Over the past year, the Museum’s Urban Nature Project team have been working on a project funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Thanks to money from National Lottery players, we’ve had the opportunity to bring 12 young people together to explore the causes and consequences of the inequality of access to quality green space and nature, which will help to shape the future of the Urban Nature Project.
Lauren Hyams Head of Urban Nature Activities, panel member Yogi Nagam and Theo Blossom, our Young People Programme Developer, talk about what they achieved.
Transforming our work with young people
Lauren explains, ‘As part of the work on the UNP to reach a wider audience and to do better at listening to and involving young people more directly, we created a pilot Youth Advisory Panel (YAP) to help us design and test ways in which we can do this.
‘We have been working with audiences to research not only who is most engaged with nature, but crucially which communities or people have the least access to nature. This development phase, funded by the NLHF, has enabled us to explore some of the barriers, interests and motivations across a range of audiences, with a focus on those with a low connection to nature.
‘Over a period of eight months, as part of a Youth Advisory Panel, 12 young people from diverse backgrounds have been sharing their thoughts and experiences of access to the natural world with Museum staff.’
Listening to young people
Panel member Yogi says, ‘During our conversations, our focus turned towards access to green spaces for Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups, as reports from the UK Government and National Trust suggest a large difference in how people in different communities get to and want to enjoy outdoor spaces. Microaggressions, the quality and maintenance of urban green spaces and transport to more rural green space all came up and were discussed frankly and openly.
‘It was challenging at times, but this experience has been a really constructive and powerful one.
‘Conversing over the course of a period of six months allowed us as a group to visit and revisit people’s experiences and understand their stories and views more deeply. I really feel people should be able to exist in outdoor spaces, feeling the benefits for themselves and starting a relationship with the natural world around us.
‘As a group of people who weren’t acting as part of the Museum but working with it, we all felt able to express our thoughts freely and often saw the problems we identified leading us to conclusions where taking the groups’ experiences and ideas to relevant policy and decision-makers in local and national government matter.’
Young People Programme Developer Theo says, ‘The young people chose to develop a short presentation on their experiences of the inequalities of access to nature for people from culturally and ethnically diverse backgrounds.
‘The YAP agreed on three ‘asks’ which they think could start to help address these inequalities, before meeting with senior Museum staff, the civil servants’ Nature Network, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) Councillors Emma Wills and Anne Cyron and Deputy London Mayor Shirley Rodrigues.
‘Participating with the YAP not only transformed our approach to the Urban Nature Project, but also had a positive impact on the young people with an increased appreciation for nature, an intention to spend more time in nature and engaging in nature-based activities. They also developed skills such as confidence, teamwork and communication, and feel the experience has made them more employable.’
To wrap up their time on the panel, the group took over the Museum’s social media channels for a day. We challenged the panel to take a series of images that uncover the unexpected and celebrate the everyday in nature, with the hope that it will encourage others to do the same.
Thanks to National Lottery players and The National Lottery Heritage Fund, we’ve been able to make a difference to 12 young people and learn how we can can support even more people to connect to nature in the future as part of the Urban Nature Project.
Two further Youth Advisory Panels are planned for the next phase of the project, where we will hear from different young people up down the country on how they want to find that connection to nature and share with others.