The Evaluation of the Green Futures Programme report was released in January 2023 and addressed an important strand of the UK City of Culture 2021 (UK CoC 2021) programme.
It covers the period from the award of funding in late 2019 – the National Lottery Heritage Fund awarded Coventry City of Culture Trust £3 million – up until the end of June 2022. It therefore includes the planning and delivery stages
The Green Futures Programme deepened emotional connections to local nature by encouraging citizens to actively engage with local green spaces and promoting access to the natural heritage within and beyond their immediate environs.
The Coventry City of Culture Trust worked closely in partnership with the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Warwickshire Wildlife Trust to ensure that the Green Futures programme built on the urgent objectives of nature and wildlife across the city and region.
The programme was grouped under four year-long strands that sought to build a critical mass of human connectivity to nature and the natural heritage of the city. The four strands were:
- Growing – promoting and renewing guardianship of the city’s nature and natural heritage
- WILD-Life – exploring biodiversity and climate change
- Forest – exploring humanity’s relationship to the natural world
- State of Nature – revealing and discovering the hidden nature of the city.
It is estimated that the Green Futures programme had an audience reach of just over 150,000 through in-person and online engagement. The programme involved 178 artists, groups of artists, partners, and community organisations. Over 3,100 participations were logged for workshops related to the programme. The diverse communities of the city were able to share their stories in green and blue spaces across the city.
For partners, awareness has increased. The Pod has grown its membership base through delivering an ongoing arts programme that promoted health and wellbeing via access to locally grown food and sustainable models.
As a result of the Our Wilder Family event, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust has seen an increase in membership enquiries. Partners have also been able to see the value of using arts and culture to help promote their own agendas and work towards their own outcomes
Approach and Findings
The Green Futures programme was designed and built on the ethos of co-creation. ‘The Coventry Model’ of programming and production presented opportunities to those that would typically be less likely to engage with culture by putting co-creation front and centre at hyper-local level and on a large scale. Utilising, equipping, and upskilling existing communities and organisations in the city to create the programme was key to ensuring a sustainable legacy beyond the UK CoC 2021 year.
Through findings generated by evaluation activities and associated studies, it is clear that there have been positive contributions to the identified outcomes for the Green Futures programme. A number of the Green Futures events engaged communities and brought them into the green spaces of the city by animating these with art, performances, and events. Some attendees developed a strong depth of engagement with the programme and nature.Evaluation of the Green Futures Programme report, page 13
Coventry hosted the UK CoC 2021 during an extraordinarily difficult period. Responding to the citizens of the city and including a Green Futures strand was not without challenge and there were important learnings.
Certain events within the Green Futures programme had profound changes on the lives of citizens who were involved, while for others, their appreciation for the natural heritage of the city and their sense of connectedness to nature has been awakened.
Once audiences and participants have been engaged it is clear that cultural events are important conduits for widening understanding and appreciation for the natural heritage and the environment.
The Green Futures programme has successfully laid the foundations for legacy from Coventry’s time as UK City of Culture 2021.
The Green Futures Evaluation report was written by Mark Scott at Warwick Business School, with support from Professor Jonothan Neelands, also Warwick Business School, and Professor Nick Henry, Coventry University. It was written on behalf of the monitoring and evaluation team.
The Green Futures programme was primarily funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The Coventry City of Culture Trust was able to lever further support and funding from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the Severn Trent Community Fund, Garfield Weston Foundation and the Foyle Foundation.
Within the report, acknowledgement is made of the independent research undertaken within the environmental focus study.