Effective partnerships – between on one hand Friends and community groups and on the other hand site landowners and managers – ensure that both parties understand and try to meet each other’s needs. This is not always easy! It can take several years of working together before a good partnership can be created. But Friends Groups and parks service teams have proved to be an excellent and inspirational example of what can be achieved all over the UK.
Here are some top tips to help when you’re building partnerships
- Understand the partners’ viewpoints. Sometimes a partnership can begin at a point of conflict, for example, a group concerned about a proposed sale of public land or its neglect. Understanding the reason behind the cause of conflict can help both parties to find shared values and regardless of the outcome, build on this shared energy.
- Build relationships. Relationships take time to develop, including developing not only the levels of understanding and of trust, but also working out the range of practical mechanisms for communication, co-operation and joint decision-making. At a site level, there are many examples of this in action – see the Community Empowerment documents attached.
- Help where you can. Good partners make sure they work for each other as well as themselves. If you can help your partner, with or without any specific return, they will be more open to supporting you in future.
- Find champions. Reach out to different people within the relevant bodies, in many cases a local authority. If you can get a key councillor or other department outside of the parks team interested in your work, they can help create different support options for your group.
- Work together with other Friends and community volunteer groups in your area. By pooling resources and sharing information, knowledge and ideas between volunteer groups through a local greenspace forum, both the groups and the landowners/managers can ensure effective working across the whole area. In times of austerity, this can be especially useful if the land managers are stretched in terms of capacity, time and ability to engage. Also the parties can develop common ground and common cause in seeking the long term resources, policies and protection their public green spaces need.
What can you do if the partnership can’t get going, or is now struggling?
- Ask for a meeting. Face-to-face meetings work well when trying to build or rebuild partnerships.
- Express your concerns. Keep the list of concerns short and succinct.
Is this problem just related to you or does it affect a wider area? If you know other green space volunteer groups, do they have similar concerns? Focus on solutions – how can you overcome challenges?
- Be patient. Landowners might not be able to tackle everything in one go – especially in the current austerity context. And community groups have their own challenges and ups and downs, dependant as they are on the capacity and enthusiasm of their own volunteers/activists – not to be taken for granted!
What to do when the partnership is great
- Praise your partner! Make sure to thank partners when things are working well.
- Think long term. Try to meet partners regularly, including to discuss what each other are aiming to achieve in future – can you align your activities to theirs, and vice versa?
- Empower the community. Increase the level of active community engagement, involvement and empowerment at your site, and across your area.
The National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces is the umbrella organisation for the movement of over 7,000 local Friends Groups for public green spaces throughout the UK, and their local area forums and networks. We are calling for the setting up of Friends groups for every green space, and Forums of such groups for every area and town. Together we can work for the resources, standards and management all the UK’s green spaces deserve!
Visit our websites to find more information: