I have just recently updated this post to include a Reflections section that includes recent media regarding this topic.
As part of a Hort Week and Parks Alliance (UK) Leaders Roundtable in London (22nd January 2016) on the “Future funding of Parks – what can the UK learn from others?”, I as the Deputy Chair of the World Urban Parks delivered the keynote and a range of observations.
Horticulture Week has a long relationship with the Parks Alliance. The Alliance was established in 2013 by 40 key leaders from across the UK and grew from the “Making Parks a Priority” campaign run by Horticulture Week.
The Parks Alliance is the voice of UK parks, representing the people and organisations that create, maintain, invest in and use the public green spaces that we are proud to have at the heart of British life. We campaign at local, regional, UK and EU levels to ensure that parks are properly funded, their roles recognized and developed, and that the benefits that they provide are clearly understood and recognized.
The Roundtable Series:
This will be the first in a series of roundtables by the Park Alliance to develop policy positions. This roundtable will help us tease out what options we have for new funding models that will ensure that parks continue to flourish. We would like to be in the position where we could outline what a future park funding model could look like.
The Roundtable Participants:
Kate Lowe, Horticulture week
Drew Bennellick, Head of Landscape & Natural Heritage at the Heritage Lottery Fund
Sir Terry Farrell CBE, architect
Nadia Broccardo, CEO of Team London Bridge
Dave Morris, Chair of The National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces
Ben Rogers, Director of the Centre for London
Lydia Ragoonanan, Programme Manager for the Rethinking Parks at NESTA
Peter Massini, Principal Policy Officer GLA Environment Team
Kate Swade, Development Manager at Shared Assets
Maria Adebowale, Director of Living Space Project
Susannah Wilks, Director of the Cross River Partnership
Ed Wallis, Editorial Director and Senior Research Fellow at the Fabian society
Mark Camley, Chair of the Parks Alliance and Executive Director for Park Operations and Venues, LLDC.
Sue Morgan, CEO of Wandle Valley Regional Park Trust
Alistair Bayford, Regional Operations Director at The Landscape Group
Paul Lincoln, Deputy Chief Executive, Landscape Institute
Wayne Grills, Chief Operations Officer of the British Association of Landscape Industries (BALI)
A brief outline of my thoughts and observation are outlined here:
Many thanks for allowing me the opportunity to make a few opening remarks regarding this seemingly ongoing discussion regarding this topic, a discussion going on for decades – and that maybe my first observation – we may need to approach this challenge differently.
It is great to see such a diversity of participants from a few different sectors and with different views – and this maybe my second observation – the future of parks might need even more diverse individuals involved.
It is also great to see the UK trying and generating different approaches – be it low level bridges to create more effective use of space, to using dis-used tube lines as Cycle-lines to think tanks such as NESTA – and this maybe my third observation – the solutions maybe in front of you already…
Yes, I am likely to make a range of observations that might seemingly be critical of the park sector. I might be harsh and demand that we do it differently, I don’t just stand on the sidelines but actively participate, so I am criticising myself and willing to accept the criticisms. This is my fourth observation – a need to challenge all that we do – In the UK think rubbish and rubbish bins or how parks seem to be “gated”
So Is there a silver bullet?
For the last 10 to 15 years we have endlessly pursued the funding conundrum without a sense of closure or clarity.
You don’t have to go far to find the evidence of the alternative funding models or even maybe the right solution?
There are so many examples, such as:
Locally (UK) from the original work of CABESpace and GreenSpace to the recent NESTA Rethink Parks.
I can cite a range of alternative (and successful) models from:
- Golden Gate
- Central Park
- The Lee Valley model
- Lottery Approaches – Netherlands Postcode to your own Heritage Lottery
- Cornwall Park Trust, to
- Parks Victoria.
Around the world we have tried all models from central government through to philanthropic to private. It is interesting to note that the possible funding choices are linked very strongly to the Governance model chosen and the circumstances or context in their society, that sets “boundaries’ or limits?….but even more interestingly the Leadership that is associated with the so called successful models.
And I can speak at length on all of them. It is interesting to note that some of these models may have faltered or are faltering and it is mainly due to leadership (and understanding)
So why around the world do we constantly have this conversation? From the IUCN to WUP.
In a very Economic rationalist view or moment clearly, no one really wishes to buy the “park” product be it the government, the community or individuals. When your product is still left on the shelf. What do you do? Is the product out of date?
But I hear you say we have a “great” product – and that maybe the case. In fact we (all around the world) have taken the route to prove this – “The Value of Parks” syndrome – very rational and scientific approaches have been taken to prove the case – even with verification by the Big four Accounting companies. If we have produced the case for the value of parks, and I don’t doubt for a moment that we have, why are we still debating the ‘funding” dilemma.
- Have we not prosecuted the case well?
- Why has no one been willing to “buy” the product.
- Have we not reached into government?
- Leveraged our relationships?
- Sought individuals of influence?
From Michelle Obama to Prince Charles – haven’t you got the “Royal” Parks?
We can debate this endlessly (the value of parks) – and in fact that’s what the sector has been doing for decades. And I am not about to enter into this debate and am willing to accept it is a job well done in explaining the value of parks and I accept that it is still important.
I know this well, having guided the Australian & NZ Park sector (from Protected Areas to Urban Parks) to develop and prosecute the “Value of Parks” argument, even to the point of crafting a completely different mind set – Healthy Parks Healthy People, and where are they now?
Funding Models what are they really?
The funding “models” we so desperately seek to understand, mimic, co-opt and implement, are they not just a plain rationale analysis of what they are, if it was life would be simple and we probably wouldn’t be having this discussion,…for example some of these models are as simple as this:
- the Parks Victoria model in it’s day is just simply a “rating” based funding model,
- Golden Gate is simply a philanthropic and partnership model
- Central Park is just simply a philanthropic model
- Cornwall Park is just simply an endowment model
- The lottery model is well just selling dreams
and yes when others try to emulate them they are usually far from successful.
What are we missing in this analysis?
So if you re-look at some of these models:
- The Parks Victoria model was successful from the 1970’s to late 2000’s due to the vision of a Premier of Victoria to create the “Garden State” and hence why Melbourne has one of the best and most extensive parks system.
- Golden Gate – is because of a unique individual in Brian O’Neill
- Cornwall Park – Sir John Logan Cornwall – a farsighted individual
Clearly leadership is important – but doing the Journey – in many places we keep jumping ship on leadership, therefore understand the vision/concept – consider HPHP.
So is it just a question of leadership?
And don’t we have that leadership now:
- what President or Leader of a country has established a legacy park or urban park program?
- What individual such as a Branson or a Gates have left a ongoing “park” system legacy,
- What modern legacies are being developed that we should be following.
Different Mindset – A different product
Yes, leadership is important but it is actually what they did and the “trend” that they picked…yes the individual is important and how often do we “push” them aside?
When did you pick the “Golden Gate” trend? And did you pick it early enough?
What are the emerging concepts and who are the emerging “thinkers’ – the individuals….. The Skyline, The Urban City National Park…
However it it TIME……..Time to do it differently and in that I will constantly prosecute the case to “Rethink” Parks beyond even NESTA’s program and to back the crazy ones – the ones who think differently. And I am a big fan of “NESTA” and enabling “thinking”.
When Brian O’Neill started his journey back in the 1960’s, the fundamental concept was to connect with people and to empower people…the USA NPS ignored him as an aberration…they now wish that they had many more…
So what would you do differently and how would this “fund” parks? So this brings me back to the conundrum – Value = funds. We spend a lot of time trying to convince everyone that we are valuable and thus they should invest.
Before I wrap up I wish to deviate slightly to highlight the greatest barrier: us, government and community Values….If we are underfunded from a government source and that will never change, can we let go and hand they over to anyone to do anything…chaos theory – the answer is “no” as we can’t trust others but we might have too…
Back to the main points:
The successful models “just” went and created the “value” and the money side of the equation sorted it self. The Value that they created was different from the traditional “park” value – think skyline, think the first National Park (over hundred years ago – it wasn’t about one but belief), think HPHP, think Cornwall Park. It is one of my favourite things about Steve Jobs – was that he wished us to buy something that would change our lives and we did, he didn’t try to sell something to just make money…
Brian O’Neill did exactly this “created” value before asking for money..the laneways of Melbourne are another classic…
So has the UK got the opportunity to create “value”:
The Urban National Park City – what can I say – amazing…but do any of you blog it, tweet it, talk about it or do you fear it (a sign that it might be the right thing) – it is about creating value and connection but very differently and they even pose the question that money might not be the central issue.
I am a big fan of what is slowly emerging in Japan as they rethink parks. I have had the pleasure to work closely with their park leaders over the last few decades as they allow others to find the solution and also to “rethink” their roles.
So some observations:
- We may need to approach this challenge differently.
- The future of parks might need even more diverse individuals involved.
- Understand the models better but more importantly understand who to back locally
- Love and own your homegrown ideas
- Rewrite the rules – The laneways of Melbourne
- Pull the model apart – have no fear
- The solutions maybe in front of you already…
So some thoughts:
- Yes, create the first Urban City National Park
- Create a health park – and again not just some isolated “gym” stuff
- Stop – stopping people – what are our laneways…
- “lifestyle” your offer – We shop, drink coffee, we “lifestyle” ourselves…they are just social processes…make parks central to them..
- Redesign parks – design legacy…
Since my keynote there have been number of articles published and responses posted regarding this challenging conundrum:
An Article from: “Shared Assets” –
Articles from HortiCulturalWeek (UK)