What does it mean to be a safe space for inclusion? And how to create such one?
Community gardens strive to be true communities for and in their neighbourhood. One of their basic values is the idea of being available for everybody who wants to join. Participation is important not only because of the many personal benefits experienced by community gardeners, but also in terms of equity around public spaces and creating a sense of belonging in the neighbourhood. Inclusion should not be a deliberate and purposeful, if it is, new immigrants, seniors, and those with accessibility challenges are unlikely to participate fully in community gardens. The most common goals of community gardens is reconnecting urban residents with nature and strengthening the community.
The concept of inclusion is lived in most of all community gardens we have visited during the project duration. In this part of the guidebook we will try to find an answer to questions: what does it mean to be a safe space for inclusion? And how to create such one?
Illustration: Picture of common definitions of the inclusive garden from the transnational meeting in Bologna
One of the exercises we had in the Bologna project meeting was to write what we understood under an inclusive garden. Tree words repeated in almost all definitions: open, welcoming and safe. Those tree adjectives are connected very close and they are the core of the functioning of the inclusive community gardens.
A safe space means a place where people with different backgrounds feel comfortable and welcomed. Members and visitors of the community gardens accept one another. This is possible as the inclusion are recognised by the community and especially recognised by the grounders and management level of the gardenas a one of the main values lived and experienced each day.
How to create a safe and inclusive community garden? Based on several articles there have been tree steps identified:
1. Making inclusion the priority and main value in the community garden
Before creating a community garden its future members and leaders should agree in its mission and vision manifesto or other documentation that inclusion is one of the core values which will be supported from the very beginning. The leaders of the gardens need to introduce this value at the planning stage and take care from the very beginning that everybody can use the space of the garde without any problems. Any discrimation should be unacceptable and the garden needs to be created in an inclusive way. On this stage the garden members and leaders should get to know your neighbours and local residents and invite them to plan your garden. During this phase there should be created a definition of the future target/ users group in order to adapt exact plans in the next stage to expected groups.
2. Planning the community gardens as a safe space for inclusion
The process of planning is an important step. Defining groups of garden users will make it easier to design solutions tailored to their needs. It is not possible to take everyone into account at this stage. However, the garden can be changed in the next phase during its life according to the needs of new community members appearing later on.
Himmelsbeet had to leave its original location and move to a completely new place. This is related to the planning and construction of a completely new community garden. As the idea of inclusion is one of the core values of the garden, a workshop was organised for garden leaders and members before the start of the construction in order to prepare the garden space for people with different disabilities. During two sessions the theme of inclusion was addressed. During the first day of the workshop, after the introduction of the topic participants discussed getting to know different disabilities and getting the feeling for potential limitations and problems . During the second day of the workshop the facilitator presented results of a survey and research of users with various disabilities of the old garden. The leaders and members of Himmelsbeet received concrete recommendations, which will be taken into account in the construction of the new garden. Afterwards the workshop participants worked in groups on spaces for different user groups. This is an example of a practice which is recommendable for other community gardens.
3. Uphold and monitoring community garden as a safe place for inclusions
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Important words: Accessibility, Availability, Adequacy, Acceptability,
Table: Five A’s of food justice and how each relates to inclusive community gardens, Source: Inclusive Community Gardens, Planning for Inclusive and Welcoming Spaces in Vancouver, 2014, City of Vancouver, https://sustain.ubc.ca/sites/default/files/2014-02_Vancouver%20Inclusive%20Community%20Gardens_Lowcock.pdf
5. Inclusive Community Gardens, Planning for Inclusive and Welcoming Spaces in Vancouver, 2014, City of Vancouver, https://sustain.ubc.ca/sites/default/files/2014-02_Vancouver%20Inclusive%20Community%20Gardens_Lowcock.pdf
6. Neo Harvey, 2017, Beyond Inclusion and Exclusion: Community Gardens as Spaces of Responsibility, in: Annals of the American Association of Geographers, Informa UK (Taylor & Francis).