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Growing the social role of botanic gardens

The 21st century has seen increasing awareness and concern about the human impact upon the environment. Many scientists argue that we are entering the sixth great mass extinction and that anthropogenic climate change is one of the major threats to global biodiversity. Botanic gardens as multidimensional institutions ‘holding documented collections of living plants for the purposes of scientific research, conservation, display and education’ are committed to promoting public understanding about plant diversity and the need for its safeguarding.

Taking into consideration that environmental and social issues are deeply intertwined and one cannot be tackled in isolation from the other, how can sites that traditionally tend to attract very specific audiences of white, middle class and older visitors examine their purpose and reevaluate their own mission and policy within a framework of social responsibility?

In this panel discussion, our three speakers will share their experiences of running social inclusion projects which seek to engage local communities on projects that address both social inclusion and environmental issues:

• Westonbirt, the National Arboretum, UK, has used a collaborative approach to engage three groups the Bristol Drugs Project, Raise your Voice (an Asian women’s project) and the Macular Disease Society enabling them to develop a shared understanding of trees and what they mean to society. • Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh, Scotland, is running an Edible Gardening Project with disadvantaged youth teaching them the skills and knowledge they need to grow their own food. • Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK, has set up an access forum representing the needs of people with a range of abilities including visual impairment, autism, diabetes and wheelchair users. It is just about to launch a scheme called ‘Kew babies’ which will enable 250 families, from areas of social deprivation, to access to Kew for 15 years.

Following the presentations, we will reflect on whether botanic gardens across Europe are able and equipped to address both environmental issues and social inclusion debates within their programmes. Key points made by our speakers will be highlighted and questions will be raised for the audience to consider.


Head of Education

Session speakers

Head of Exhibitions & Events
Learning Supervisor
Westonbirt, The National Arboretum - Forestry Commission
Consortium partner in INQUIRE / Head of Community Engagement at RBG Kew
INQUIRE project (EU consortium of botanic gardens and educational research institutes)

Session speakers

No speakers have been added yet.