Mother knows best

A fascinating article in Saturdays Times Magazine at the weekend caught my eye. It looked at why ethnic minorities make up 8% of the UK poulation but only 1% of vistors to National Parks. When I worked at English Nature this was a recurrent question and I reviewed (using Cognitive Edge methods of course) several of our efforts to get more minority groups out into the countryside.

Sathnam Sanghera, the author of ‘Boy with the top knot‘ took the brilliant step of taking his Punjabi speaking mother up onto the North York Moors while observing and reporting  her reactions. Again this is a Cognitive Edge approach to sense making by immersing yourself in the situation, becoming a bag carrier and asking niaive questions all the way.

The article makes for very enjoyable reading but I particularly like the way the narrative fragments eventually build up to give an insight into the real answer to the question. I know that the reader really should self realise the learning from such a story but forgive this once if I summarise a few key findings that began to make me think very differently:

  • like many Asian families they have no tradition of leisure
  • they have a highly unrelaxed approach to travel
  • his mother has never visited the English Countryside in 40 years of residing here
  • Punjabi have a fundamentally utilitarian view of the environment eg she sees the moors as “wasted space”

In other words

the lack of engagement with the English countryside is nothing more fundamental than the fact that many ethnic minorities don’t yet have any experience of it. (heading to cities when they first look for jobs).

I learned more, directly from the narrative fragments contained within this article than my reading of hundreds of pages of ‘expert analysis’ in very expensive research reports.

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