BGCI's First Technical Review
Defining the botanic garden and how to measure performance and success
In May 2016 BGCI's International Advisory Council requested that BGCI produce a technical review on:
- Criteria that define a botanic garden, and;
- how botanic gardens measure success.
To gather data, an online survey was sent out by BGCI in early 2017 and a literature review of botanic garden annual reports was undertaken to gather further information on how gardens measure success. In total, the technical review incorporates data from over 200 botanic gardens in more than 50 countries.
The technical review includes an updated list of criteria that define a botanic garden and a number of recommendations to aid botanic garden strategic planning. Some of the key recommendations were:
- All gardens, big or small, should have strategic plans as they are important for informing people on what you do and are essential management tools.
- Information published by botanic gardens should reach a wide range of users - particularly practitioners conserving/managing plant diversity in broader society.
- Botanic gardens should measure impact not just outputs.
- Demonstrating environmentally sustainable practices is essential.
- All gardens should have documented, aspirational career ladders for specialised staff.
BGCI's Second Technical Review
The economic, social and environmental impacts of botanic gardens
In carrying out the first Technical Review, it became clear that too few botanic gardens measure the impacts of their work. Instead, there is a strong tendency to measure areas of activity.
To address this gap BGCI produced a second Technical Review on the economic, social and environmental impacts of botanic gardens. The Technical Review highlights case studies where impact evaluation studies have been carried out by objective, third parties - usually auditors, consultants or academics.
Some of the key recommendations include:
- More studies are needed on the effect that botanic gardens have on property prices in surrounding areas, and the effect on property taxes that go back to local government.
- Where collections can demonstrably be shown to support vital research, botanic gardens should commission research into the current or potential economic return on investment provided by those collections.
- Long term studies on the impacts of botanic garden schools education programmes are needed, in particular whether they have the potential to be life changing for children in the way they interact with plants and the environment.
- Botanic gardens should promote their unique collections, knowledge and skills by sharing their collections and data, by communicating directly with other professional communities conserving and managing plant diversity, and by adopting multidisciplinary approaches to problem-solving.
- Botanic gardens should document their activities that directly address environmental problems or support others trying to solve these challenges. In particular, gardens should try to measure societal impact rather than activity.