Towards a New Social Purpose - Redefining the Role of Botanic Gardens

The report, ‘Redefining the role of botanic gardens: towards a new social purpose’ (PDF, 146 pages) was published in April 2010. An Executive Summary (PDF, 16 pages) was published in December 2010.

This research, the first of its kind, was commissioned by BGCI and funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. Conducted by the Research Centre for Museums and Galleries (RCMG), School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester, it set out to investigate the social role of botanic gardens in the UK.

Botanic gardens, like many organisations in the cultural sector, are concerned with being more socially relevant, working with their communities and addressing contemporary concerns like climate change. However, whilst much good work is being done there is the potential for botanic gardens to do much more and this will require in-depth reflective work. This report argues for a broader social role of botanic gardens. It begins this process by examining the current situation and providing a background for dialogue and discussion.

Through this report, BGCI aimed to challenge traditional thought patterns in botanic gardens and support them to examine their philosophies, values and practices so that they can develop their potential as positive contributors to social and environmental awareness and change. This is critical if they are to successfully articulate their relevance to wider society.

The research identified seven key areas where botanic gardens – at different levels of motivation and sophistication – were concerned with being more socially relevant:

  • Broadening audiences (audience development)
  • Enhancing relevance to communities (meeting the needs of communities)
  • Education
  • Research which has socio economic impact locally and globally
  • Contributing to public (and political) debates on the environment
  • Modelling sustainable behaviour
  • Actively changing attitudes and behaviour.

A wide range of examples and case studies in relation to each of these points are provided in the full report, alongside chapters on change inhibitors and forces for change.

Associated resources

  • Executive summary: Towards a new social purpose - redefining the role of botanic gardens

    Public Engagement / Publication / English
  • Full Report: Towards a new social purpose - redefining the role of botanic gardens

    Public Engagement / Publication / English

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