Transforming Lives Through Nature

The Ecology Centre

3. Good Health and Well-Being 10. Reduced Inequalities 12. Responsible Consumption and Production 15. Life on Land

Overview

As a community-based charity and social enterprise, The Ecology Centre, based in Fife, focuses on communicating the transformational effect that a connection with nature can offer for a variety of individuals within the local community. The Centre provides a range of products and services which aim to benefit society through, for example, the reduction of mental health issues, whilst having a lasting effect on the surrounding environment. The organisation’s extensive portfolio of activities, events and projects contribute toward four of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), namely; goal three, Good Health and Well-being; goal ten, Reduced Inequalities; goal twelve, Responsible Consumption and Production; and goal fifteen, Life on Land.

Authors

Jenna Woods

Jenna Woods

Patricia McGrory

Patricia McGrory

rachel boyd

rachel boyd

linda lau

linda lau

David Miller Gourlay

David Miller Gourlay

School

Glasgow Caledonian University

Glasgow Caledonian University

Professor

Colquhoun Ferguson

Colquhoun Ferguson

Innovation

The Ecology Centre offers an eclectic assortment of innovative and inclusive services for the local community and beyond, including educational visits to local schools, groups exclusively tailored to those with dementia and environmental based workshops. Furthermore, the site is continuously developed by centre staff and volunteers and, as such, has expanded to enable the offer of venue hire for weddings and other events, annual summer festivals and ad hoc work placements for school leavers. These services afford the centre a portion of income which helps to ensure organisational sustainability.

The term “physical social network” is one which has been used to describe its culture, as the Ecology Centre is able to innovatively harbour and effectively utilise the skills and spirit of those in the local community who invest their time and passion to permit both a local and global reach. Most notable in this sense and within the aspects of innovation, is the organisation’s “Tool Shed” and “Tool Shed Library” which contribute toward SDG twelve: Responsible Consumption and Production with an aim to reduce the negative environmental impacts of underutilised equipment. The Tool Shed receives donations of old or unused tools which are subsequently refurbished by volunteers and not only passed on to members of the local community, but also regularly sent to developing or disaster-stricken countries – recently Malawi and Greece – to aid members of those communities in creating businesses for economic prosperity and assist societal recovery from catastrophic circumstances and. Additionally, Tool Shed volunteers also make use of recycled and natural materials to build bird houses and planters which are sold online contributing further to the organisation’s income.

Each innovative service, activity and project undertaken by The Ecology Centre links to the original ethos of connecting people with nature and promoting a healthier way of life for people and the planet.

Transforming Lives Through Nature

Inspiration

The Ecology Centre was established in 1998 in response to the clean-up of Kinghorn Loch, which had previously been heavily polluted, rendering the loch inaccessible for members of the local community. For years, members of the public campaigned for this clean up and, as a result of the accomplishment, made clear their demand for further stewardship and supervision of the site on their behalf.

The organisation holds near the value of inspiring positive change through connecting people with nature whilst supporting those most in need by involving, primarily, young people to adults and senior citizens participating and learning about ecology, the environment and the importance of caring for and protecting it.

Their values in ecological education and enhancement of environmental awareness in the individuals they work with and support are reinforced by their goal of discouraging the secretion of harsh levels of vehicular carbon emissions. Adversely, there was recent debate surrounding the organisations ability to adhere to their principles in expanding to cate for larger amounts of guests.

“We are not even going to cater for one car this year. If you are coming to our summer festival, you’ve got to walk, or you’ve got to take a bike or come on the bus or train because sustainable transport is the only kind of transport that we will condone. As an organisation, we are going to get rid of cars altogether.” David Stockwell, The Ecology Centre General Manager

Overall impact

The Ecology Centre achieves SDG number fifteen, sustaining life on land by positively encouraging good conservation practices which increases biodiversity and enhances and protects wildlife by providing priority to rare native species of flora and fauna.

The organisation provides people with opportunities through a variety of work and volunteer placements. This aligns with SDG number 10, reduced inequality which is achieved by encouraging people of all ages to become volunteers. Inclusivity is ensured by offering opportunities to people regardless of their background, ability, age, origin or sex. The centre is also involved in global partnerships which assist displaced refugees by, for example, restoring sewing machines, which in the past has maximised the entrepreneurial output and profits of an individual in Malawi by 5000% to allow her to single-handedly support her family. The organisation’s ethos of inclusivity has created a supportive network for volunteers of any ability and background upon which the centre and its team pride themselves on.

Finally, the organisation’s activities have significantly contributed to SDG three, good health and wellbeing, particularly through the alleviation, and support of individuals with, mental health issues through the centre’s ability to provide individuals with a transformational and uplifting connecting with nature and the environment around them.

“adults who are coming to us are more socially isolated, their mental health is much poorer, they are feeling lonely, they are feeling a lack of connection with their local society and with the support mechanisms that are available for them.” David Stockwell, The Ecology Centre General Manager

Business benefit

The Ecology centre currently has twelve members of staff, two of whom are full time and the others work on a part-time basis, the centre heavily relies on volunteers, with 110 regular individuals contributing each year. This includes twenty volunteer “Shedders”, “Wednesday regulars” who contribute across the site, and 12 meters of the voluntary executive committee that guides the Centre’s work.

The Ecology Centre is part of Fife Rural Skills Partnership, a collaborative group of like-minded organisations across the region, to offer work experience and modern apprenticeship opportunities for young people. Over the last 3 years, they have been able to support 20 people by providing modern apprenticeship opportunities, 80% of whom moved onto jobs directly connected to the rural sector.

The Ecology centre is a registered charity and social enterprise. Its principal challenge in the current economic climate is to ensure its survival, with securing funding an increasing issue. Its annual turnover is under £300,000, 70% of which is financed by funding grants, of which there are approximately fifteen sources at any one time. Enterprising activity accounts for the remaining 30% of income, sourced principally through contracts with schools for environmental education work, although revenue is created by a programme of events and workshops, as well as hiring out its building as a venue for recreational and business purposes.

The feedback gathered from its stakeholders and service users allows the centre to understand what impact the activities have made to individuals in terms of what they are doing and what could be improved to ensure the activities undertaken are relevant to the needs of the community. Public consultation exercises are conducted within targeted community groups to discuss and plan future work to ensure it is meeting the needs of society. This creates a direct relationship within the community to show the ability and eagerness to make a difference.

Social and environmental benefit

The Ecology Centre’s largest environmental impact factor is their environmental education. The Centre works with primary schools and educates pupils about the environment in their local green spaces and onsite. The organisation also does pre-school clubs, nature discovery events, annual events which include educational workshops, recycling events and also hire rooms out to community groups. The volunteers focus on continuous improvement of the loch such as planting and building improvements such as bird boxes which attracts the local community as well as tourism.

Their largest social impact is their inclusiveness and diversity. The Ecology Centre strives to support individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds or individuals with less opportunities as well as those who are active in the communities and wanting to “give something back”. The Ecology Centre provides all their volunteers with opportunities regarding learning experiences, self-improvement and work experience. This has helped their volunteers feel more confident, happier and healthier and employability-related skills. In the last year, a graduating apprentices has started up his own gardening business, and a volunteer started their own catering business, in both of which the Centre offered advice and additional resources such as a client base to help grow the businesses.

Many volunteers tend to stay working at The Ecology Centre rather than “graduating” to another service or stopping work. This is due to synergistic environmental and social effect it has as the organisation provides great sustainability results while an individual is able to connect to nature and improve their mental wellbeing.

“This is a place where people come to heal and to connect with nature. You don’t want that bond to break once you build it up. It’s a really transformative effect it can have on people, but to stay healthy, to stay well, you need to stay connected with nature and we are a little oasis where we are in Fife for people to come to and get that connection” David Stockwell, The Ecology Centre General Manager

Interview

David Stockwell, General Manager

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The Ecology Centre

The Ecology Centre

Kinghorn, Fife, GB

Business Website: https://www.theecologycentre.org/

Year Founded: 1998

Number of Employees: 11 to 50

As a community-based charity and social enterprise, The Ecology Centre, based in Fife, focuses on communicating the transformational effect that a connection with nature can offer for a variety of individuals within the local community. The Centre provides a range of products and services which aim to benefit society through, for example, the reduction of mental health issues, whilst having a lasting effect on the surrounding environment. The organisation’s extensive portfolio of activities, events and projects contribute toward four of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), namely; goal three, Good Health and Well-being; goal ten, Reduced Inequalities; goal twelve, Responsible Consumption and Production; and goal fifteen, Life on Land.