BLOG: “Groundwork’s value rests in its approach and its people.”

Groundwork grew from a time of social and economic crisis in the late 1970s and early 1980s, a time which saw many communities buffeted by forces seemingly beyond their control – deindustrialisation, mass unemployment and deep social division.  The era also saw the first stirrings of public consciousness about global warming and the growth of grass-roots movements to promote practical environmental action.  

Our mission and purpose was to put power back into the hands of local communities – to help them organise, mobilise, overcome bureaucracy – and to draw on the deep wellsprings of pride and knowledge that exist in even the most challenged local areas to fashion solutions, working from the ground up.

One of our earliest projects was restoring Colliers Moss, formerly Bold Moss, in St Helens, from an industrial wasteland to a green space for people and nature. Groundwork acquired Bold Moss from British Coal in 1990.

As we mark 40 years of operations, it’s heartening to look back on what’s been achieved, and to see how far we’ve come in our understanding of many of these issues and how they can be addressed.

At the same time, of course, it’s clear that some of these challenges have intensified massively, meaning we will need to draw on those founding principles – a commitment to partnership working, a passion to get things done and a deep-rooted pragmatism that allows us to build consensus – to continue making a difference where it matters most.

In many communities over the last few years we have been a point of stability, helping people through – and to gradually recover from – the Covid-19 pandemic. We have helped people stay connected and active through our community hubs, supported young people to get back on their feet and into work, helped those who are isolated regain their confidence and distributed thousands of emergency grants to community organisations doing vital work in their local areas.

We are now doing all we can to support families and communities struggling with rising bills and faced with impossible decisions about how to make ends meet. Our Green Doctors are helping people with their household bills and connecting them with emergency support. Our youth and community workers are providing activities to address ‘holiday hunger’ and our allotments and community gardens are helping people keep well and supplement their shopping with fresh food.

Underlying all of this is the need to continue addressing the climate and nature emergencies. Groundwork Trusts are at the forefront of work to connect people with the environment on their doorstep, to build a more circular economy, deliver environmental education and green skills and ensure our communities are more resilient in the face of extreme weather events.

Groundwork’s value rests in its approach and its people. That approach – finding joined-up solutions to social, environmental and economic issues impacting our communities – has never been more important if we’re going to address increased hardship and chart a ‘just transition’ to net zero. To do that we need to ensure our people have the freedom and resources to develop creative responses to the needs of those we exist to serve.

In my (nearly) 25 years in Groundwork I have worked alongside some amazing and inspiring colleagues. As well as those who remain ‘Groundworkers’, there are many more who have taken the learning and experience they have gained in the organisation into other roles, other institutions and other parts of the world.  This includes planting the Groundwork seed in other countries.  Groundwork helped to establish the ‘clean business’ network in Eastern Europe and has participated in many transnational learning and delivery programmes with partners in the EU.  The Groundwork USA network continues to grow and inspire, supporting communities to remediate brownfields, giving young people skills as they support the management of national parks and developing innovative programmes to highlight and tackle environmental injustice.  In Japan Groundwork Mishima continues to restore the city’s waterways and develop environmental enterprises.

I would like to say thank you to all those who have served this great movement of ours so passionately over the last 40 years. In the words of one of those sadly no longer with us, ‘on and up’!

 – Graham Duxbury, Chief Executive, Groundwork UK

Learn more about our past, present and future