Meet the grassroots initiatives using education to transform Birmingham

Grass roots campaigner and social entrepeneur Simbi Folarin talks to Bioregion Birmingham about her social transformation projects.

Hi Simbi. Could you start by telling us a little about yourself?

I am currently involved in the early stage development of a number of grassroots community initiatives. The common ground is sustainability and community education. I am passionate about ‘self help’ initiatives and understand the strengths of a process based approach to transformational change.

And how are you putting this into practice here in Birmingham?

The Glue Collective is a group of makers, artists and activists working together to address current and emerging social, health and economic challenges in our local community. We use activities that educate and inform, particularly by reaching people who may not otherwise have had access to academic opportunities or basic skills training. We view societal problems as interconnected, working at a local level to stimulate the social, environmental, and economic health of our community.

We run a community garden in Northfield in partnership with Shenley Sports and Community Association. In addition, we've recently managed to roll out our allotment in a box product. This was two years in the making. We've managed to make it a reality with business skills support and grants from the School of Social Entrepreneurs and UNLTD.

Over the last couple of years we have been busy developing our allotment in a box scheme, a small scale way for people to grow their own fruit and vegetables. Boxes are made by us from recycled materials, and the customer is able to choose a selection of fruit and vegetables from our growing hub. We install them at the customer’s home or school. They are then able to choose whether to care for the box themselves, iesfollowing instructions we provide, or to pay a monthly fee for us to maintain the box for them. The cost of the boxes varies depending on the design, what is planted in them, and the maintenance terms that are agreed.

The Glue Garden also provides us with an opportunity to run workshops to meet the needs of a wide range of groups and individuals. More infomation is available on our website at

That sounds really exciting. And you're also involved with a project in Handsworth?

Yes, the Crick Project aims to create a sustainable community garden in the heart of Handsworth, for the improved health and wellbeing of local people and the wider community. We have basically develop an unused, derelict piece of land and turned it into a shared community green space; a hub for learning about organic food production and healthy lifestyles.

We run weekly sessions for people to get involved on site, particularly during the spring and summer. Our medium term goals are to:

  • make the site safe and accessible, through the removal of hazardous materials and surfaces;
  • provide basic amenities so that all those working or visiting the site will have the use of toilets, water and shelter;
  • install and create designated areas on the site for tool storage, growing food, composting, preparing and cooking food, recreation and learning; and
  • increase opportunities for partnership working, generating new opportunities for collaboration so that we're in a stronger position to apply for joint funding.    

We're on Facebook if people would like to come and get involved.

Finally, tell us about Climate Action Network West Midlands...

The aim of CANWM is to help achieve zero carbon emissions in the West Midlands region by 2050, as well as meeting other recommendations of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in order to help prevent run-away climate change. It is well documented that climate change threatens the eco-systems on which we depend.

Our focus is to create and grow a network of organisations, institutions and individuals who will take action on initiatives to reduce global warming. We seek to develop a network that is open, organic, diverse, independent, and sustainable. We're still in our infancy and so haven't yet received funding for any of our activities. However, we have developed a ‘Climate Charter’ with a view to making the key issues more accessible.

Visit for more information.

Simbi Folarin

Simbi Folarin is the Director of Glue Collective Ltd. She specialises in transformational practice, building resilient communities and grassroots enterprises.








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