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Empower residents and neighbourhoods with equal benefits of green spaces.

MA 22/23
Green space equality, Small local gardens, Place-based method, Well-being, Community

WelComm maximizes community assets and brings the partnership together to make regular activities happen in small gardens maintained by local residents, aiming to engage more people to enjoy the benefits of nature. We hope in the future, small local gardens can connect and share the values of nature between different communities to empower residents with equal benefits of green spaces.

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The green space inequality in Islington

Visiting green spaces can promote their physical and mental well-being. However, not all of the neighbors and residents can benefit from green spaces within a 10-min walk as well as others. In Islington, where the proportion of green spaces is the lowest (13%) in London, within a 10 min walk, people living in the north of the south of St. George's Ward and the north of Holloway Ward can only access small green spaces that do not successfully deliver the value of nature to residents.

Low engagement of small green spaces

We divided small green spaces in this area into small parks, small local gardens, and street open spaces. Among them, small parks can engage more people to stay for some time because of their variety of facilities. There are not many people who go to small local gardens, but people who go there often stay for a longer time. However, there are relatively more people passing by street open spaces, but they often don’t stay for a long time. People living in this area are more like to go to bigger parks instead of small green spaces, which would also cause an imbalance of the use between small green spaces and bigger parks.

Small local gardens are undervalued but have big potential

Research location: the north of the south of St. George's Ward and the north of Holloway Ward. (In this project, we use 'Small local gardens (SLG)' to present the small gardens that are mainly maintained by local residents, instead of the local council.)

  1. Good maintenance: Among these small green spaces in this area, Penn Road Gardens, a small but beautiful garden mainly maintained by local residents is under good maintenance and has plenty of plants and flowers.
  2. Trend: More and more small local gardens appear in Islington.
  3. Big amount: There are many small gardens mainly maintained by local groups, instead of the local council. They are not well-known to the public like Hyde Park.
  4. Bigger proximity: Compared with big parks, people can access small local gardens quicker, because small local gardens are closer to people’s homes. But people are more go to the bigger park instead of small green spaces. Through the interview with residents in Islington, we found people will go to closer green spaces more regularly if the spaces can meet their needs.
  5. Community cohesion: Making small local gardens more engaging can provide neighbors with opportunities to meet others and connect with others, which can help the community stronger.


In order to tackle the unequal benefits of nature in Islington, we think it is important to increase the engagement of small local gardens, so in the following phase we explore the question ‘How might we make small local gardens more engaging to deliver nature value to more people?’.

“We’re determined to create a more equal Islington, and maximizing the potential of Islington’s parks and green spaces so that they can support everyone” from Cllr Rowena Champion, Islington Council’s Executive Member for Environment, Air Quality, and Transport


Due to the limited time and money that local residents can dedicate to the garden, there's only one monthly volunteer gardening activity in the Penn Road Gardens, which makes it mainly used and participated by people who live here for a long time and people who are interested in gardening. And anti-social behaviours (drug dealers mainly) prevent people from going to the gardens, for example, fewer parents bring their children to the garden due to the concern of the drug dealers. Besides, because of the location, it's not regularly passed by and noticed by people living in surrounding communities, which makes the garden mainly known and used by local residents in Penn Road.


  • Gardening volunteer groups feel more engaged in the local gardens because they feel a sense of belonging and ownership by participating in gardening activities.
  • On the volunteer gardening day when there are some people staying in the garden, there will be more people coming in.
  • Children & Family: Children love nature and easily be engaged in gardens. When children go to gardens, their family would go together.
  • Community assets


How might we make full use of the community assets and bring partnerships together to make regular activities happen in Penn Road Gardens without costing much extra time and money, aiming to engage more people to enjoy the benefits of nature?


Theory of Change

  • Hold a regular activity in the Penn Road Gardens to engage more Penn Road residents (including renters and residents who are not gardening volunteers) and people in the surrounding communities to benefit more people.
  • People walk out of their own community and start to enjoy green facilities in other communities.
  • More residents enjoy the benefits of the facilities in surrounding green spaces.


  • Co-create the form of regular activities with Penn Road Residents, neighbors living around, and the Penn Road Residents Association.
  • Prototype to test engagement, desirability, and feasibility.
  • Receive feedback from all of the participants in the activity to revise the collaboration system and workflow & the activity


  • Create toolkits that support the collaboration system with high efficiency
  • Define a specific activity that is engaging, desirable, inclusive
  • Deliver a detailed activity blueprint that is clear, feasible, and viable enough


Small local gardens can connect and share the values of nature between different communities to empower residents with equal benefits of green spaces.

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