The Social Role of Botanic Gardens

Given that environmental and social issues are so closely intertwined, growing a social role is vital in order for botanic gardens to prove their modern-day relevance by engaging with their local communities on issues of mutual concern

For most botanic gardens, the role of plants and plant conservation is approached from a scientific perspective rather than a social one. Given that environmental and social issues are so closely intertwined, growing a social role is vital in order for botanic gardens, as well as other scientific and educational institutions, to prove their modern-day relevance by engaging with their local communities on issues of mutual concern. Recently, there has been an increasing emphasis on breaking down barriers to access and engaging with a much broader range of people. In particular, publicly funded botanic gardens and other museums are being asked to demonstrate that their services represent good value, are responsible and relevant to the needs of their communities and are developed in partnership with them. By using participatory approaches, such as co-creation, and reaching out to more diverse audiences, botanic gardens are looking to become more inclusive and are starting to work more proactively with their communities. Developing their social role going forward however will require botanic gardens to rethink their purposes and to renegotiate their relationship to, and role within, society.

The University of Warsaw Botanic Garden held a culinary festival as part of their BP activities (Photo by Kamil Zielinski)
BigPicnic
The University of Vienna Botanic Garden cooking with co-creators (Photo by UNIVIE)
Credit BGCI/Zoe Irwin
Windy City Harvest: The Chicago Botanic Garden'

BGCI has been encouraging botanic gardens worldwide, through their Communities in Nature project, to follow the museum lead and grow their social role. Working through their ‘Communities in Nature’ programme, BGCI has supported pilot projects in a number of UK botanic gardens, such as Ness and Westonbirt and produced a manual and report, sharing case studies and best practice with its membership. BGCI has also produced a number of webinars and a short video on the theme. A number of articles on this theme have been produced in both ‘Roots’, BGJournal as well as in chapter 7 of the ‘Manual on Planning, Developing and Managing Botanic Gardens’.

Currently BGCI’s EU funded Horizon 2020 project ‘BigPicnic’ is similarly promoting the development of consortium Partner gardens ‘social role’ by the implementation of co-creation activities throughout the project.

Social role resources

  • Communities in Nature Resources

    Public Engagement / Publication / English
  • Communities in Nature Webinars

    Public Engagement / Webinar, Video / English
  • Towards a New Social Purpose - Redefining the Role of Botanic Gardens

    Public Engagement / Publication / English