Measuring Humanity in Green Spaces

Dr Marisa de Andrade – PI for Measuring Humanity, School of Health in Social Science, Centre for Creative-Relational Inquiry, University of Edinburgh

A year ago, I delivered a training workshop to TCV practitioners on the Asset-Based Indicator Framework as part of Measuring Humanity. The participant-led research programme uses bottom-up creative community engagement to challenge policy makers and academics to reassess what counts as evidence when developing policies, practices, and recommendations.

TCV practitioners on the Wild Ways Well programme have been using the framework as an evaluation tool to explore how the greenspace improvement programme supports individual resilience and wellbeing for people who are at risk of developing a mental health condition.

Findings are fascinating. Much like the other applications of Measuring Humanity with disadvantaged, Black Minority Ethnic and Deaf communities, practitioners highlight the importance of using creative and relational methods to evidence wider impacts of programmes rather than rolling out the same quantitative measures. They also explain how these quantitative methods are, in some cases, inaccurately capturing the views of their participants and producing misleading results.

Environmental art, videos, reflective diaries and photographs – of the ‘The Hammock of Happiness’, for example – are proving to be richer, more appropriate data sources for their community members. They also open up conversations on how individuals and communities are affected by systemic issues that perpetuate ill health.

However, there is still some hesitation amongst practitioners that these count as ‘evidence’ or ‘proof’. This isn’t surprising given our fixation on the biomedical approach to generating and using evidence – even when this fails the most marginalised.

Creativity and the act of humans coming together in community provide missing pieces of evidence that must be understood to tackle complex health problems. Measuring Humanity will continue to value people’s stories and lived experiences as evidence of the effectiveness of Green Health projects. It will also continue to flag up problems with traditional conceptualisations of measurement, metrics, evaluation and evidence on this journey.

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