Involving people and communities

Community dialogue in Hull (photo credit: Anna MacGillivray)

Involving people is a fundamental part of the ecosystem approach to the planning, design and management of what happens on land and water. According to the approach, the "objectives of management of land, water and living resources are a matter of societal choice".  This page provides links to on-line resources that will help in understanding the challenge and opportunity of engaging local communities in the management of land and water environments for the benefit of all.

Public dialogue on valuing our environment

A public dialogue called 'Naturally Speaking...' was commissioned to explore how the public feel about concepts such as ecosystem services and the ecosystem approach.  It focused on whether these terms reflect public aspirations for looking after nature and environmental policy. The reports, a film and animation can be found on our 'Naturally Speaking...' page.

Working with local communities

  • Talking about Our Place is a web guide published by Scottish Natural Heritage that aims to encourage local communities to get involved in the future of their landscape. It provides suggestions for activities that will help communities to discuss what is important locally. It can be used help communities identify the ecosystem services their local landscape provides, understand how landscape changes affect these services, input more effectively to land-use decisions made by local authorities and other agencies, and it advises on further sources of support.
  • The Sylva Foundation has produced a Community Engagement Tookit to help woodland owners and managers in planning and conducting woodland operations in relation to the full range of stakeholders.  This will be of interest to people involved in managing other types of land use.

​The social distribution of ecosystem services

See our upcoming webinar on this topic, together with links to reports on this topic.

Promoting learning in the natural outdoors

  • In 2011, Natural England commissioned an Assessment of the benefits of learning outside the classroom in natural environments. This examines the economic value of the benefits associated with learning in natural environments. The qualitative evidence reviewed suggests there is a significant value, with benefits including educational attainment, awareness of environment, behavioural outcomes and attitudes to other children, social cohesion, health benefits, staff morale and a more attractive school.
  • Natural Connections was project to increase the number of children experiencing the full range of benefits that come from learning in natural environments. While it closed formally in 2016, dialogue about this topic continues via a blog page. The project was led by Natural England together with the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom, and a large consortium of civil society organisations. It involved around 200 schools in areas of high multiple deprivation in Plymouth, Torbay, Bristol, Cornwall and North Somerset.

Learning from project experience

The following resources provide examples of place-based projects with a strong emphasis on engaging communities.

  • The charity Shared Assets has produced a resport detailing four examples of shared management of local land areas in England that are in private, charitable and local and national public ownership.
  • The interdisciplinary research project entitled Understanding and Acting Within Loweswater led the formation of a community-led forum to address the challenges posed by blue-green algae in a lake in Cumbria. A Policy and Practice Note produced by the Rural Economy and Land Use Programme summarises the findings.
  • The Lewes and Ouse Valley economics Project is involving local people in valuing what nature does for them. This includes involvement in the formation of a Neighbourhood Plan.
  • In recent years, a variety of funding schemes have helped place-based projects involve people in the process of looking after their natural environment. An example in England is Access to Nature, a grants scheme within the Big Lottery Fund’s Changing Spaces programme. Access to Nature has published as a series of fourteen Learning Papers.      

Citizen science

Citizen science means involving the public in the study of the natural environment. It can occur at the national or local level and is one aspect of involving people in the management of the natural environment.

  • A free practical guide covering when and how to use citizen science for monitoring the environment has been published by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, supported by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. Choosing and Using Citizen Science is a toolkit aimed at people who are thinking about running a citizen science project.