Urban nature sites show good return on investment

Recent research published by greenspace scotland, in partnership with Scottish Natural Heritage, shows that every pound invested in activities on urban nature sites returned between £3 and £20 in community benefits.

Speaking on the launch of the report Julie Procter, Chief Executive of Greenspace Scotland said:

 "We know that urban nature sites are havens for wildlife; this research shows they are also great places for people. Benefits captured and quantified by the studies include health improvements, skills development, reduction in anti-social behaviour and increased environmental awareness. In these economically challenging times it is encouraging to be able to demonstrate how activities in urban greenspaces deliver real benefits for communities and costs savings for wider society and Government."

Greenspace Scotland worked with staff and volunteers at four urban natures sites to calculate the Social Return on Investment (SROI) of a specific activity on each site. The projects were:  

 - Coronation Gardens at Spier's Old School Ground, Beith, North Ayrshire

 - Glen Mile Mountain Bike Trail, Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire

 - Woods for Health Pilot at Kinnoull Hill, Perth

 - Dumbreck Marsh Local Nature Reserve, Kilsyth, North Lanarkshire

 The activities measured included: a gardening project involving young volunteers; an urban mountain bike trail; a programme of outdoor activities for individuals with severe and enduring mental health support needs; and, the educational use of a local reserve by a school EcoClub. In each case, the results demonstrated the multiple benefits of the activity and all four sites delivered a positive return on investment.

Chris Nevin, Greenspace and CSGN Manager, Scottish Natural Heritage commented:

"We were delighted to fund this research. This will help us to better understand the social benefits that urban nature sites provide for local communities. For example, the report showed that outdoor activities provided in a community woodland improved health, increased social capacity and helped people with long term mental health problems find new skills. The analysis provides a way of putting a financial value on the social benefits of different outdoor activities."

 Karen Carrick, SROI Programme Manager, greenspace scotland noted:

"It is really important to consider these reports in context. The SROI ratio produced does not represent the value of the whole site. Each of the analyses has only reported on just one of the many activities that take place at the site. If all of the possible activities were analysed the benefits generated would be considerably greater. It is also important to note that the values measured are specific to the type of site, for example, the values for one type of urban nature site, e.g. community woodland, cannot be directly transferred to a different type, e.g. local nature reserve."

An SROI report provides a clear and transparent case for investment in activity that is supported by compelling evidence, however, as the participating projects found, producing the analysis can be challenging. The process is complex and can be time consuming. In an attempt to address these issues, the report makes recommendations for developing methods of increasing the accessibility of SROI, promoting general understanding of how to identify and measure change and producing model SROI analyses in which all the benefits or attributes of specific types of greenspace are measured and valued.

 'Social Return on Investment of urban nature sites - programme overview' and the four project reports are available to download at www.greenspacescotland.org.uk/urbannatureSROI/