The Social Impact of Gaia’s Garden

Did you hear about what we did with our empty site in Holborn? If you didn’t, let’s bring you up to speed.


We own a vacant plot of land in the centre of the City of London called 61-65 Holborn Viaduct. This summer, we recognised this as an opportunity to help create something for the community, by the community and worked closely with Culture Mile to identify a group of young people who could creatively put the land to good use and drive people from across London into the city, bringing with them diversity, culture and arts.


We partnered with creative organisation and Fusion Prize winners, Play Nice, with the aim of creating an engaging space for young people and the local community in the heart of the city. We provided funding to make sure the project could be delivered, and then it was over to Play Nice to deliver the project. They, together with a team of over 200 volunteers, built Gaia’s Garden.


Over the summer, Gaia’s Garden was a free-to-use community garden that aimed to help educate young people and communities across Londoners on sustainable practices.

What was a fairly grey urban space with little benefit to the local community quickly became a welcoming, green, urban oasis in the centre of the City of London.

Hundreds of plants were sewn into raised beds and planters. Benches and tables made from recycled pallets and scaffolding boards were brought in to create a community space.

All of this transformed the site into something beautiful. The young people had created a space that could host live performances, programming workshops and other events that celebrated nature and sustainability, and could serve as a home for young creatives to showcase their talent and that is exactly what happened. Over nine weeks, Gaia’s Garden was host to a number of events and workshops, as well as providing young people with valuable opportunities through volunteering and employment.

Here is what some of the young people had to say about their experience…

“I’ve grown so much this year, becoming more involved in visual arts and had opportunities to network and build my creative skills. I’ve got to work with people in fashion, photography and PR who I wouldn’t usually get to work with through my day-to-day work.”

“I’m so proud of this bigger-than-life idea which became a physical reality. The space is so vibrant and welcoming. So often, you come up with ideas but don’t know how to execute them, or you don’t have the funding or people. I’m so proud that we made it happen.”

“I really enjoyed collaborating and working on a tangible project with others. There have been opportunities to shadow and network with people with more experience in the creative industries. You had to use your initiative and this is something I can transfer into work.”



Gaia’s Garden wasn’t just about meanwhile use. For every social value project we undertake, we record the social value created, so we can learn, improve and grow our ability to deliver social value across all of our developments and boroughs.

Gaia’s Garden created a whole range of positive outcomes for the young people who got involved, such as:

  • Improvements in confidence
  • Feeling a sense of belonging
  • Feeling a sense of achievement
  • Developing transferrable skills
  • Promotion of accessibility and social mobility
  • Community connectivity and social inclusion

230 volunteering opportunities and 10 part-time employment opportunities gained through Gaia’s Garden.

By using the ‘Social Value Bank’ from the Housing Association Charitable Trust, we can calculate the financial value of the social value created. The HACT Social Value Bank adopts ‘wellbeing valuation analysis methodology’, allowing us to calculate financial proxies that represent the social value outcomes experienced by those young people who received employment and volunteering opportunities.

We’ve attributed 50% of these outcomes to Dominvs, due to our involvement in the planning, delivery and funding of Gaia’s Garden.

Take a look at the figures below.


The table below shows the financial proxies applied to the social value outcomes experienced by 10 stakeholders, living in London, below the age of 25, who received part-time employment opportunities during the 9-week programming of Gaia’s Garden.

Social value proxy
Dominvs attribution
Social value proxy Part-time employment
£864.70 Dominvs attribution
Social value proxy Improvement in confidence
£290.90 Dominvs attribution
Social value proxy Total per person
£1,155.60 Dominvs attribution


The table below shows the financial proxies applied to the social value outcomes experienced by 230 stakeholders, living in London, below the age of 25 who received volunteering opportunities during the 6-week building of Gaia’s Garden.

Social value proxy
Dominvs attribution
Social value proxy Regular volunteering
£368 Dominvs attribution
Social value proxy Gardening
£649 Dominvs attribution
Social value proxy Total per person
£1,017 Dominvs attribution
Social value proxy Total for 230 people
£233,910 Dominvs attribution


This means that the total social value created through the volunteering and 10 part time employment opportunities through Gaia’s Garden is £245,466.

Although figures are useful to demonstrate social value, at Dominvs we maintain the true value created is represented in the stories told by young people and wider stakeholders who felt the positive impact of Gaia’s Garden.

We’re immensely proud of Gaia’s Garden! From the very start we knew this would be a great project and it was fantastic to see so many young people get involved, develop new skills, and even find employment. This is a great example of the social value that can be gained through effective meanwhile use of vacant land.”

Wesley Ankrah, Director of Social Value & Community Engagement, Dominus


As the Built Environment continues to change, it means Gaia’s Garden can’t stay where it is forever.

However, this project has really struck a chord with our team and we don’t want the Gaia’s Garden story to end here…

We’re now actively looking at how we can incorporate a permanent home for Gaia’s Garden in the end scheme.

Watch this space and subscribe below to be the first to hear if this happens…

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