Case Study November 2020

Voices: Concrete Garden

In our Voices series, we share the stories and opinions from our funded organisations who are helping to find solutions to poverty and trauma in Scotland. The latest group is Concrete Garden, an urban community food growing, play and wellbeing project providing growing space, activities, events and volunteering opportunities for the people of Possilpark and the wider North Glasgow area.

"Projects like ours make a real difference because we look at people’s strengths.  We nurture opportunities that build on them."
  • What is your organisation working to achieve? 

We want a Possilpark where everyone has an equal opportunity to be happy, healthy, and thriving. Right now, our community faces the greatest health inequalities in the whole of Scotland.  Data around poverty, health, educational, and employment show that the intersection of these inequalities mean people in our community consistently experience greater disadvantage.  Our community deserves social justice. Through our work across community gardens, volunteering and outdoor play, we address this by providing access and opportunities for people to enjoy good health and emotional well-being, and to build positive relationships in life, learning and work.

  • Where are you focusing your support right now? 

Over the last 10 years, we have worked side by side with our community to identify existing and emerging need.  As we move forward into 2020 and beyond, we are drawing our focus towards addressing:

  • The lack of activities in neutral outdoor spaces where people can integrate, meet friends, connect with nature and neighbours, and become involved in the social and cultural life of Possilpark
  • The lack of informal transition support services for trauma, rehabilitation, addiction recovery and those transitioning from prison/residential care.
  • The lack of quality, accessible, volunteering opportunities 
  • The lack of safe places for children to go outdoors to play and meet their friends 
  • The limited availability of food growing space and lack of dignified food provision
  • How do poverty and trauma figure in your work? 

It’s clear from the data that the effects of poverty and trauma are felt deeply in our community, many people have been negatively affected by chronic exposure to both, and we know how important it is to acknowledge this and address these issues. However, no one wants to be framed by those experiences or singled out and labelled. That is not what we do.  For us, it is important to recognise, that the data, while helpful, fails to capture the positive community spirit in Possilpark. There are strong associational ties and bonds which exist here between families and neighbours.  And an enthusiasm to volunteer and contribute to local projects and initiatives that create positive community spaces.

Projects like ours make a real difference because we look at people’s strengths.  We nurture opportunities that build on them.  We support people to find a sense of self, and to feel empowered in their own ability to improve the well-being of this community and themselves.

  • How can funders support your work? 

Notwithstanding long-term financial support, our sector needs more funding ‘plus’ grants…  by ‘plus’ I mean in addition to financially supporting our programs and activities, we would have access to training and development, mentoring and advice, peer to peer support networks or coaching and leadership support. The best relationships I have had with funders are when our grant officers feel like an extension of our staff team and support network.

  • What changes would you like to see in your area of focus during the next five years

This is difficult to answer under the cloud of Covid-19. The impact of the virus on our communities is going to be felt for years to come, and we don’t yet know how this will present.  We will keep listening to our community to ensure our work is always in context and relevant to the challenges they face and that we support them to have a voice and agency in all that goes on in our community.

Prior to Covid-19 our 5 year plan included expanding our workforce to meet the increasing demand for referrals into our Adult Therapeutic Gardening sessions, developing youth leadership and volunteering and expanding our outdoor play area to meet the ever growing demand. If anything, the current health crisis has sharpened our focus. Our community is growing, with hundreds of new homes being built, our community is grieving and has suffered some of the worst effects of the health crisis, we will need to explore all the ways we can move towards recovery together.

  • What long-term system changes would best address the issues? 

This is one of those question that I wish I had an answer to, perhaps I can’t think of this at the moment because we are living and working through the most complex and dynamic health crisis in our lifetime! The need to constantly work in the here and now, firefighting and adapting to ever changing guidelines is clouding my perspective. I really do not have an answer to this question at the moment.

How Concrete Garden's work fits with our 2020-2030 strategy

"We first funded Concrete Garden in 2017 and since then have been continually impressed with staff's energy and drive to reach as many people as possible in the local area. 
"It's this passion, combined with a strong knowledge of local challenges, that makes Concrete Garden's community garden model so effective. Activities are developed both with and for the community and through this commitment to collaboration they have built a thriving local resource which has helped to reduce isolation and build the confidence of many people in the Possilpark area of Glasgow.
"The organisation's approach is relational and collaborative, both of which are underpinned by a genuine respect and desire to help. We recognise just how vital organisations that work this way are for building resilience and networks in Scottish communities and have seen first-hand that Concrete Garden is a shining example."
Wendy Knowles
Funding Manager

Watch our video with Concrete Garden recorded in 2019