The Covid-19 crisis has revealed the stark inequalities in UK society. Many vulnerable people have had more difficulty accessing food, so third-sector organisations have mobilised emergency food provision. They have also expanded community food-growing initiatives, which enhance participants’ well-being, strengthen social cohesion, localise food provision and thus build future resilience. This project will investigate the expansion of community food-growing initiatives during the Covid-19 crisis. The benefits to community initiatives and the people involved in group food-growing activities will be explored, along with the social barriers and means to overcome them, especially for more vulnerable marginalised social groups. Our aim is to strengthen third-sector capacities for such inclusion.

This project will work with partners active in community cultivation, Reading International Solidarity Centre (RISC) and Sustain: The alliance for better food and farming. Through participatory digital storytelling, the project will elicit participants’ feelings, aspirations, social connections and multiple benefits from community food activities. This knowledge will identify the most effective strategies that have been deployed during the Covid-19 crisis. Those best practices will be shared in the form of digital stories and a freely accessible OpenLearn Create course to promote those practices within the wider community food growing network and outscale similar benefits around the country. These outputs will be co-designed with participants and focus on highlighting lesser-heard voices to promote better mental health, well-being, better access to healthy food and enhance social resilience.

The project began in January 2021 with a first phase that will last until June 2021. This will create an initial set of digital outputs, to be shared with the wider community food growing network and obtain feedback on it. The process will be repeated later in 2021 to create an additional set of digital stories.  Both sets will be used for a new course  before the project ends in  June 2022.

If you are interested in participating in this project visit our “Invitation to Participate” page to sign up.

About the Training
We will explore participants’ experiences of community food-growing using the questions below as prompts. The questions are just a rough guide for some experiences that we would like to explore together.

  1. What has been your involvement in group food-growing?
  2. From those experiences, how have you been able to…
    …improve your well-being?
    …develop more trustful, cooperative and reciprocal relationships?
    ….extend your food skills to other sites?
    …build a community within and beyond the food initiative?
    …deal with problems that you faced before and during the crisis?
    …envision a better future and try creating it by yourself or with other people?
    …link food-growing with environmental issues?
    …strengthen your skills and self-confidence to do so?
  3. What aspects of your group cultivation experience were the most helpful for those benefits?

Benefits: What you will get from us
You will be trained in digital storytelling about how food-growing initiatives have benefited you and your communities, and so better able to tell your stories.

What we need from you
Openness and interest in sharing your stories with us and the time commitment to complete the online course and attend the live sessions. You will need a smart-phone (or tablet) and access to a computer with internet connection to join the tutoring activities. If you don’t have internet access at home, you might be able to get access at the food-growing site where you are involved.

We will create audiovisual recordings identifying best practices for how food-growing initiatives can promote many benefits including well-being. Together, we will create a freely accessible online course for sharing those best practices with the wider food-growing network using the OpenLearn Create platform.

Engagement Plan
The project will run for 3 months. Participants will enroll (free of charge) in an OpenLearn Create course during the project. We will use the course to keep in contact with participants and to provide material on digital storytelling. As part of the online course, participants will attend four live sessions hosted on Zoom with practical activities. Participants will also be asked to complete two homework activities to help create their own digital stories. The time commitment for all activities including the live sessions, homework and online material will be about 30 hours. The final OpenLearn Create course will be co-created and co-designed by participants as they provide feedback on the initial version of the course as they work through it. The digital stories produced will be added to create the next iteration of the OpenLearn Create course to share best practices and benefit the wider food growing community.

Online Tutoring ActivitiesTimeTopics covered and details
1. Live Session: Preparation Workshop 1 – Photos2 hoursIntroduction to our approach
Basics skills in composition, framing and lightning
Basic skills on how to plan a story using scripts and storyboards
Practical exercise on how to tell a story using photos
Homework 11 hourPut your skills into practice and take some pictures
2. Live Session: Preparation Workshop 2 – Video2 hoursCamera movements
Sound in videos and the use of voice-over
Planning your story with a script 
Using scheduling to collect footage
Practical exercise on how to produce your own script for your story
Homework 22 hoursPut your skills into practice and record some video footage and sound for your story
3. Live Session: Photo-elicitation & Storytelling2 hoursStorytelling session to explore how community food-growing initiatives have benefited  participants, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic
4. Live Session: Screening & Feedback2 hoursScreening of the edited stories
Opportunities to provide feedback on the stories and their implementation in the OpenLearn Create course

Additional skills covered in the online course:
• Sharing digital stories and files with others and working collaboratively by sharing stories
• Basic video editing skills
• Additional tips and advice for completing each activity
• Copyright and licensing

If you are interested in participating in this project fill out this form to express your interest or visit our “Invitation to Participate” page.

  • Location UK
  • Collaborators The Open University, Reading International Solidarity Centre (RISC), Sustain: The alliance for better food and farming
  • Funding UKRI/AHRC - UK Research and Innovation/ Arts and Humanities Research Council, The Open University grant ref: AH/V015109/1 - Full title: Local food-growing initiatives respond to the Covid-19 crisis: enhancing well-being, building community for better futures
  • Service provided Research, Development of digital stories and OpenLearn Create Courses
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