Empowerment and action for nature: The BBOWT Community Network
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By Lily O'Neill, Community Networking Officer
Tackling the nature and climate crisis is a daunting job and conservation charities like the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) know they can’t do it alone.
As part of our vision for more nature everywhere, BBOWT has been working with individuals, communities, and volunteer groups to inspire people to take action.
Our movement, known as Team Wilder, is about taking steps to care for wildlife on your own patch. If we all do our little bit, that will add up to something greater, something ‘bigger, better, more joined up’, as the Lawton principle so nicely sums up.
Volunteers are the beating green heart of the Trust – we already have an army of 1,700 people giving up their time for nature. Volunteers play an invaluable role in the work done by BBOWT. Whether at our visitor centres, on our reserves, or supporting us with our work online; volunteers are vital.
The work to protect and restore nature on our reserves is important, but we know that we also need to take our work out beyond our reserves and into the community, if we’re going to have the impact we need.
There are so many amazing community groups already working for wildlife across our three counties. We have been working with them to identify areas of need, and find ways to support as many of these groups as we can and to share our expertise.
We think it’s crucial that we shift the power away from ourselves and into the hands of the community, but we needed to know how best to help. So, we reached out to the community and asked for their feedback on what would be most useful to them.
We found that there were some general themes that most groups said they wanted support with – training, resources, and the opportunity to network and communicate with other like-minded groups and individuals.
These are some of the key factors we are hoping to address with our new BBOWT Community Network. It aims to provide a supportive and informative service for individuals and community groups interested in caring for the environment. We want to facilitate peer-to-peer learning and knowledge sharing, and enable people to take action for nature across the three counties.
We kicked off this idea with a series of BBOWT Community Network Zoom Meet-ups. Designed to be a space for sharing learned experiences about community-based working, we host guest speakers from community groups in the three counties and discuss topics chosen by the network members. And they’ve been very enthusiastically received.
The network also aims to enable groups to share stories and experiences – to inspire other like-minded groups across our three counties, as we all work towards creating more nature everywhere.
For this reason we launched the BBOWT Community Network Facebook group. It is a space for sharing information, success stories, and community group collaborations – as well as lots of chat about wildlife and conservation. In sharing knowledge and experiences, we can maximise the effect of our local actions and create a network of wilder spaces across our area – like a big wild jigsaw puzzle.
As part of the Team Wilder movement, we want to empower and inspire people to set up their own volunteer groups to help their local wildlife. This is where our new Community Toolkit comes in. This is a resource library where we are compiling useful documents and training videos to help community groups with their work. The Toolkit contains a ‘Community Group Starter Kit’, designed to provide all the information a volunteer group might need to get themselves started.
To address the need for training, we are developing training days covering a range of themes. From running their own events, to completing a basic site survey, we want to upskill community groups and give them the confidence to undertake more of their important work, to help nature bounce back.
We know that nature is really struggling in urban and rural areas – but people power really can make a difference. If just one in four people takes action for wildlife on their doorstep, we can tip the balance back in nature’s favour.
Nature needs you - so why not do your bit and get your community involved?