Parkpal is a digital-based map service for young people to easily find interesting places, activities and events in green spaces in Walsall.

Suhyeon Jo
Deepu James
Encouraging young people to access green spaces
Green social prescribing is the practice of supporting people to engage in nature-based activities. It can help to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Due to the COVID-19 situation, the importance of green social prescribing has rapidly increased. The project's focus area is Walsall, UK. I researched about young people’s situation in Walsall and found that the unemployment rate and level of education and income deprivation are higher than the UK average. For them, the park takes an essential role as an outlet to release their stress and feel relaxed. However, they had less access to the park than in other areas. This led me to research how to make them more accessible to the park during the project.
High rates of inactivity in Walsall

Walsall ranks as the 9th least active people amongst 371 areas. I did a second round of interview to understand the barriers of accessing places and activities in green spaces. I found that people don’t know well enough about green spaces near them and finding good places is inconvenient. As for activities, it is hard to find event information due to decentalised and out-of-date information. Also, some community activities are not available in their area. My questions for the project are, how can people know more about nearby green spaces? How can people get information about places conveniently, so that people access green spaces often through knowing more interesting places? Lastly, how can people find events information easily at once? How can people participate in and enjoy more diverse events, so that people can enjoy more diverse activities with other people in the park?

What is ParkPal?

Parkpal is a digital-based map service for young people to easily find interesting places, activities and events in green spaces in Walsall. It aims to encourage people to access green spaces more by showing more diverse aspects of green spaces in Walsall. It shows local gems in green spaces shared by other local young people, community events in green spaces offered by communities (charities) and micro events in green spaces offered by private instructors and locals. Also, it provides a platform for the event organisers in charities, communities, and even private instructors. For even them, selecting topics is important in engaging more people, and they can select topics based on people's opinions. Because finding out about people’s interests outside the communities can be quite difficult, the service will be a platform which can show people’s interests to set the new activities.

How to use the service

Walsall Council will offer the map as the base layer. It includes not only information about large and popular parks but also about small and local parks, as well as nature reserves on the map. When users enter their interests such as walking or yoga, information on any places or activities related to their selected interest will be shown on the map. The first layer will show the places entered by other young people with pictures and comments they shared. It makes people imagine the site and garners interest. If users choose the second layer, they can see the events provided by the community. The third layer shows the micro-events operated by small businesses or individual instructors, not by the community. People can easily register for the event through the service. When users save places and events to explore, they can be guided when they go to the park later.

How the information was collected

To create a realistic map, I did a prototype test with six young people in Walsall. This was to understand and collect young residents' favourite places with pictures and comments, and then show them to other young people to see if they would visit these places and what they think about it. After receiving some pictures and comments, I recommended several places by designing a poster with some information and sent it via e-mail. Through that, I received some positive feedback about the service.

special thanks

students involved on the project

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