A groundbreaking city farm formed in 1976 by volunteer group of local residents near Bristol city centre is looking to further engage and benefit local residents – this time by launching an initiative to help more people get involved in community activities.
The Active Citizens project was devised by Windmill Hill City Farm to specifically address social issues in its immediate Bedminster environment. But it has the potential to provide an effective model elsewhere too.
Making connections for stronger networks
Through the 'Active Citizens' project, the farm is hoping to use the internet to help people to connect with local issues and with each other, and to take action to improve their lives and enhance their community.
The first phase of the project will see the mapping of local community facilities, services and natural resources, as well as groups of people who are already ‘active’ in their communities in some way – such as a local residents group, for example. This online map will help to build active citizenship and strengthen community networks.
A world of online opportunities
The next element of the project will be to use digital media to help people to become active citizens. Most of the ideas for ‘social action’ will come from local people themselves. But the farm has developed two mini-projects to get things started.
The first of these is an initiative to produce an online urban fruit map, identifying readily accessible fruit trees in public spaces so that people can harvest this free, but neglected, resource to produce jams and pickles. Using a local, natural asset to create a social enterprise will provide both an income to sustain the activity, and equip participants with greater skills.
The second mini-project involves establishing a digital media studio offering activities to help young people develop life, citizenship and work skills. This will promote their own sense of worth and identity, reflect what they value and give them a greater voice to express, and act on, their concerns.
Inspiring active citizenship all over
The farm is hoping its project will inspire the creation of Active Citizens in other parts of the UK too. So the final phase of the project will see the development of an online toolkit to help similar organisations to replicate the idea within their own context.