People with autism, social anxiety or mental health issues, other local people.
Maintaining outdoor allotments, running workshops, skills training, regular social activities.
- Improved social links and ties;
- Individual and collective action and control;
- Increased confidence, knowledge, skills and assets;
- Improved individual wellbeing.
“Absolutely everyone is welcome here. If you live here, you are welcome.”
What has the project achieved?
The project regenerated the Foster Garden Centre, turning it into an indoor hub to complement the Keighley Urban Meadows programme. Along the way it ran a mixture of indoor activities such as bingo, crafts and lunch clubs along with outdoor workshops such as foraging, bush craft and planting wildflowers.
Improved social links and ties
- New social connections;
- More diverse social networks;
- Links to the wider community.
The Foster Garden project enabled local people to create new friendships, broaden the diversity of their social networks and strengthen their connection to the local community.
Some of the project participants faced barriers to social connection because of autism, social anxiety or mental health issues. Coming together through a shared hobby helped them to form new friendships and feel more comfortable in social situations. These new connections spread out into the community, as members met up outside of the group and introduced each another to new activities such as a walking club – growing their social networks further.
The activities on offer were wide ranging, to reflect the demographics of the local community. The inclusive ethos meant the project was accessible to people of all ages, genders, races and religions. This diversity led to stronger social connections between different groups and the forming of “unlikely friendships”.
“It is not just the community spirit – it is bridging that loneliness and social isolation. Being out of that isolation is so important for these people, and that is what is happening here.”
Individual and collective action and control
- Activities co-designed by participants;
- Community events organised by group members;
- Members regenerated the community centre;
- Connections with local decision-makers.
Regenerating a local community centre that had been facing closure proved that collective action by local people could make a difference. Giving the building a new purpose as a hub for the community was a positive outcome, but the process itself was a catalyst for people to regain control over their local environment.
On a day-to-day basis, members were also driving the direction that the project took. With no formal steering group, all participants were encouraged to share and carry out ideas. This led to an evening of food and entertainment organised by members at the community centre, followed by other evening events that showcased the talents of the volunteers.
Members also organised an open day, cooked healthy meals each week at the centre and actively promoted the group to others in the local community.
“If you don’t involve people in shaping their own futures, then all you’re doing is taking the mick. We are part of the team. We are not here as social workers, mentors or leaders. I don’t think people want to be led, they want to be included.”
Increased confidence, knowledge, skills and assets
- Delivering indoor and outdoor workshops;
- Learning to cook healthy food;
- Increased confidence in social and practical skills;
- Sense of ownership of the local environment.
The community-owned allotments were central to skill building. Some participants had experience as allotment holders and were able to deliver workshops such as foraging and planting wildflowers.
Others were able to develop their skills in these areas, as well as learning about cooking through the regular “cook and eat” sessions at the centre.
The project also delivered workshops for local children on keeping livestock and growing produce. Along with the benefit to the younger generation, this also increased the confidence of the group members who were passing on their knowledge.
As group members developed their confidence, they also grew their ambitions for the local area, such as restoring derelict laybys, making planters and planting wildflowers. This sense of ownership and desire for influence is further evidence of the project’s lasting impact on local people and their environment.
"We have [a member] who is actually now running another community centre up the road, a youth club for special needs youngsters. A year ago she wouldn’t come out of the house."
Improved individual wellbeing
- Links to the local community;
- Increased social connections;
- Learning new skills;
- Greater self-confidence.
The project was person-centred and emphasised individual needs, so the impact was different for each participant. For some, it meant ‘getting out of the house’ and finding opportunities for social interaction. For others, it meant actually learning about social interaction, developing social skills and growing confidence in that area.
Some members gained a sense of acceptance by having their individual skills and talents recognised as a benefit to the group – whether at the allotment or on the piano. This helped build their self-esteem and confidence.
For others, there was a chance to build their local influence, making connection to local decision-makers and getting involved in more of the environmental improvement initiatives in the local area. Others were inspired to try new things, joining other community-based groups such as walking clubs and volunteering.
“There isn’t much around here in this town, we have lost all the pubs and everything now. So having this here is just great."
Lessons for other projects
- Reaching the most vulnerable: the project successfully involved a diverse range of people, but
acknowledged that the most socially isolated people were initially harder to reach.
- Funding applications: staff members had expertise in bid writing and grant applications, but were
concerned that the process could be daunting for grassroots organisations without that experience.