202020 Vision was established in 2013 “to increase, maintain, and improve existing urban green space.” In collaboration with its wide span of partners throughout different industries, councils, government bodies, businesses, non-profit organisations and academic institutions, the ultimate goal is to achieve 20 percent more green space throughout Australia by 2020. “That figure is our mission, but we’re working towards that by bringing all these different people together,” says 202020 Vision Spokesperson. “It was actually started by the Nursery and Garden Industry of Australia (NGIA) on behalf of tree and plant growers, and we pay our levy through Horticulture Innovation Australia. Since its inception, we’ve garnered over 300 organisations as partners, and we’ve also got a number of individual advocates who work with us across a range of different sectors; that number’s growing all the time.
One of the very first things we did as part of the program was something called the Growing the Seeds Tour; it was in the first year of the program. We travelled around nationally and spent a lot of time working with and listening to a range of different stakeholders from the nursery industry and horticulture industry to local government planners, developers, self-experts, researchers, and landscapers. We even got a partnership with the United Nations through their Compact program, and learning from them what were the barriers and what they thought could provide solutions. We essentially disseminated all that information around key themes that came up time and time again and produced the 202020 Vision plan.”
The organisation’s significant growth over the years can be attributed to the various projects they have fostered with their trusted partners. In 2014, 202020 Vision and the Institute for Sustainable Futures released an impactful publication entitled, ‘Where Are All the Trees?’ The in-depth report used the latest technology to provide accurate satellite imagery of local government areas, assessing their amount of existing urban green space. “The purpose of this project was to create a baseline for green space in Australia,” says Spokesperson. “We knew we wanted more green space, but in order to put real targets and management around that, we identified exactly where the baseline sat and, therefore, what was realistic and what we needed to do to get there. We focused entirely on the 139 urban councils at the time – since the amalgamations, that number has shifted – we mapped those and ranked them to help provide a bit of a guide of where our focus should be, and also to provide a bit of a push to those councils. We got a huge amount of feedback, and a lot of people refer back to that document even now.”
Another one of 202020 Vision’s best known initiatives, is their urban forestry program. In accordance with the Urban Forestry Masterclasses the organisation has successfully run for the last two years, they have partnered with the City of Melbourne to provide a robust methodology for urban forest achievement at a council level. “We worked with them and some other key partners to scale and replicate that into a tool kit that could be used to teach other councils how they could progress this kind of strategy through their organisation,” she says. “We’ve done six different city tours now; that’s included over 500 individuals in attendance and 80 councils represented. We take a tool book and a kit, and we get speakers to come and provide some inspiration, guidance, and teaching on the day.
It’s a really great opportunity for people to network and meet others in the sectors that they cross over with. One of our biggest learnings has been that a lot of people fighting for green space tend to feel quite alone in their organisation. There might be one person really fighting for the benefits of more green space and facing a lot of challenges, and maybe having not spoken to people in different sectors where they could access or afford our tools, or they could provide more research and rationale to bolster their arguments internally. So, facilitating those introductions and that conversation has been a really important part of what we’ve been doing.
As a network-based organisation, 202020 Vision understands the value and importance of relationships in regards to knowledge, perspective, and subjectivity. Group discussions inspire confidence and a sense of belonging for their avid members, and help bring forward new insights into key aspects of their vision. Their involvement with major associations have also earned them a variety of organisational recognitions. “Partnerships are really at the crux of what we’re doing,” says Spokesperson. “At the moment, there are 344 organisations registered in our network. We’ve got just over 1,400 members in our LinkedIn group, so we have a group for professionals working in this space and a lot of really dynamic conversations happen there. A lot questions are asked; a lot of learning. We have other ways of staying in touch with people from our network, and we also have a really strong media team. To date, we’ve achieved just over 1,036 media articles; this is a really amazing thing in three years, and it’s an equivalent of about 31 million people. Helping to tell that green space story and helping people to know that’s it’s important is a really key part of what we do. We find that if there’s conversation happening, people are being pushed for these things, they see it in different publications that they read, and it’s reinforcing that this so important; it really helps drive that behaviour change.”
While there are outlying issues in the promotion of green space development, 202020 Vision has collaborated with West Australia’s Josh Byrne and Associates, as well as Horticulture Innovation Australia, to produce an informative guide to help tackle any foreseen issues with strict legislative barriers; this is one of many integral projects Spokeperson feels will help strengthen community correspondence towards further environmental expansion. “The output was three different guides that provided a road map for helping navigate the legislative landscape at different levels to understand who the players are, what needs to change, and how you can go about creating that change,” she says. “So, we consulted with our network, we had a peer review process, and we feel that not only do people need to come together and work together, but they can get more research done.
We’re looking at a number of different projects now to reassess where we are with green space and just keep that measurement up. We’re also looking at research around the health benefits of green space in a very tangible way. We’re then feeding that back to the community, and to the government, and continuing to help provide that platform that people can use. We’re not a lobby group at all, but we do provide resources and tools that people can use if they want to go out and have those conversations. The different levels of government all have different policies and different levels of attention placed on this at the moment, and trying to create a holistic conversation in Australia around it is really important.”
Being heavily involved with 202020 Vision since the beginning, it has watched it evolve from a showcase project into the influential organisation it is known to be today. She is amazed by the progress it has achieved, and remains hopeful for its future endeavours. “The materials we’ve produced, the projects we’ve started, the relationships we’ve facilitated, and the research that’s been commissioned; we’re seeing very real results,” she says. “We’re already seeing councils putting in forestry strategies and moving towards greening, we’re seeing schools looking at greening – all of these different sectors moving forward. For me, that is rewarding because I’ve learned to really understand the value of these projects and of green space. This year is the first time that we’re going to be speaking to the public – a consumer audience – and sharing all the things we’ve learned about planting trees with people like me and the rest of the team. I think that’s really exciting because it becomes even more personal. We’re looking at how you can green your home and the very real benefits you can achieve out of that, and that’s something I can share with my friends and family and talk to them about; that’s just another layer of connection to the project that’s really exciting.
From our perspective, Australia’s a young country. Overnight, we’re seeing a lot of movement into our cities, but these cities need to remain liveable. They need to remain the places that we’re known for; places that connect to landscape, places that are healthy, places where people can be outside, places where people can feel well and are excited to be there. We think a really huge part of that – and a really important factor in healthy lifestyle – is access to green space. There’s environmental benefits, air cleaning benefits, and heating and cooling benefits. In Sydney, we’re looking at our western suburbs and seeing a lot of concentrated heat, but we’re also seeing that corresponding to a lack of green space. There’s very real connections being drawn for people to understand that we need our green space, but there’s also really specific benefits for people, too; it’s not just the environment. There’s proven database projects that outline that links to health and productivity are very direct. Having access to green space will make you healthier, happier, and work harder There’s so many benefits to it, and we’re really passionate about communicating that. Whether you live outside of a city or within a city, having that access and being able to maintain a connection through green space is really important.”