The 2014 CSGN Forum took place on Tuesday 03 June at the Central Hotel in Glasgow. A total of 186 people attended and were sent a follow-up email requesting delegates to provide their feedback regarding the event using an online survey form. The text below summarises the findings from this survey.
Background and Administration
A total of 76 people answered the survey – exactly the same as last year. This is a remarkable response rate, well over one-third of all attendees and is an indication of the high level of interest people have in the subject matter and the CSGN.
Feedback indicates that an overwhelming majority of people had a positive experience in terms of the event administration. In particular, it appears that we have solved issues regarding the registration form – which several delegates marked poorly last year. This year, just one respondent was less than satisfied with the online booking system.
Seven people answered the supplementary question, ‘How could we improve this?’ Most respondents used this section to state that it couldn’t have been improved. Of the other comments, one suggested that the delegate list could include Twitter and Linkedin usernames for networking, another would have preferred to have the final agenda for the day in advance.
Delegates found little to fault with the programme and welcome pack and the seating arrangements. However, several people thought that the displays could have been improved and visibility and acoustics did receive some criticism. Comments indicated that, despite side monitors, people had trouble seeing and reading some of the slides.
Other responses to the ‘How could we improve?’ supplementary question focussed on the long single queue for food during lunch and some people suggested ‘healthier’ and more locally sourced food items could have been served.
Presentations, Content and Activities
Jonathon Porritt’s Keynote speech was of most interest to the majority of respondents. Several referred to his perceptive and candid observations of the issues which face the sector.
Richard Millar’s Delivering Green & Blue Infrastructure presentation was also very well received with several delegates clearly inspired by the vision and scale of Scottish Canals’ work.
Several respondents commented on Stephen Tucker’s Masterplanning for Green Infrastructure presentation saying that it was good to ‘get the view from the private sector’.
The Ministerial Address by Derek Mackay, Minister for Local Government and Planning was well-received by delegates. Many observed how well informed he was of CSGN’s aims and activities, and there was great appreciation that he was able to stay on and spend time taking questions from the delegates.
It was also appreciated that despite some technical issues, Cathy Johnston’s presentation was well constructed and informative, reflecting where we have come from in terms of strategic planning.
In general, of the 66 people who provided additional responses, many used the word inspirational or inspiring to describe the presentations. Other comments focussed on the honesty and openness of the speakers as they recounted how they try to incorporate high-quality green infrastructure into their work. The presenters also encouraged many delegates to reflect on their own work and used terms such as thought provoking and provocative.
Only four respondents did not attend a workshop. There was some variety in the responses as to how interesting and useful these sessions were. Some of the more negative comments focussed upon the opening presentations taking too much time, with a feeling that this hampered the effectiveness of the workshop/discussion element of the session to deal with the topic. Some other participants did not think that the room layout and style of workshop encouraged participation.
However, the majority of respondents did think the presentations were worthwhile and appreciated not only the real world insight which the presenters and participants brought to each session, but also the chance to meet and network with the other delegates sharing an interest in the particular topic.
Just under 72% of respondents voted on the CSGN Ideas Fund Presentations. This is similar to last year. Overwhelmingly, people thought this feature was exciting and engaging with responses calling it a great success, and a good fun item to have at the end of the day. However, there was a suggestion that the presenters could have been given more guidance to help get their points across in the allocated time.
Although some people thought the Forum was not as exciting and attractive as previous years, they did appreciate coherent nature of the programme and insight the day provided into relevant Scottish based developments and projects.
Several people mentioned that the Forum Question and Answer sessions were better than previous years - much more relaxed and informative. Some suggested that delegates should be encouraged to use twitter to promote engagement.
Other comments focussed on the value of networking time and would like more opportunity for this.
As regards what people would like to see included in our next CSGN Forum, over half of the respondents expressed a view on this matter. There was little consensus and comments appeared to embrace the broad activities and themes and issues which the CSGN is interested in. For example, sustainable urban drainage, disadvantaged communities, habitat fragmentation, wildlife, woodlands, green business green networks through urban areas were all mentioned.
Several respondents said they would like to see examples of where the CSGN priorities are being delivered 'on the ground' and examples of how others (individuals, communities and organisations) can get involved in or contribute to the CSGN plans and vision.
Community inspired and delivered projects was a common theme with community growing / orchards being a popular suggestion. Another was practical implementation of urban / residential greening in a UK context possibly including land reclamation and brownfield redevelopment.
There was also interest in looking at how greenbelts can be used more effectively, especially in the balance between housing and greenspace needs.
One person suggested that the next Forum could focus upon just one of the CSGN priorities with enough time for smaller group discussion and another liked the idea of including a panel discussion that might include a BBC Question Time style session on a key CSGN topic where major barriers hinder progress.
As regards specific locations for future CSGN events, somewhere central (in the central belt) was favoured by many. Lastly, despite the generally excellent report of the day and content, nine out of ten delegates (95%) indicated that the minimum price (£50 to £100) would be preferred cost.
The CSGNT would like to extend their heartfelt thanks to everyone who took the time to complete the survey and provide us with feedback. This information is incredibly useful to us and we intend to address as many of the points raised as possible in future Forum and CSGNT hosted events.