What we talk about when we talk about community gardens. Analysis of the wide context in which to start community garden (based on experience of Killowat, Bologna)
In order to make our garden a relevant space for the territory and the community, the first step in designing it should be the analysis of the wide context in which we want to start our project. The central elements of the analysis are three: the territory, the target and the resources and needs.
Understanding the territory in which we are going to start the project means to explore the possibilities of a certain place in order to better understand how to valorize it.
The analysis of the territory develops on two levels:
+ the area of the garden
In order to understand which activities best suit in our garden we need to be aware of the space and its possibilities.
Especially if you are thinking about creating a space focused on sustainability and green education, it is important to have in mind the peculiarities of the green area we are working on.
If we want our garden to be a vegetable garden, an evaluation of the soil is required. In this case, also researching on a sustainability perspective which are the best vegetables to grow in this specific garden it's very important.
To map the area it’s an helpful exercise to get to know the space and its possibilities. The mapping of the area does not necessarily need to be a geographical mapping but can also be based on emotion and feelings: which is the best spot to relax? In which one do I feel particularly safe? Is there a space in the garden where I hear/sniff/see unusual or unexpected things?
+ the area in which the garden is inserted
It is very important to create a dialogue between the garden and its surroundings.
For this reason it’s fundamental to get to know the neighborhood/city in which we are going to start the project: which are its peculiarities? Are there some elements of attention we need to consider in the design of the garden? Which are the critical issues of the area? Furthermore, how can we help in the resolution of these issues through the garden?
To map the activities that are already happening in the area can help us in understanding which role can our garden have in the life of the territory: which activities are missing? Can the garden become a space where to host external activities? Which are the realities that are already active in the area? How can we create a dialogue and an exchange with them?
The analysis of the target gives us a first idea of the community we want to build or which community we think could be involved in our project from the beginning. Who are the people we are designing our garden for? Furthermore, Who are the people we are going to design the garden with?
To know our target it’s fundamental: in this way we’ll be able to structure some relevant activities and to define the right tone of voice to communicate them to potential participants.
Our target can be a wider one or a very specific one, it’s up to us, but once we have outlined it it’s important to deepen its peculiarities: who are these people? Why do we think our garden would be relevant for them?
Resources & Needs
Once we have outlined which are the peculiarities of the territory we are working on and the target we want to refer to, it’s time to understand which are the needs we want to fulfill and the resources we can put in action to do that.
To focus on the needs of the people who will actually use the space it’s the best way to create a project which will have an actual impact on the community and the territory.
Which blank spaces does our project want to fulfill? To which problems does our project respond?
When it comes to the resources it’s important to consider two kinds of them: the economic ones and the human ones.
Economic resources are of course the one we’ll need to kick off and sustain the project, but- particularly if we do not have a big fund for our project- human resources play a fundamental role: does someone already have some knowledge in the green care-taking field? Does someone in the group know how to do carpentry works?
Knowing the skills of different individuals in our group and how each person can contribute to the project, will enable us to spend our economic resources more wisely other than to create a collaborative environment.