August 25, 2020 News, Surveys 2 Comments

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n the last month we’ve put an idea out on Social Media about planting a Covid-19 Memorial Forest. If there was enough support, we said, then we will do our best to make this happen for people. If not, we would forget about the idea. So, what have people told us. Do we continue or should we stop?

Feedback and survey results

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For the last six weeks we’ve been testing the idea of planting a Covid-19 Memorial Forest and listening to reactions and comments on our Social Media posts.   As part of that consultation process we have also ran a short survey (from the 4th to 14th August). Here’s what people told us.

95% of people feel positive about the idea of a Covid-19 Memorial Forest

1st reaction

84% thought having a Covid19 Memorial was important:
Memorial views
98.8% of people want more Forests planted in the UK

Forest views

The immediate thing we learnt from this was that more people felt strongly about planting new forests in the UK than the number of people who felt strongly about creating a Covid-19 Memorial. That was interesting.

Is there a lack of empathy towards people who have died from the virus emerging in society now that the worst of the lock-down was in the past?
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Not everyone will support every idea of course.  But we wanted to look more closely as to why some people didn’t support a Covid-19 Memorial. We had anticipated this would not be a controversial issue.

A Covid-19 Memorial Forest has a bit of a ‘Marmite’ reaction!

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Whilst floating the idea of a Covid-19 Memorial Forest we have found that it brings out extreme emotions in many people. The people who support the idea (the majority) really, really support it, but a minority actively oppose the idea.

About 5% who completed the survey are opposed to the idea of a Covid19 Memorial Forest. Some on Social Media take that opposition to the point of extreme anger and hatred of the concept seemingly because it has ‘Covid-19’ in the name.

This was a big surprise to us. At worst we thought people might just ignore us. We did not expect to encounter hate and anger directed towards something aimed at helping those that were bereaved in a time of national tragedy.

Given there is some with so much anger towards the concept, should we stop pushing forward further with the idea of the Memorial Forest?
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Any memorial (for any reason) should not be something that divides society. We have thought deeply about this and have sought to understand what we were being told. The conclusions we have reached are:

  1. Even when people were opposed to the idea of a Covid-19 memorial they mostly supported planting a Forest (or tree) in memory of someone. That does not appear to be an issue with anyone, the issue was solely because we were focusing on Covid-19 and some people resented that.
  2. The argument we listened to was that there are people who have been severely affected by lock-down measures, or even lost their life because of them, even if they have not caught the virus. That is a fair point and as a nation we should not forget about these people.  They are victims of Covid-19 even if they did not have the virus.
  3. Some people (a small but significant number) don’t believe the virus exists, or, they think it is a government plot to control people, or something else connected to a conspiracy theory.  Whilst we understand that people are angry, afraid, or have other issues that attract them to these views, our own decisions to continue with this project can’t be led by views that have no firm basis in truth.

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What the strongest supporters of a COVID-19 Memorial Forest told us

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82% of people wanted both a Covid-19 Memorial and wanted to see more UK Forests planted. So we looked more closely at what this majority wanted from the Forest and how they might support the creation of the Forest
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What did they want to see from a Forest?

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The strongest supporters of the Memorial Forest concept believed we should primarily focus on planting a forest to help combat climate change and create new wildlife habitat.  That suggests, for example, that it will not be adequate for us to just plant long lines of the same species of tree (as some carbon offset projects may do) without thinking about the issue of habitat creation.

Secondly, people are telling us that the forest should be a space to visit and enjoy (80% said they would be likely to visit it). Ideally, the forest should also include some type of educational benefit.
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importance in a forest

What the forest should be used for is something we want to explore in more detail in any design stage for the Forest.  For example, what types of habitat are important to people, what do they want to do in the forest, and how should that educational element in the Forest be delivered? We have some clear ideas but wish to test these to check if they align with what our supporters would like.

What did the Covid-19 Memorial Forest mean to our supporters?

word cloud viewsTo supporters of the concept of a Covid-19 memorial Forest it was clear that the forest was very wanted. The sincerity and depth of emotion in the comments we received was clear. We have created a page with some of these comments. You can see these here.

Would supporters help fund the Forest?

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To create the Forest that people are telling us they want to see will require money, and that will have to come from somewhere of course. So, how will the project get the money needed?
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Before we look at that, let’s get the question out of the way that we’ve been asked on whether the Covid-19 Memorial Forest Fund are simply trying to scam people out of money. We’ve had many trolls accusing us of this as they seek to undermine the project because they don’t agree with a Covid-19 Memorial.

To create, and manage, the forest we have already created a not-for-profit legal entity, ‘Our Heroes’ Community Interest Company (CIC). The ownership of the Forest (if we can make it happen) will be under that entity. ‘Our Heroes’ will not pay dividends to shareholders and any profits will be reinvested into the CIC. The CIC will however look to develop commercial ventures to pay for the Forest and it’s maintenance and will also do additional good work for the benefit of society where/if it can in addition to creating and managing the Forest. It is not the intention to rely on donations in the future as a charity typically would. We want the Forest to be self-funding and sustainable.

The Forest will be open to everyone for perpetuity as a Forest. It will stay as a lasting memorial for use by the people of our nation.
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The first good news we got from the survey was that 58% of supporters said that they ‘Definitely would’ consider donating to help create the Memorial Forest. There are several different ways we are exploring to obtain the funding for the forest, so we don’t need to rely on donations. These include grants, business sponsorship, or commercial endeavours.  But, right now, we do need donations to help in the short-term so we can continue with making the Forest a reality.

It was even better news when we saw that the Forest Supporters would help with this cause in many ways other than donations.  For example:

  • A third said they would encourage their employers to become sponsors.
  • 30% wanted to help with fundraising.
  • 46% even said they would help plant the forest.
  • 60% said they would definitely fund a tree in memory of someone.
  • Half said they would definitely fund a tree for Carbon-Offset purposes.
  • 44% wanted to buy a memorial plaque for someone to be placed in the forest.

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Conclusions

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So, what are the core conclusions we have reached so far after testing the concept of the Covid-19 Memorial Forest with people?

The majority support the core Forest concept:
80% of people were supporters, over 50% say they support the idea deeply. It is for those people that we want to continue with this project. But, we may need to be more obvious that the Forest is more inclusive than only being for those who lost loved ones with Covid-19 infections. Read the blog on this link for more thoughts on that.

Our name may not be right:
We have learnt that the name ‘Covid-19 Memorial Forest’ is causing issues with some people. It does not explain fully the inclusive nature of the Forest we would like to have. Additionally, we have also found that there are restrictions on promoting anything with ‘Covid-19’ in the title on Social Media and search platforms. That makes it difficult when trying to spread the word of the cause with our current name.

We need get serious about finalising plans and raising funds:
Now that we have tested the concept and have been told people want to see the forest created, we need to get serious about the next phase of the project if we are to make this work – that is detailing plans and raising the money!

We really appreciate everyone’s views, and peoples support even more:
Thank you to everyone who has helped us with comments, feedback, general support by following us, and of course those who took part in our survey.  It is for you that we want to continue with making the vision of the Covid19 Memorial Forest become a reality.

But, we can’t succeed without help and support so thank you again for giving that. You have said you want us to succeed, and we don’t want to let you down. So, keep supporting us and together we can make the Memorial Forest a reality.

Please leave your comments in the comments section below. We really want to hear from you.

Written by Robert Streeter