I have a special interest in the dynamics of grassroots participation.
I help campaigns tailor messages for different ‘audiences’ and authentic citizen participation.
I’m interested in co-design as a way to encourage participation, collaboration as a means of extending the boundaries of outreach and the fundamental importance of place and how it connects people.
The Project – Household Energy Service (HES). Communications and community engagement strategy
The Client – Lightfoot Enterprises
The Brief – To demonstrate that a community led energy advice service would be well placed “to take all kinds of people and households on a journey to low carbon living.” This could then be a replicable model for cutting carbon in homes and enthusing/engaging as many people and households as possible.
The Execution – There was a strong emphasis on community ownership, primarily because as a team we believed that giving people a sense of active ownership would be a strength. As ever, when the community discovers that it cares about something this can be a real driver for change. This was balanced by professional advice in the form of energy advisors.
The strategy in a nutshell:
- Focus on particular towns. Engage people in those towns by offering a FREE household energy survey. It needed to appeal to ‘non-greens’ as well as those we already knew would be keen to get involved.
- Train local volunteers to carry out surveys. The main thinking was survey should be carried out by somebody you can trust. Not a salesman. Not a stranger.
- A survey should be followed by a report with tailored recommendations from HES .
- All participants receive a quarterly newsletter with grant updates, energy saving ideas, clean technology in bite size chunks. We would feature a broad range of options so that everybody could make a positive contribution – from not overfilling the kettle to investing in solar panels. We would promote credible local green energy schemes and encourage take-up.
- There would be a communications focus on ‘people stories’ (peer to peer) via an annual “Open Eco-Homes” event, featuring local homes that featured everything from state of the art clean technology to the simplest ideas. These peer to peer stories would also be featured in newsletters.
- KPI measurements were introduced to ensure that whilst this was a community led enterprise, it was operated professionally at every stage. We took feedback very seriously .
The Results – The Household Energy Service was successful in engaging over 1,000 households across 5 rural towns.
In a follow up survey in 2010, energy officers found that HES clients were saving an average of 29% in terms of carbon emissions. Total energy savings measured in pounds amounted to £380,000 per year (Based on 1,000 clients).
Date created – 2007 – 2010
Awards – In 2010 The Household Energy Service won shared first place in NESTA’s Big Green Challenge, recognised for “the breadth and depth of community engagement and the design of a replicable and effective community tool to help cut carbon.”
The Project – The Heart of Wales Line – building a Community Station Hub
The Client – Heart of Wales Line Development Co
The Brief – Design a sustainable building for a rural station … A small gateway to the world. Not another shopping mall. But perhaps a local trading post – with a commitment to not damaging the world. Because when you leave this gateway to travel somewhere, you need to know that you are not damaging the very place that you’re discovering.
The Execution – At Llandeilo station there was once a station pub called “The Refresh.” Old locals still remember it with a smile, but the building is long gone. Llandeilo Station was a lonely platform at the end of a lonely road. So we pulled together an imaginative builder called David Bamford and the local Community Rail Partnership to design and build a sustainable building that might reconnect rail and community.
The Result – The Llandeilo “Station Hub” is a small, transportable building with a covered aisle, leading to a modern composting toilet. It was designed along the lines of the old freight wagons and built with FSC Welsh wood creating a space that could be run on a tiny budget, by and for the community. The design includes a rainwater harvesting system and optional renewable energy unit.
In terms of communication, it is felt that a building with a low carbon footprint makes a strong positive statement for action on climate change.
Date Created – Llandeilo Hub was completed and installed May 2016. The CRP have has some problems getting it up and running but are hopeful that the problems are now resolved. A second building at Morpeth Station in Northumberland is planned.
Awards – The Llandeilo Hub received an award at the National Community Rail awards 2016 for most improved station environment.