Applied Sustainability Research: Exeter Allotments
While in Exeter, UK our twenty person study abroad team researched the current state and future vision of gardening allotments from the perspective of those who rent plots. Although allotment structures differ across the globe, Exeter allotments include plots of city-owned land rented to residents for growing produce. Some private allotments exist but they are an anomaly and were not explored in our research. Allotments are distributed across the city, accessible only to tenants with key access and may include 15 to 200 plots.
Our study abroad group collected qualitative and quantitative data from over 150 surveys and seven interviews, and then we analyzed and wrote up our results as a team. I had the great opportunity to work with six other talented students on the trip to prepare and present our research to a stakeholder working for the municipality. Although the presentation team was quite large and we were crunched for time to create and practice our presentation, we did an excellent job staying calm and presenting an engaging story. Each member of our team brought unique skills that, together, enabled us to succeed under pressure. Also, our faculty advisors and peers provided insightful feedback after a practice presentation that allowed us to fill in gaps and make crucial finishing touches. It was truly a team effort! Our stakeholder was pleased with our work and we felt proud we could give him useful information that made his life easier and will help improve the allotment system.
Working on a sustainability project increased my capacity to effectively collaborate with a large team, navigate cultural differences, and dive deep into understanding a new system within a small timeframe. Also, conducting research in an international quasi-consulting context further emphasized the importance of understanding others’ culture, needs and pressures. These lessons are just as important in the States as they are across the pond due to our nation’s diverse collection of subcultures and perspectives. I’m eager to bring my refined skills, expanded perspective and knowledge back to America so I can help increase the sustainability and resilience of my community.