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Growing Communities Through Nature

Growing Communities Through Nature

Dr Ros Davies, Melissa Muir, Katie Kirk


  • Growing Communities Through Nature was a partnership between the university, Cornwall’s Making Space for Nature team, Cornwall’s Voluntary Sector Forum and South Kerrier Alliance CIC in Helston, it was funded by UKRI as part of a national programme called Enhancing Place-Based Public Engagement.
  • We wanted to explore different ways to engage the public in making changes to their open public spaces, for the benefits of the community and biodiversity.
  • In early 2020 we organised workshops in Launceston, Newquay and Helston and invited the public along.
  • The project gathered ideas from participants and produced new plans for small patches of council or community-owned land in each town.
  • These plans will be realised by early 2021 and we hope to monitor the impact the co-design process has on levels of public engagement in future.


The University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI) and College of Life and Environmental Sciences conducted a UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Funded project called Growing Communities Through Nature in early 2020. This project aimed to look how best to engage people in improving their local green spaces while also reducing the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss. The project was part of a national programme called Enhancing Place-Based Public Engagement, funded by UKRI, and the wider goal was to “support capacity building in collaborative, place-based public engagement between research organisations, partner organisations and communities.”

In addition to the benefits of climate change mitigation, the development of deeper working relationships between the University, partner organisations and the public provides a blueprint for further integration between HEIs and communities. Experience of using co-design, co-delivery and co-monitoring methods and tools provides a foundation from which the partners can develop future place-based activities to respond to a range of needs and challenges (such as community development and housing schemes). This approach can also be scaled-up to other Cornish towns and villages via larger collaborative funding applications and a wider range of projects.

The project was designed to test models for community engagement in co-production and local innovation, following up with co-designed and co-delivered maintenance, monitoring and evaluation activity. We investigated the impact of using  three different institutional vehicles for bringing together communities around local activity, with the anticipation that learning from this project could also be used at a larger scale, and for work on a variety of place-based needs in future. 

The project worked in three Cornish towns (Helston, Launceston and Newquay) to run workshops co-designing public open spaces in collaboration with South Kerrier Alliance CIC and Incredible Edible Helston, Cornwall Council’s Making Space for Nature team ( and the Voluntary Sector Forum. The workshops aimed to bring people together to share ideas about an existing space and its potential improvement, discuss new designs for the site and how to maintain the space, as well as monitoring and evaluating its potential impact on biodiversity and the local community.