Initial research into Ward End
Week 7: Finalisation of group outputs
During our seventh project session, we were able to create a final plan for the outputs of our project. Through previous research and interviews, we had identified a number of topics that we believed to be particularly relevant to the community of Ward End: youth education, digital literacy and garden policies. This research had been divided across the group members, and each member was able to collect lots of information related to their topic. This information was once again collated, and a plan for the following week was determined. The new work was distributed across the group, with members focusing part of their research into the area they had previously looked into. A number of other tasks were also allocated to certain members, such as research into precedent studies and identification of key demographics.
Three group members were also able to visit the site on the 14th of March, and collected a large amount of site analysis that proved to be extremely useful for the development of our project. This included photography, videos, interviews with local residents and other general observations. This information was then shared with the rest of the group, allowing everyone to get a better insight into the needs of the community and allowing us to clarify the direction we were taking this project in.
This week was also an important time for both groups on the Frameworks for Environmental Justice module as we were able to collectively put forward an application for the Earth Stories grant scheme. This project aims to collect as many perspectives as possible from a diverse range of people living in Birmingham, with a particular focus on the green spaces in the city and how people experience them. The project is being led by the Naturally Birmingham Future Parks Accelerator team, with the aim of collecting as much data as possible that can be put forward for consideration in future developments of green spaces across the city (more information on the grant scheme can be found here). Being a part of this project would be a wonderful opportunity for us as a collective as it would not only benefit us and our project, but also allow us to actively benefit the community of Ward End through our research and engagement with them.
Week 8: Earth Stories project goes ahead
At the beginning of this week, we prepared a short summary of our work to present to a number of practitioners from Birmingham City Council. Each member was assigned a part of the project related to the research they had undertaken this week, whether that be one of the three topics identified above or part of the overall site research and analysis. This information was presented on the 17th of March, and the feedback we obtained from the visiting practitioners has been extremely useful to the development of our project. It was also encouraging to hear that the ideas we have been looking to are both relevant and important to the community, so these will be kept as part of our final output.
Also this week, the Frameworks for Environmental Justice module received news that our application for the Earth Stories grant scheme had been accepted. This was excellent news for us in Group 2, who are looking into developing a toolkit for the community of Ward End, as it means that we are now able to communicate with the community and gather information that will not only benefit us as students, but also the community itself and any authorities who would like some sort of insight into their needs. It has provided us with a clear view of the future of our project, where the implementation of the Earth Stories project will become an essential part of our own work.
From here, we have begun to develop a number of outlines for how we will carry out the Earth Stories collection, with one suggestion so far being providing community members with cameras and asking them to document their stories and views of the park through a series of photographs; one group member will lead a test run with a friend and the feedback from this will be used to further develop our project. We have also begun to discuss ways of reaching out to the Ward End community to collect their Earth Stories. This might be done through advertisements such as posters or booklets, or through direct communication at weekly online meetings.
Speaking of community engagement, this week a questionnaire was sent out to the community of Ward End concerning their current thoughts about the park and their local green spaces. The questionnaire was translated into a number of languages spoken by community members so as to not exclude anyone due to language barriers. The questionnaire was also not hosted online in case people with less digital literacy skills or no internet access were unable to access it, since we want to get feedback from the most diverse range of people possible.
Project progress over the Easter holidays
The Easter holidays have been an eventful couple of weeks for Group 2. To begin with, the test run of the Earth Stories photography test was carried out on the 25th of March – this involved a test subject, though not a member of the Ward End community, going to their local park and capturing what the area meant to them through a series of photographs. The outcome and feedback from this exercise was extremely useful to the development of our project; whilst the activity was fun and engaging, it was unclear how many photographs were needed, and the camera was apparently difficult to use for someone unfamiliar with it. We decided from here that we needed to develop a clearer guide for people to use when collecting their Earth Stories, so one group member was tasked with creating a guide on how to use a disposable camera – a decision based both on ease of use and the funding given to us to collect these stories.
On the 31st of March, several members of our group were able to hold a meeting with Maxine Mills, the manager of the Dolphin Women’s Centre in Ward End, to discuss our ideas for the project and gain as much feedback as possible from someone so actively involved in the community. We were able to discuss methods of collecting the Earth Stories, and it was here that we learned that the community has often expressed an interest in arts, photography and other creative methods of expression. We therefore decided to offer several methods with which people could record their Earth Stories: the first being photography (as mentioned previously) using simple disposable cameras, the second being through drawing and painting, and the third being through simple voice recordings, as this would offer a variety of options for people to choose from in order to capture their stories in the best way possible.
Another guide was subsequently created, this time instructing users on how to use a simple voice recorder in order to avoid any confusion as seen in the photography test run.
A poster was produced by one group member which advertised the basic ideas of the project to the Ward End community, with contact information added for people to learn more about the project, and this was sent to Maxine Mills on the 2nd of April. Minor adjustments were made in the following week based on the feedback given by Maxine, including the addition of the Dolphin Centre logo, and the updated version was sent on the 8th of March.