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Companion Planting: the role of networks in sustaining organised garden projects and achieving positive social outcomes

Wilson, Jessica (2011) Companion Planting: the role of networks in sustaining organised garden projects and achieving positive social outcomes. Masters by Coursework thesis, Murdoch University.

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From the late nineteenth century community gardens, or organised garden projects (OGPs), have been used by governments as mechanisms for providing economic and social relief during times of economic downturn. Since the 1960s increasing concern for the environment and social justice has seen networks of residents establish these gardens at grassroots levels. Following on from Stocker and Barnett (1998), the notion that these gardens can simultaneously create positive economic, ecological and social outcomes for garden participants and the wider community positions them as “agents of change” for sustainability.

This study focuses on garden participation and the potential outcomes for individuals and neighbourhoods through a specific analysis of the social networks that exist between gardeners and the connections that organised garden projects have with other gardens and organisations. Building on the work of Bourdieu (1986), Coleman (1990), Putnam (1995) and others, this study seeks to identify the features of social capital, using social networks as a proxy, that facilitate action, outcomes and gains for those involved in OGPs.

Using gardens in greater Hobart, Tasmania as the case study, this study built on White’s (2002) analysis of the key features of social networks, and determined the presence of and outcomes from social capital in garden networks. Particular attention was paid to how involvement in OGPs can ameliorate social and economic disadvantage.

This study highlights the potential of organised garden projects in tackling disadvantage although it acknowledges this potential is yet to be fully realised. The findings suggest that while both internal and external social networks play a key role in the production of social capital in OGPs, several barriers were identified which impacted on garden participation and sociability; including education, the location of the garden and garden accessibility.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Coursework)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Supervisor(s): Paulin, Sally
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