Monday, 7 June 2010

On change

What is change? Well, you wouldn't believe it how many hours of discussion can go into this question. Just come to my office to get a slice of it. It's all very important stuff, because we're trying to deliver a programme that is changing something for the better, and by doing so, inspires change beyond the project that changes something. Is your head buzzing yet?

Over the past two months I've been working with a new group, in an area that according to government statistics ticks the multiple deprivation box. This time it's a group of primary school children who have thought hard about what their change project could be. They had lots of fab ideas. However, the question arose again if their idea actually delivered any real change. So, the kids don't like litter, broken glass and needles on play parks, gang fighting, flooding of play areas, poor housing, noisy neighbours, the setting on fire of bins, and other acts of vandalism.

So what do you do about it?
I give you a pause of thought.
Maybe you have an idea?
What would it be?
Ah go on, play the game!
What would you do about it?


A leaflet. A youtube video. A DVD telling people not to litter, vandalise, set bins on fire xyz.
Now, think again - would that change a thing? Would people magically stop littering and vandalising? No?
So we started again and the children came up with a mission statement:
"We want to replace litter and graffiti with flowers to make our community beautiful and tidy"
And what they can do to achieve this?
Eventually they came up with the idea to plant flowers and other things.

Last week we went to the local garden centre to decide what we want to see planted and how much it would cost. I don't think I've ever seen a bunch of 10 year olds quite so giddy about touching and smelling herbs, identifying plants, getting excited about colours and then absolutely taken in by the existence of ... fruit trees. How brilliant would it be to have fruit trees grow at your school and during break time you could just pick an apple?

After all the struggle and strive to find a project that we can realistically achieve in just 4 sessions, suddenly it all fell into place. We will be planting 3 raised beds (vegetables and flowers), one half barrel plant pot for a herb garden, and an orchard of 10 fruit trees - most of it on school grounds (it's easier to maintain/sustain, the school is supportive, plus the green areas in the school are a bit bare). The group will involve one other class, the eco group at the school and hopefully the nursery staff and children in their project, maybe even some parent volunteers. We'll get some horticultural help from a local organisation, and the planting pots and other supplies will come from Glasgow Wood Recycling, an amazing organisation that combines recycling with skilling up people and making a business out of it. And there'll be some support from Community & Safety Services to make the children more confident in what to do if they witness vandalism, littering or noise pollution.

Of course it's not all easy, there are challenges and barriers as with every project. For example, the soil on the grounds of the school is of very poor quality - it may be a newly built school and look rather lovely, but savings were made on the way that the green areas were constructed, with little soil that becomes muddy in rain and bone dry in sunshine. And because we've got a very tight timescale, what with the schools finishing in June, some much needed support is a bit slow forthcoming. People are a bit reluctant to make too quick a change, so it's about convincing people that it can be done. We've got enthusiasm and creative ideas on our side. Can we do it Bob? Yes we can!

We've taken lots of before images, and clearly want some after ones too. And the youtube video idea? Well, we'll still document what we're up to with our Flip and Wiki, and maybe this too will  help to inspire others to make a positive change. If we can do it in 4 weeks, why can't you?



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