to invest in the ideas of the people who live, work and care for St Columb’s Park. Twenty-five ideas were submitted seeking £500 per project bid but the decision to fund didn’t lie with St Columbs Park House, Grainne explained, but with the community. A community vote event was held, where all idea creators presented their ideas and the community voted. The bids with the most votes were awarded funding.
You can view the project bits here.
Find out more below.