Jacqueline Watkins, The Friends of Elm Road Green Open Space

Elm Road Green Space gate

Meet Jacqueline Watkins, secretary of Orchards Community Forum which runs The Friends of Elm Road Green Open Space, a community group promoting the importance of green spaces in Thurrock.

In a nutshell:

  • Organisation: The Friends of Elm Road Green Open Space (FERGOS) encourages the community to use and enjoy the park, by bringing people together, promoting physical and mental wellbeing, and supporting the environment.
  • Business model: Grant funding to support specific projects or activities
  • SSE programme: Thurrock Social Entrepreneurship Programme 2019/20
  • Supported by SSE in the East of England

The beginning

Jacqueline says: “The pandemic has shown the huge value that open spaces have on mental and physical wellbeing. It doesn’t matter who you are, your age or your background – parks provide an amazing resource for us all.

“The Friends of Elm Road Green Open Space (FERGOS) was set up by Orchards Community Forum, to show the local authority that it’s a valuable space that shouldn’t be replaced with a new building development.

“Green spaces are vital for the environment and ultimately, our survival. We should do all we can to protect them.

“I knew I felt strongly about saving this important local green space, but I didn’t know where to start. I was fortunate enough to be offered one of the fully funded spots for Friends of the Parks organisations (thanks to SSE fellow Rob Groves) on the Thurrock Social Entrepreneurship Programme.”

The programme

Jacqueline says: “The [Covid-19] pandemic has thrown a spanner in the works, but the programme has really helped me to focus on what matters, the key areas to dive into, and how to validate what we’re doing.

“The SSE programme has helped develop my resilience.”

“Everyone in the group is so friendly and supportive. I never feel afraid to ask someone for advice or help. I’m sure we will continue to support each other as we go along our individual journeys.”

Interested in the programme? Apply now

The future

“Being on the programme has given me the time and space to focus on the future of FERGOS. We want to develop a nature trail, and we’re also in talks with the Men’s Shed movement to work on our own Man Shed. Men’s Shed provide community spaces for men to connect and create, helping to reduce loneliness and isolation.

“Engaging with the community has been a challenge during the lockdown. I’m looking forward to being able to meet people face-to-face (at a safe distance of course!) and sharing ideas on how to make the most out of our park.”

Top tip for other social entrepreneurs:

“Identify and appreciate your own skills and the skills of others.”

Want to get in touch with the team? Email them at [email protected] or [email protected].