How to grow your group, strengthen local connections, and see your area with new eyes
I’m interested in how we look at issues of low turnout to orchard events creatively. We’ve also been looking at how our orchard groups raise awareness of their orchards in the local community.
At The Orchard Project we have been testing out a process called community mapping. It is an exercise carried out by members of the community, and other interested parties, to take stock of who and what makes up their local community. It can be used by orchard groups and their local community to identify and create better links between local initiatives.
The mapping process is a great way for your community orchard to be recognised as a vital part of its local area.
Here are some pointers for how to map your community:
Step 1: Geographic area
Define the area where your orchard is, and your community is based. It is up to you how big the area is that you mark.
Step 2: Mapping Associations
Associations are simply groups of people who work towards a shared vision. Examples within your area are residents’ associations, local history societies, beekeepers’ associations, youth groups.
Associations colour the distinctiveness of a place, and they can be valuable project partners in the orchard. It may be that the youth group would like to participate in an orchard work day, or the beekeepers’ association may be looking for a biodiversity rich home for some hives.
In one orchard, we spoke to the local beavers & cubs group about an upcoming orchard care and litter picking event. They realised that if beavers and cubs participated in the event, it would count towards their gardening badge. For the orchard group, it added people power to the day’s activities, and provided them with a possible long term connection with younger orchard volunteers.
These mutually beneficial collaborations are vital to the success of your community orchard.
Step 3: Mapping Institutions
Local institutions include the public library, police station, hospital, GP, community centre. It may be that your local institutions can provide your orchard project with support in the form of publicity and funds.
After we spoke to local community centres surrounding one orchard, they start advertising our orchard events, and they identified a gap in their provision during school holidays. We collaborated with them to create a series of orchard walks for families during holidays. The community centres were able to share the events widely, giving us the opportunity to share the community orchard heritage and vision with a wider group of people.
Step 4: Mapping Green Spaces
Green spaces could be parks, woodlands, nature reserves, allotments, community gardens. Forging bonds with other green spaces in the area can be an opportunity for you to share tools, resources and volunteers.
Putting it all together
The mapping exercise can be carried out by the orchard group alone, or with other local voices: local councillors, park rangers, housing associations representatives etc. To map an organisation in your community means to physically place them on a map, with details of what their purpose is. If the associations are present at the mapping session, a conversation can start there and then about what the orchard may mean for them. The process is as much a chance to see what the orchard can offer people, as well as to hear what local issues are pressing.
Follow up the mapping session with relevant actions – visiting the organisations identified, setting up meetings or inviting them to orchard events. The resulting map can also be shared with local organisations.
It is often the people, places and organisations at our fingertips which we take most for granted. Community mapping is an invitation to grasp those people and initiatives that shape your local area and celebrate them through collaboration.
We are always interested to hear stories of local collaboration nurtured by community orchards. If you’d like to share, or ask more about the community mapping process, get in touch!