Climate Change (re)considered collage
A cultural hub and centre for ethical, sustainable business is being developed in Plymouth with support from Low Carbon Devon. 
Grow Plymouth’s city centre building opened in 2021 and is now home to artists' studios and event space to connect the community through cultural, music and art events.
The enterprise aims to communicate a deeper understanding of sustainability issues in a way that is accessible, people-centred and socio-culturally aware. 
Grow Plymouth building
The founders of Grow Plymouth bring their experience of running a similar organisation, Grow Hackney, which was established in 2014 and has become a cultural anchor in East London. Committed to operating the business in balance with environmental impact, social value and economy, they intend to connect environmental responsibility with diverse cultural experiences. They see similar opportunities to develop a just and sustainable community ethos in Plymouth. 
Grow Plymouth is ideally situated within Plymouth City Council’s vision of a 'Creative Quarter', neighbouring The Box, a cultural venue as well as the open piazza public space. This makes them perfectly placed to become a cultural focal point and engage with a wide audience. Their building also neighbours the University of Plymouth campus providing the opportunity to involve students in the design and development of the cultural space.

The project

While concern about climate change continues to grow, research shows significant and alarming gaps in our understanding of the relevant issues. Educating ourselves and increasing climate and environmental literacy is recognised as an essential component in addressing the climate crisis. 
Grow Plymouth successfully applied for the Low Carbon Devon project's Devon Net Zero Innovation Fund to help them develop a new sustainable service linking academics with the community to support education around key net zero issues. 
The project has been overseen by Professor Robert Brown whose research includes a focus on issues of sociocultural identity, urbanism and community regeneration. 
Professor Robert Brown
Professor Robert Brown
The project aimed to create an awareness of our indoor environments and to experiment with new design ideas whilst also considering the retrofitting of buildings to higher sustainability standards. A series of co-designed events were hosted at Grow Plymouth’s premises with researchers, professionals, community-based organisations, artists and makers and Plymouth residents. 
During early consultation, the theme of comfort was discussed; the relationship between how safe, sheltered and secure an environment feels and our ability to learn in that setting. In collaboration with the team from Grow Plymouth, participants were asked to consider themes around enhancing physical comfort quality for a building’s inhabitants and to experiment with solutions. 
The events tested different formats including workshops, open days and exhibitions whilst experimenting with new methodologies for communication. Creative, open-ended discussions were encouraged through starter ‘games’ with a playful, lateral thinking approach. 
This included the game of ‘Mitate’ – the act of making a connection between two seemingly unrelated things. This prompt led to a discussion of a tree as a metaphor for a climatically-responsive building and the image of a tree’s canopy, shade and the fresh air it provides helping to stimulate ideas around spaces as a vessel for communicating sustainability-related issues. 
Central to Grow Plymouth’s project was a primary aim to provide a safe and inclusive space to explore how to increase the understanding of, and positive actions towards, climate change whilst exploring options for comfortable indoor spaces. Ideas emerging from these discussions included the visual representation of energy usage, growing plants inside and outside, showcasing art installations as well as partnering with local craftspeople, artists, and makers on pop-up events.
Grow Plymouth Event
Grow Plymouth events
Grow Plymouth Event
Grow Plymouth Event

What was the outcome?

The workshops have confirmed strategies for communicating issues about climate change and sustainability, known to work well in a higher education setting, and now also proven effective with a different audience. Research methodologies and attitudes have been tested by experimenting with new forms of communication and providing an outlet for information developed across disciplines.
Co-joined with this project was involvement from young people including pupils of Holy Cross Primary School and University of Plymouth students from Architecture, Education and Early Childhood Studies programmes. By participating in some of the activities, local school Holy Cross Primary School has been given a unique opportunity to explore options for their school building and grounds to enhance pupils’ comfort and learning experience. They've been supported to explore the potential for ludic and pedagogic-based interventions within their spaces and to examine the relationship between comfort and learning. The pupils loved the opportunity to come to the University campus, be involved in the discussions and learn about the ideas first-hand.
The input from the project’s discussions throughout the series of collaborative events and workshops will inform the services that Grow Plymouth provides in the future and will also guide the design of the building. Possible projects for the building include using design installations that incorporate climate change ideas such as a green outdoor area that communicates Grow Plymouth's net zero goals.  

We are so grateful for Low Carbon Devon’s support. It’s been fundamental for us to develop and shape what we offer in Plymouth and has enabled us to collaborate with experienced and expert academics in architecture and sustainability. As the Grow Plymouth space is in its initial stages, it's very much an ever-evolving project so the research outcomes and networks made via the process made a significant impact on how we’re shaping the sustainable business plan and services we can offer.

Jordanna Greaves, Grow Plymouth

What's next?

The project funded by the Devon Net Zero Innovation Fund has helped kick-start Grow Plymouth’s journey to becoming a flagship enterprise for culture and communicating sustainability. Grow Plymouth will build on their experience in innovating in sustainability and culture from their original project in London's Hackney to create a hub in Plymouth that facilitates the integration between academia and the wider community to explore these themes further. 
Through the research collaboration, they have made new connections at the University and are looking into further funding opportunities. The individuals, businesses and collectives who attended the workshops have also given Grow Plymouth potential partners for commissions and future collaboration. This sets the foundation for further collaborative activities where the local community will be invited to explore ideas and contribute to research.  
The Low Carbon Devon project was a five-year European Regional Development Fund project held at the University of Plymouth supporting Devon businesses to transition to the low carbon economy closing in mid-2023.
The project served as a catalyst for low carbon economic growth in Devon via the Future Shift internship programme, a series of free events and by connecting enterprises with expertise within the University of Plymouth.
The project collaborated with over 130 innovative Devon enterprises who are developing sustainable practices and securing opportunities in the low carbon economy.
To find out more about the University of Plymouth's business services visit Enterprise Solutions
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