How to grow your group, strengthen local connections, and see your area with new eyes
How can orchard groups raise awareness in the local community and increase volunteer turnout?
At The Orchard Project we have been testing out a process called community mapping. It involves taking stock of who and what makes up your local community. It can be used by orchard groups to identify and create better links between local initiatives.
The mapping process is also a great way for your community orchard to be recognised as a vital part of its local area.
So here are some pointers for how to map your community:
Step 1: Geographic area
First draw a map of your orchard and the community around it. It is up to you how big that area is.
Step 2: Mapping Associations
Identify local associations. These are simply groups of people who work towards a shared vision. Examples include residents’ associations, local history societies, beekeepers’ associations, and youth groups.
It may be that the youth group would like to participate in a work day, for example, or the beekeepers’ association may be looking for a flower rich home for some hives.
In one orchard, we spoke to the local Beavers & Cubs group about an upcoming work day. They realised that if they participated it would count towards their gardening badge. In turn it provided the orchard group with extra pairs of hands and a possible long term connection with younger volunteers.
These mutually beneficial collaborations are vital to the success of your community orchard.
Step 3: Mapping Institutions
Identify local institutions, such as the public library, police station, hospital, GP, and community centres. These may be able to provide support in the form of publicity and funds.
For example, two community centres near an orchard we contacted realised they had a gap in their activities during the school holidays. So we collaborated with them to create a series of orchard walks for families. The community centres were able to publicise the events widely, allowing us to introduce the orchard to a wider group of people.
Step 4: Mapping Green Spaces
Green spaces could be parks, woodlands, nature reserves, allotments, community gardens. Forging bonds with them can provide an opportunity to share tools, resources and volunteers.
Putting it all together
Place on your map the names of the people and groups you have identified, including information about what they do. Community mapping can be carried out by the orchard group alone, or with other local voices: councillors, park rangers, housing associations etc. Having them there means you can start a conversation about what the orchard means for them. It is a chance to see what the orchard can offer people, and 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. You can share the resulting map with local organisations.
It is often the people, places and organisations closest to home that we take most for granted. Community mapping is an invitation to reach out to those people and initiatives that shape your local area and celebrate them through collaboration.