The Gateway Collective 

Two friends in Bootle shared a passion for people and their community. Janet Hughes – with her green thumb and background in horticulture – and Ali Horton with experience in youth work and operations, came together to bring about a purposeful social enterprise for their community. Their combined skill and passion founded the Gateway Collective, based in North Park Community Garden.

The Gateway Collective uses community gardening to promote wellbeing and social connections, driven by the principle of ‘love your neighbour’, a part of Janet and Ali’s Christian faith. The garden is open to volunteers and gardeners of all and no faiths, and harvest shares are distributed to attendees as part of the community’s lasting connection. It’s also one of Kindred’s second round of investee STOs. 

Janet and Ali’s vision is to see people and communities in Bootle thrive, with a mission to cultivate belonging and community around fresh local produce and personal wellbeing.

The Gateway Collective’s vibrant and diverse community activity range includes, but isn’t limited to, plant and craft sales, creative workshops, beekeeping, voluntary leadership opportunities and chances for the community to cook and eat together, sharing food and recipes inspired by the produce grown in the garden. Activities are designed to increase individuals’ wellbeing and build community.

The Gateway Collective used the Social Audit Network process to measure their impact on their community. They collected data from interviews, case studies, and focus groups to provide narrative and economic measures, consider materiality and ensure credibility in a competitive marketplace. And those impacts are huge:

• Social value totalling £434,520, creating £7.34 for every £1 spent

• 1040 visits to the garden in 2021-22

• 4,100 volunteer hours, with the garden’s 79 community gardeners 

• 540kg of food was grown…

• … saving 430kg CO2e, in comparison to buying from a supermarket

• The Gateway Collective also won the Green Flag Community Award

This was achieved through gatherings at North Park Community Garden, where the Gateway Collective is open Mondays and Wednesdays between 10am-2pm, all year round. During the Summer, an extra Thursday session is added each week. 

The garden is central to Gateway Collective’s work and these weekly gatherings for gardeners and volunteers provide a sanctuary, laughter and good food. The benefits to their physical and mental wellbeing are impactful and attendees shared in the 2021-22 social impact report that they feel welcome and supported. For many, social isolation and loneliness were heavy after the pandemic, and so the garden serves as a lifeline for many attendees. The garden serves as a place of learning, support, and connection, making it a vital part of Gateway Collective’s community.

Ali says: “The investment from Kindred has been transformational. It has enabled us to complete our community kitchen which has become a space to teach people how to cook with what we grow but more importantly a space to gather. Kindred has also enabled us to change our thinking around social investment – to see it as an opportunity for growth and not something to be scared of.”

The impact report also shares personal stories from community members like Joe, who returned to the UK after a long time abroad. He joined the community garden after discovering its residents working there. This experience led to a newfound interest in gardening, a sense of belonging to nature, and new opportunities – including a job. By learning about proper soil preparation, planting techniques and plant care, Joe started work in the council’s Green Sefton department.

Another testimony is from Paul, who left mainstream schooling due to anxiety and began attending the garden weekly in 2015, as part of his homeschooling. He found lots of support and care at the Gateway Collective and its community, which helped his mental health. Then in 2020, he participated in a Kickstart project with Andrea Ku, focusing on creating ‘Made in Bootle’, which helped him develop employability skills and apply for part-time jobs. For Paul, the impact of The Gateway Collective on his life has been profound. 

Other volunteers describe the garden as their “little oasis”, “extended family”, and a supportive place where they “can just sit and have a brew and a chat with somebody”, or “take a break when going through a rough patch but when returning be immediately welcomed back.”

Gateway Collective has successfully established community connections, collaborating with groups like Taking Roots and the South Park Garden and fostering pride in the local community. Most volunteers at the garden also volunteer elsewhere, widening their community’s impact. The principle of ‘love thy neighbour’ certainly thrives here.