In alignment with the 2023 theme for International Youth Day 2023, "Green Skills for Youth: Towards a Sustainable World," Gloucestershire Community Rail Partnership (GCRP) recognises the role that young people play in driving the global transition towards a greener and more sustainable future. As the world strives to address pressing environmental challenges and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), empowering our young people across our network with green skills is becoming more important.
We are committed to supporting young people to be environmentally conscious and thrive in a sustainable and resource efficient society, whilst exploring their own interests and having opportunities to pursue their ambitions. This year, we have worked alongside student researchers from The Rank Foundation and University of Gloucestershire, supporting young people to develop their research skills and influence how we respond to our local community’s needs. Two student placements joined the GCRP team between July - August, undertaking two unique pieces of work. Their contributions have helped us to better understand the needs and opportunities for GCRP, and also the newly established Oxfordshire Community Rail Partnership (OxCRP), which launched in July 2023 after a feasibility study was developed by GCRP to explore opportunities to expand our existing activities and develop new projects for Oxfordshire. The students’ work encourages working closely with the local community and collaborating with professionals in other sectors to develop meaningful and impactful projects that enhance public spaces, promote community health and wellbeing, and embrace sustainability principles.
In July 2023, Kajan Sivakumar of Oxfordshire joined us for a two week student placement from the Rank Foundation. With support from Alayne McDonald, Community Rail Officer for OxCRP, Kajan produced a report entitled ‘Developing an Evidence Base for Social Prescribing Within the Community Rail Context’. Merging his interest in neuroscience with GCRP’s experience in community development, Kajan explored the opportunities for community rail partnerships to partner with social prescribers to facilitate activities that support community health and wellbeing. Within his essay, Kajan reviewed a number of case study examples where community rail partnerships are improving access to green and blue spaces and encouraging active travel, and analysed the health and wellbeing benefits of time spent in nature. The report acknowledges the transport-related barriers many people face to accessing social prescribing offers, the health inequities faced by certain community members, and the significant role that sustainable modes of transport play in addressing environmental and societal challenges. Drawing on an integrated pathway model whereby community rail partnerships can improve access to social prescribing offers for individuals facing transport-related access barriers, Kajan has produced an interesting review with evidence of the contributions community rail partnerships can make to community health and wellbeing, and the opportunities for sustainable transport networks to add value to public health initiatives. This report will support GCRP and OxCRP as we continue developing projects in this area.
Our University of Gloucestershire placement student, Tom Walker, produced a report titled: ‘Enhancing Community Engagement and Regeneration: A Framework for Community Consultation in Gloucestershire Community Rail Partnership.’
With our previous research showing that safety is the key focus of young people when choosing how to travel and with the closure of the underpass at Gloucester train station since Feb 2023, GCRP has been working with young people from the local Gloucester Community to create artworks that consider safety and welcome. This research was presented to Tom, who then created a framework for community consultation for GCRP in his report and outlined research questions to guide data collection efforts.
The report aims to facilitate meaningful community engagement and capture grassroots perspectives on station space utilisation, safety and welcome, design methods for regeneration, and meaningful adjustments, emphasising inclusivity, transparency, and meaningful community involvement throughout decision-making processes. Research questions are piloted in the proposed framework, establishing a solid foundation for community-driven train station regeneration plans and area designs. The report will inform GCRP’s community consultation efforts to ensure that local voices are heard in future developments at Gloucestershire stations.
As we continue to support and collaborate with young people we are confident that their contributions will shape not only our own projects but also the broader movement towards a more sustainable and resilient world. GCRP remains committed to empowering youth with the green skills necessary to drive positive change and create a lasting impact on our environment and society.