Seeds for Growth – improving health and wellbeing via access to quality outdoor spaces

This month we are profiling Seeds for Growth, a charity that works across East London, advancing the quality of life, health and wellbeing of people from disadvantaged communities, by increasing access to quality outdoor, community spaces. We spoke to the charity Chief Executive Gregory Cohn, who told us about the charity’s aims, how it has been affected by covid, and how it has worked with ELBA and lots of volunteers, to overcome these and help people in a time when access to outdoor spaces is more valuable than ever.

1. What does your charity do?
The charity launched in 2006 with a vision for a world with health, wellbeing, and fitness for all and to achieve this we work alongside disadvantaged communities to address environmental, social, economic, and health issues.

Our programmes include:

  • Supporting tenants to develop community gardens in their social housing estates.
  • Provision of healthy fresh food via food co-ops.
  • Launching pupil-led fruit tuck shops in schools.
  • 500 convenience store retailers encouraged and supported to promote the sale of healthy fresh food.
  • Supporting unemployed people to launch social enterprises – 145 in one year.
  • Development of an accredited training course for artists to deliver workshops in prisons.

Seeds for Growth is now focused on launching Greening Communities, which by 2026 will be establishing 550 new community gardens every year.

  • The charity will develop 50 London based community gardens every year.
  • 100 Greening Communities Projects, located in cities and large towns throughout the UK, will each start 5 greening schemes annually – so 500 per year.

Click here to find out about our work, and about ‘Greening Communities’. And watch our video highlighting the work we’ve done creating two new community gardens, here.

2. What are the challenges?
The Greening Communities service users lack their own private outdoor spaces to sit and relax and to grow flowers, fruit and vegetables.

The health and well-being benefits that flow from being out of doors are significant. For example, in Europe, there would be 43,000 fewer deaths annually by following the World Health Organization’s guidelines on access to green space.

3. How has the pandemic impacted you and your work?
The pandemic increased the need for people to access the outdoors in a safe environment, such as a community garden – whereas the revised criteria of funders has significantly reduced grant availability for non-COVID directly related activities such as creating new green spaces.

The lack of grant funds to recruit staff led to a focus on using volunteers and pro-bono corporate support – accessed with ELBA support.

4. How does the organisation overcome these challenges?
To develop Greening Communities the charity attracted the support of 22 volunteers and 6 corporates – many of which were referred by ELBA.

5. Is there an inspirational project you could share?

In the huge Columbia social housing estate, to the north of Bethnal Green, there are many bare grassed over areas. So, in partnership with the Columbia Tenants and Residents Association, Seeds for Growth charity acquire cherry trees. We invited residents to work in teams planting these new trees all around their estate.

On the final planting day, with a team of 20 volunteers, we tied coloured ribbons on the trees and left cards to remember our relatives and friends who have not made it through COVID.

Below are some before and after photos from recent community garden projects we’ve worked on:

6. Do you have specific volunteer support asks?
Seeds for Growth charity would value:

  • Support in undertaking a final significant edit of our Greening Communities business plan.
  • Development of a strategy to launch Greening Communities in 2022.
  • Development of a sales and marketing strategy to sell the Greening Communities Franchises from late 2023.

7. Finally, tell us about how ELBA has supported you
We have benefitted from a range of professional support services via ELBA, including:

  • Recruitment of Trustees for charity Board which has enhanced the quality of strategic development of the charity
  • Market research strategy on the demand to purchase Greening Communities Franchises, which is providing a vital element of the Greening Communities business plan.
  • Feedback on the Greening Communities Business Plan has enhanced the quality and content.
  • Feedback on draft initial letters to gain new corporate support thereby facilitating access to key services sought by the charity.
  • Review and feedback on draft funding applications so ensuring that the charity is competently addressing the funder’s key criteria so enhancing the success rate.
  • Review of the charity website to advise on how it could be improved to meet the strategic objectives.
  • The design of a new website as the focus of the service provision has changed the development of the Greening Communities programme.
  • Supply of new laptop computers for the use of volunteers, so enabling them to meet the needs of the charity.
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