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Our Equity Project and Progress

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The blog post below was written following our 2019 - 2020 Equity Report.
For our 2021 Equity Progress Report, please go HERE...

Back in October 2020 we received our first Equity Report, which shares the processes and key learnings from a year long exploration into the barriers to access for ethnic minority communities.

You can read this first Equity Report and the Equity Action Plan we intend to follow by hitting the links below.

We have committed to share our Equity Progress on this website every year.

Bristol Bites Back Better Blog

Rhian Grant, co-author of the Equity Report, a community research project commissioned by St Werburghs City Farm, writes our latest Bristol Bites Back Better blog post. Rhian writes about the formation of the project and the actions that the farm is taking to mitigate and remove barriers to access.

The idea

Back in the blissful, pre-Covid era of November 2019, a diverse team of three came together (in person!) to initiate a research project. The vision for this project was birthed by coach and educator, Esme Worrell – the then Business Manager of SWCF’s Propagation Place – on the day that they walked into the Farm’s office and asked the Directors the question, “What are you doing about the lack of diversity on this farm?”

Situated at the centre of Ashley Ward, St Werburghs City Farm (SWCF) is a well-loved community green space, that seems ideally placed to provide a valuable resource to the ethnically diverse communities that are the beating heart of areas within the Farm’s catchment, including St Pauls, St Agnes, St Judes, Lockleaze, and the neighbouring wards of Easton and Lawrence Hill. But, that day in 2019, the Directors of SWCF acknowledged that the Farm was not doing enough to welcome, include, and cater to all members of the diverse community that they aimed to serve. They wanted to change that. So, with funding from the Coop Foundation, the Equity Project began.

The team

In came Manu Maunganidze: Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Adviser, and Cultural and Environmental Consultant. With his experience, expertise, and solid network among Bristol’s green space and community organisations, Manu was an incredible asset to our team.

Our Project Manager was Esme Worrell: Educator and Business Coach. An inspiring, resourceful, and socially conscious nerd, Es was the visionary and driver of the research, always feeding our work with ideas; passionate discourse; and constant commitment to our wellbeing and resilience.

And then there was me: I initially came on board as a volunteer, with some experience at the Farm, and a genuine passion for the aims of the project. Horticulture, community, and writing are my core interests, and I joined the team eager to learn and contribute.

The research

Our goal for the Equity Project was to find out what kind of a relationship the local community had to urban farming and horticulture; to ascertain whether local people felt able or inclined to engage with the facilities and services offered by SWCF; and to explore the factors that stood in the way of, or prevented people engaging with the space. All of this was done with a focus on diversity, and the particular barriers that exist for people of colour. The ultimate aim was to equip ourselves with the insight needed to recommend changes that would help embed a cultural shift in the organisation of the Farm, and that would in turn welcome a more diverse community to participate in the space.

Getting out into the community of Ashley Ward and speaking to its residents was eye-opening and informative: we had some of our assumptions confirmed and we also came across interesting and unexpected perspectives which helped us to mould our process, and lent insight and recommendations to the report that we could never have come up with ourselves. That is the point of doing community research and community engagement: the community that an organisation hopes to serve will not only benefit from a service or a facility, but will shape and better it too. For that possibility to be realised, the community has to be heard.

Leading focus groups that drew on already existing community bases was a great way to open up discussion amongst the community, and to draw insights from people’s experiences and perspectives in a context of both open and supported conversation. And speaking with people we dubbed ‘experts’ – community leaders, urban farming professionals, and community green-space facilitators – gave us an immense amount of insight, which we were able to draw on in making recommendations for SWCF’s particular context.

Meanwhile, we outsourced external professionals, including independent Cultural Competency Advisor, Cacao Stephens, and another Diversity Trust Consultant, to perform top-to-toe audits of documents, processes, and cultural competency at the Farm, so that we could assess barriers and issues for access and inclusion from all angles.

Global shifts

I can’t talk about the Equity Report without referencing two significant shifts in global context, which shed new light on our work, and forced us to step back and rethink many of our approaches.

Since it took hold of the UK in early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to cast a stark light on the inequalities that underpin our institutional and social structures. The nation’s attention has at last been drawn, irreversibly, to the reality of embedded racism at structural, cultural, and psychological levels in British society.

The violent killings by police in the US, of Breonna Taylor on 13th March, and George Floyd on 25th May, sparked global solidarity with the movement for Black lives. Bristol’s own response resounded loud and clear with the toppling of the statue of the slave-trader, Edward Colston, from its podium in the city centre. It said: Enough! It’s time for real change.

All of us have had to face a tough new perspective on reality since the pivotal events of 2020. As a research team carrying out the Equity Project, we also had to adjust, and decide how to do better for our communities. The reflections and analysis that we carried out as part of our research were necessarily informed and augmented by these historic events.

Looking forward

The Equity Report has been well-received, in spite of having pulled very few of its punches! It has already begun to influence many positive changes at SWCF, including shifts toward more inclusive recruitment, infrastructure, and outreach. Other organisations too have shown interest, and intentions toward doing similar work for themselves and their own diverse communities. In all of this, the Equity Project has been a success, but it is only one tiny step. It has been the hope and intention of the authors from the outset, that this piece of work would inspire further research and contribute to a wider shift in organisational change across the fields of urban farming and horticulture in the UK. There are many amazing organisations and networks contributing to change right now who have inspired us. It’s going to take all of that work, and more, to achieve a truly inclusive farming and horticultural sector in the UK. Let’s continue to make change happen…

Our Equity Project Webinar

Hit the Download button below to watch our Equity Webinar. Please note: the first 7 minutes of the webinar didn't record. During this time, the Chair of the panel, Navaratnam Partheeban, kindly welcomed everyone and introduced the panel, including:

Esme Worrall (Co-author of the Equity Report): Esme is a business coach for creative entrepreneurs. They worked at SWCF for two years as a manager for Propagation Place, as well as leading and developing the equity project

Manu Maunganidze (Co-author of the Equity Report): Manu works with cultural and environmental organisations and community groups in Bristol and beyond. He advises on issues of equality, inclusion and broader strategy. The non-profit he co-founded NYCE, works with young people on projects that allow them to become better engaged with the environment. He was a teacher for almost 10 years.

Rhian Grant (Co-author of the Equity Report): Rhian is a gardener, horticulturalist, copywriter and lifelong volunteer. She initially joined the Equity project as a volunteer and quickly became an integral part of the team.

Jess Clynewood (Co-Director of SWCF): Jess started working at the Farm 8 years ago, running horticulture workshops for adults with learning disabilities. She has held several other positions in the organisation before she stepped into the Co-Director role in September 2018. She is passionate about horticulture, community food growing and cultivating resilient local food systems.

Kari Halford (Co-Director of SWCF): Kari stepped into the Director role at SWCF 2011 and has guided the Farm as it has grown in number of sites, services and staff. Prior to this she worked for a City Farm in Wales for 7 years and has a background in Sustainable Development and community engagement.

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