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Portraying Cumbernauld’s connections to urban nature via participatory video

Cumbernauld project
Cumbernauld project
“The resulting film is a visceral account of the group’s experiences during the programme and reveals nuances that would likely be overlooked by standard feedback forms. While not designed to replace other forms of monitoring and evaluation, participatory video could nevertheless be a useful social research tool to demonstrate the impact these types of programmes have on the people taking part”

Social scientists based at the James Hutton Institute have pioneered the use of video as a participatory research technique in Scotland, in the context of a project aiming to understand the way the people of Cumbernauld connect with the green space that surrounds them.

The Creating Natural Connections project, which received a transformational grant of £1.3m from the National Lottery Heritage Fund earlier this year, hopes to deliver significant improvements to Cumbernauld’s woodland and overall environment within the next four years.

The use of video as a participatory research technique involves facilitating groups to make short films that explore issues that matter to them, ‘giving a voice’ to  people who would not normally have the opportunity to communicate their needs and ideas to decision makers, says Scott Herrett, a social researcher within the Institute’s Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences group in Aberdeen.

 “Over the course of 4 months, we worked with a group of people from Cumbernauld Neighbourhood Networks to produce a short video. The network supports vulnerable adults who are at risk of social exclusion or loneliness. They were in control of the creative process, with us providing technical support and encouraging them to tell us the impact that the Creating Natural Connections programme had on them personally.

“The resulting film is a visceral account of the group’s experiences during the programme and reveals nuances that would likely be overlooked by standard feedback forms. While not designed to replace other forms of monitoring and evaluation, participatory video could nevertheless be a useful social research tool to demonstrate the impact these types of programmes have on the people taking part.”

The research team also worked with a group of students at a local school. The idea of this was to create a baseline of what 14 to 15-year olds thought of the green spaces in Cumbernauld. The children went through a participatory video process and produced three videos, the majority of which associated their local greenspace with violence and danger. It is hoped the process can be repeated each year with children of a similar age to see if their perception of woodland changes.

The videos can be viewed on request, please contact antonia.eastwood@hutton.ac.uk if you wish to see them. A report on the team’s findings is currently being produced and will soon be available.

Notes to editors

Created as a new town in the 1950s, Cumbernauld is one of Scotland’s greenest towns. 50% of the town is designated as greenspace, which includes woodland, meadows and parks.

Creating Natural Connections builds on the successful work of Cumbernauld Living Landscape since its creation in 2011, particularly through its Engaging Communities to Enhance Urban Greenspace project, which began in 2015 and recently came to a close. The project is led by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and includes partners North Lanarkshire Council, The Conservation Volunteers, Sanctuary Scotland and the James Hutton Institute. It is supported by players of the National Lottery through the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The programme has also received generous support from Campsies Centre Cumbernauld Ltd and North Lanarkshire Council.

Cumbernauld Living Landscape is a long-term vision to bring a transformational change to the town’s environment. The project expands existing green networks and reconnects the people of Cumbernauld to their natural environment. By engaging a wide range of community groups, it works to benefit local people and wildlife and support the evolving regional economy.

 

More information from: 

Adam Walker, Communications Officer, James Hutton Institute, Tel: 01224 395095 (direct line), 0344 928 5428 (switchboard)


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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.