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The impact of BEN’s training and developmental support on mainstream environmental organisations - Case studies

1. The Edinburgh Green Belt Trust(EGBT)

Edinburgh Green Belt Trust was set up to enhance the Edinburgh Green Belt countryside by working with local communities, landowners and other stakeholders including local authorities, government agencies and the business community. The Trust aims to improve the appearance, enjoyment and appreciation of the Edinburgh Green Belt through education, greater awareness and the involvement of everybody in the improvement process through empowerment. It seeks to encourage active participation of local people in all aspects of its work.

The Edinburgh Green Belt Trust's Community Initiatives Project requested BEN's assistance with the aim of enabling their staff to gain the necessary awareness and skills to effectively develop a working relationship with ethnic community groups in Edinburgh. They accessed BEN's training and developmental support programme. Staff from the Trust acknowledged that, prior to this, they have not been able to reach out and work with ethnic communities. 

EGBT established commitment within the organisation to the agenda of developing ethnic environmental participation and allocated the necessary resources to take it forward:

  • staff time
  • funds
  • internal organisational support

Staff from EGBT took part in the BEN Organisational Needs Assessment Survey to identify the focus of the training and support they needed in order to progress the work of engaging with ethnic communities.

EGBT gained an overview of ethnic environmental participation through taking part in the annual BEN Networking Conference, which brings together ethnic community groups and environmental organisations from across the UK.

Saheliya, an ethnic women mental health project, is one example of ethnic groups now engaged with EGBT. They took part in an educational/therapeutic visit to Dalkeith country park in June 1999. Feedback from Saheliya indicated that staff from EGBT are now skilled in addressing any sensitive issues regarding working with the women and are able to create socially and culturally relevant opportunities for the women to contribute to the work of the Trust.

EGBT opened up their work to Edinburgh's Chinese community through providing series of talks on local environmental issues.

EGBT has gained the confidence and skills to work with other ethnic groups in Edinburgh without BEN's involvement.

Progress towards involving ethnic communities in the management committee is on the agenda.

Taking steps towards arriving at a composition staff that reflects the local community is on the agenda.

2. Northamptonshire Countryside Services - Brixworth Country Park

Northamptonshire Countryside Services contracted BEN for training in order to lay down the basis for the development of its services to ethnic communities within the county. 

The training day was attended by most of the rangers from across the country and key officers of the Countryside Services, culminating in action plans. 

The exercise was particularly successful because of :

  • the commitment of senior management, who backed the progressive action plans (which included the attendance of ethnic festivals during work time in order to get to know and build up the relationship with ethnic communities) and released the necessary resources to back initiatives as they emerged.
  • the county-wide training generated a network of support, and a feeling of being part of a shared aim.

One spectacularly successful initiative is the Culturfest in Brixworth Country Park. Ethnic communities were given the chance to make use of the park to hold a cultural festival, shaping the programme as they wished. Over 4000 people attended the very first event. 
The following year, there were so many people that the police had to organise turning people away because of the traffic problems generated. It is now an annual feature of the calendar.

Alongside the cultural programme, Brixworth ran taster fun introductory environmental activities. The park has won Millennium Commission funds to be developed as a centre of excellence with regard to catering for disadvantaged social groups including ethnic groups. They have undertaken ground breaking focus group work to guide the development of both facilities and activities. This has included walking for health groups, women only activity groups, and planting with cultural themes.

The involvement of ethnic groups in what the Countryside Services have to offer continues to grow from strength to strength. 

3. Greenpeace UK

Greenpeace is a worldwide environmental campaigning organisation. The international dimension of the work of Greenpeace makes it desirable for the organisation to connect with settled ethnic communities, and to draw on the specific talents of those who are the continuation of the peoples of the world in relation to specific aspects of their work. 

Greenpeace consulted and commissioned BEN to recruit a UK national of Caribbean origin to represent the organisation as a spokesperson for the Caribbean Endangered Whales Awareness Project. This is in recognition that the direct cultural connection will facilitate entry into the local Caribbean scene. Isabel Why became the first black campaigner in the history of Greenpeace. The campaign was successful in engaging the local population.

Greenpeace is considering further opportunities for individuals and groups from ethnic communities to engage with them. Greenpeace hosted a group representing different environmental bodies from Scotland, to highlight what Greenpeace is doing with regard to increasing ethnic communities as stakeholders within the organisation. Members of the group were particularly excited to be in contact with their daredevil campaigners, and see at first hand where props are built and their equipment is maintained.

4. The Army - The Royal Scots. Scotland

The Royal Scots see themselves as having a special contribution to make to the environment because of the range of outdoor activities they can offer. They have expertise and can make available many facilities and equipment. 

The Royal Scots, having identified that ethnic representation in their organisation and activity programmes was very low, approached BEN for support with the aim of making their services and career opportunities open to ethnic communities in Edinburgh.

A BEN development worker was invited to an open day to observe and assess the various opportunities which existed within the Army e.g. outdoor and indoor assault courses, 'Look at Life' courses and work experience programmes.

This shaped the programme of a tailored BEN training day for over 25 senior and junior recruitment officers across the Armed Forces, working to identify new ways of making the services of the Forces and other opportunities accessible to ethnic communities.

A representative from the Royal Scots attended the BEN Networking Conference to gain an overview of ethnic environmental participation, to network and to use the experience to further develop ideas for working with ethnic groups.

BEN facilitated a representative from the Edinburgh Islamic society to offer officers the experience of direct contact with a member of Islam, to provide an insight into Islam and to inspire possible new and direct approaches to involve Islamic youth in their work.

BEN facilitated a representative from the Edinburgh Pakistani Society to give a talk to officers about the needs and concerns of the Pakistani community and to engage in developing new ideas of making the courses within the Forces attractive to the Pakistani community.

The Royal Scots are helping ethnic groups to access the countryside and outdoor activities, and gain insight into the army as a career path.

The Army in Scotland recorded an increased percentage in ethnic recruitment for 1999/2000. A rare occurrence of a recruit from ethnic background walking in voluntarily to join the Army has been a major breakthrough.

Many ethnic communities regard the Army as an overall racist force. In order to counter this image, genuine commitment to involving ethnic communities needs to be expressed through continual initiatives which enable access in a socially and culturally relevant way.

As a result of the success of the training and developmental work undertaken by BEN with the Royal Scots, the Lothian Police and the Fire Brigade have approached BEN for similar support in enabling them to provide activities, and open up opportunities within the organizations to ethnic communities.

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