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Meet adventure playground and city farm activists from Europe

Community Gardens meet Adventure Playgrounds & City Farms

Initiative for exchange and networking between organisations and projects of the neighborhood and community movement in Europe and the U.S.

Oliver Ginsberg, Educational advisor of the Federation of Youth Farms and Adventure Playgrounds (BdJA)

    German representative to the European Federation of City Farms (EFCF)

Issued: january 31st 2000



Following the European conference of adventure playgrounds and city farms "anima 21" which took place 19th-26th september last year in Berlin contacts between European and American activists in the neighborhood and community movement increased. Karl Linn, landscape architect and pioneer in community design centers as well as the community gardening movement in the US recently invited me and my collegue Anette Bull, a social pedagogue, specializing in the work with animals, to help with developing a children’s city farm adjacent to an adventure playground in Berkeley, California.

We also got invited by Tim Tyler, president of the ACGA to attend the annual meeting in Atlanta from 7th-10th september this year. To improve the ecological balance sheet of such a visit to the US, but also to promote exchange and networking relations between organisations and projects in Europe and the US we intend to spend more time in the US and get in contact with as many local activists as possible during our visit.

With this mail I am asking you to support this exchange visit by your willingness to spend some time talking with us, showing us your project and help us with accommodation. Similar to the community garden movement the adventure playground and city farm movement in Europe is a grass roots movement. Even though many projects have been able to acquire some sort of public funding, organisations in this field still depend very much on volunteering and do have little material resources. This is why your support is decisive to the success of our visit.

In the following I want to give you some information, which might convince you that an exchange would be valuable for both sides.

Parallels and differences in the development of adventure playgrounds, city farms and community gardens

Community gardens developed mostly during the last three decades of the past millenium partly as a reaction to the deteriorating of ecological living conditions within big cities but also to revitalize the old idea of "community commons" against increasing privatization and commercialization of public space. They often developed in densely populated, multiethical parts of the cities supporting intercultural exchange as well as directly contributing to positive living conditions and supportive environments for disadvantaged people.

In this they show clear parallels to the development of adventure playgrounds and city farms, which were founded mostly in the 70‘s and 80‘s. In contrast however, adventure playgrounds and city farms were primarily aiming at the development of young people (especially the age group of 6-14 xears, who suffer most from playscape deprivation). Many of them could be secured by incorporation in a general plan and do receive some sort of public funding.

On the other hand community gardens have not risked the development towards a stiff bureaucratic institution or an artificial pedagogical ghetto and it is very likely that a lot of the young people in the neighborhood of community gardens have profited from ecological as well as social improvements connected to the collective design, use and management of such community oriented open space.

A transatlantic exchange between organisations and projects could deliver important insights and helpful inspirations for both sides

Within the EFCF the German Federation of Youthfarms and Adventure Playgrounds (BdJA) has been cooperating for 10 years with organisations that are involved in a variety of educational, social and community services. Our partner organisation in the UK has recently united with community gardens to become the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens (FCFCG – before: National Federation of City Farms). Member projects of the BdJA have also developed a variety of community oriented services or started as community projects themselves.

"Sustainable development" becoming a major theme in these projects provides a common frame of reference, including ecological, social and economic questions which can be addressed during the exchange process. Contributions to sustainable development was also the "Leitmotiv" of the EFCF conference "anima 21", which for the first time welcomed participants from Eastern Europe as well as the US.

Our experiences with social and educational services on adventure playgrounds and city farms, especially the use of animals in this work as well as aspects of design and legal provisions could be of interest to local community garden organisations in the US. In exchange we would be interested to learn about your experiences in community work, mobilization of volunteers and public support (e.g. media coverage, VIP involvement, donations etc.).Together we might be able to develop an exchange programme for young people in the future and other cooperative projects.

Agenda of an exchange visit

Children and young people, the upgrowing generations, the conditions in which they grow up and their chances to develop their physical, mental and social potentials are in the focus of our attention. What we can contribute to a first exchange visit is:

  • A comprehensive slide collection documenting projects in Germany and five other European countries (Denmark, the UK, the Netherlands, France and Switzerland and some video documentaries (VHS which might have to be transferred to US TV standards)

  • Results of systematic research on concepts and designs of projects in the countries mentioned. Illustrating Graphics that could be presented by overhead projection

  • Presentation of quality standards and a catalogue of services developed for German projects in accordance to the Federal Children and Youth Services Act (The major legal frame for funding of such projects in Germany). This includes a card game designed to introduce individual services

  • Presentation of selected design examples and services, including participatory processes, international workcamps and services to school groups with an emphasis on working with animals

  • Presentation of cooperative projects among European organisations

What we want to find out about community gardens during our visit in the US:

  • General contributions to sustainable development (ecological, social, cultural and economic aspects)

  • Specific contributions to the development of children and young people in the neighborhood (possibilities for open access play, social contacts, nature experience and natural learning, participation in design and management, taking over responsibility in their immediate environment)

  • Specific contributions to the inclusion of disadvantaged families or special needs groups

  • Dealing with "difficult" developments (dominance of certain individuals and groups, gentrification processes etc.)

  • Experiences in acquisition of suitable lots, mobilizing private and public resources, securing sustainable management

  • Organisational structures and networking

  • Methods of quality management

  • International cooperation with related organisations and projects

Possibilities of future cooperation that we could work out together:

  • Common events/conferences

  • Setting up youth exchange and workcamp projects

  • Exchange of information / Internet

Time schedule

At the moment we plan to stay 12th august to 10th september with a possible few days before and after. We will start our visit in Berkeley, California and finish in Atlanta, Georgia travelling eastwards. If you want to invite us, please keep in mind, that it will be hard for us to visit eastern states before the end of august or western states after beginning of september.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation and help !

If you have any further questions and/or suggestions please contact us any time:

Oliver Ginsberg

Admiralstr. 16

10999 Berlin

phone: ++49-30-614 02 172  fax: - 02 173 

e-mail: ginsberg@blinx.de


Anette Bull

Seelingstr. 51

14059 Berlin

phone: ++49-30-321 02 414  fax: -02 415

e-mail: chinibull@t-online.de

Websites: http://www.bdja.org       http://www.akib.de

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