ARCHIVE: Sustainable living, communities and places
On this page:
- Every Action Counts - Supporting Community Action
- Defra and the third sector promoting sustainable living
- Eden LA 21
- Environmentally sustainable rural communities
- Defra supporting cleaner, greener communities
- British Waterways and volunteering
Defra is supporting ‘Every Action Counts’, a consortium of 29 third sector organisations, with £4m over three years. Every Action Counts provides advice and support to third sector organisations which are looking to reduce their impact on the environment, tackle climate change and improve their local area.
The Every Action Counts programme has supported a significant investment in training for frontline community workers, activists and individual community champions on sustainable development and the links between issues of environmental and social justice.
The Federation for Community Development Learning have trained over 600 trainers, community workers and activists in the use of newly developed resources designed to support their day to day work helping communities to identify and take action on issues that concern them. A sustainable development unit has been developed for the National Open College Network and a sustainable development community work skills manual has been produced.
Over 800 Community Champions have been trained and provided with resources to help them support local community organisations in their area or to take their own independent action. Trained Champions have engaged with a wide range of local groups ranging from Scouts to sports clubs, and faith groups to climate action networks. Some have developed their own projects such as working with their local authority to adapt the Every Action Counts themes to provide local residents with information on sustainability.
The programme has identified a range of good practice and inspirational stories from communities who are taking action to save energy, travel wisely, save resources, shop ethically or care for their area. Over 100 case studies have been developed by Capacity Global including video case studies. Capacity Global have also developed One Planet Culture, a project to promote, and provide access to, a range of media such as books, films and events to stimulate discussion and action on the Every Action Counts themes.
Defra’s Environmental Action Fund (EAF) supported voluntary and community sector (VCS) projects in England covering a wide range of environmental and sustainable development activities. The last 2005-08 grant round was (as usual) highly competitive so projects chosen met the EAF criteria strongly. Between 2005-08 EAF awarded a total of £6.7m to projects that focussed on trying to influence patterns of consumption within communities to become more sustainable. 34 projects were selected ranging from several large national NGOs, e.g. WWF, National Trust and National Federation of Women’s Institutes, to small local or regional groups. Grants between £75,000 to £250,000 over the three years to a maximum of 50% of project costs were awarded, requiring groups to provide matching funding from their own, non-public sources. Selected projects covered consumption issues across the board or in broad consumption themes, e.g. consumption impacts surrounding the domestic household, or the impacts of its leisure-time activities. Projects were also favoured if they made some leap of innovation in social or market activity. Projects needed to show that they could attempt to measure outputs and outcomes as Defra approved their annual work programmes and released grant only when quarterly/half-yearly progress claims and reports were received and approved.
During the last round Defra appointed a consultancy to evaluate the environmental behaviour change impact of the EAF projects on individual and community behaviour, so groups were required to contribute to this as well; this was new to many but a number have noted that they have found the exercise useful. The final behaviour change evaluation report is due late summer 2008 and will be used to feed into Defra’s future behaviour change policies and programmes. Some of the initial evaluations show that there have been successes on many different behaviour change goals. EAF Projects have delivered some big changes within their organisations, in their participants and in the general public. Community level projects have been particularly successful where their work enhances what is going on outside Most of the behaviour change has been within the boundaries of people’s comfort zone and transport remains problematic. Change has been aided by projects having control over external barriers or where there have not been any.
Many groups have produced material or ‘toolkits’ based on their experience suitable for wider dissemination and Defra is considering how it can assist this. Within the terms of the Fund we have tried to show flexibility given that the projects were so varied and in many cases were covering new ground and this has on occasion been commented upon and appreciated by groups. Defra organised events and some of the participants attended the workshops convened by Green Alliance.
This was an example focussed particularly on community action. Defra supported this charity’s project: ‘Cumbria DEVICES programme’ with EAF grant totalling nearly £217,000 between 2005-08. A very small number of people managed this nevertheless wide-ranging project across three themes: sustainable community buildings, sustainable community groups and sustainable business networks in that region. Some findings from the project showed:
- there was a strong underlying interest and willingness amongst a variety of individuals and communities to get involved in ‘green’ activities, but interest remained dormant unless activated;
- small initiatives can provide an easy first success for participants before moving to bigger things;
- people respond well to enablers who are local, independent and charitable;
- the ’market’ will not always deliver what the community group can, e.g. attracting goodwill.
Eden reported that EAF was very important to them because it gave them certainty about funding, allowing space to develop a somewhat more strategic and long-term approach.
REALL (Renewable Energy at Local Level) began its life in June 2002. It was a cross organization initiative funded by the Countryside Agency, ONE Northeast and the SEED fund (part of the National Lottery), as a programme to assist local community groups to bring forward their own renewable energy schemes, using the energy from the sun, water, the wind and wood fuel. The project operated throughout Northumberland and County Durham. Community Action Northumberland and Durham Rural Community Council hosted the initiative in the North East area throughout its lifetime.
In order to establish the initiative fully the Rural Community Councils needed to use their background of effective working with a wide range of community groups and local bodies. These included, as they do across the country: village hall committees, voluntary groups of all kinds, parish councils, schools, small businesses which play an essential economic role in a rural area, groups of residents, and new groups set up to run schemes.
This kind of partnership working is common throughout the Rural Community Action Network – a network supported by Defra with three year funding. There are many projects and community initiatives which exist where the field worker/implementer is a member of the Rural Community Council receiving external funding for the lifetime of that specific project. However, in this case as in many others across the Network the relationship developed into strong working links which exist until this day.
The project’s aim was to regenerate rural communities and strengthen their economies in order to increase the use of renewable energy technologies and assist in fulfilling the Government’s target of 10% of energy sourced from renewable technologies by 2010.
By supporting these projects Community Action Northumberland has brought together people, skills and resources for shared benefit, raising awareness about renewable energy and energy efficiency, bringing about agricultural diversification, new local jobs, environmental sensitivity , local ownership and energy supply and raising the local skills base for renewable energy technology.
Throughout the lifetime of the initiative CAN demonstrated how effectively the Rural Community Action Network works with the relevant regional and sub-regional groups. In this case they were energy groups but across the country the pattern is replicated in many different areas. It has helped community groups from rural Northumberland and Durham bring forward their own renewable energy schemes, using the energy from the sun, the wind and biomass.
Projects completed through the initiative, with the help of the Rural Communtiy Council include:
- Deneholme Project, Allendale, has installed a ground source heat pump to provide heating for the community building and solar water heating panels.
- Falstone Tea Rooms, Northumberland, has installed a solar phototovoltaic (solar pv) array which provides solar power by converting sunlight into electricity and a biomass boiler to provide heating.
- The Coastwatch Tower, Berwick, has installed solar pv to provide power to charge their equipment and provide light.
- Heatherslaw Mill, Ford and Etal Estate Northumberland is using micro hydro to replace the Mill’s water wheel.
Defra supports ENCAMS which is the charity behind the Keep Britain Tidy campaign. ENCAMS’ remit is to improve local environmental quality (such as litter, detritus, water courses, dog fouling and fly-tipping) and related behaviour (graffiti, abandoned vehicles, fly-posting etc). ENCAMS runs advertising campaigns to change the behaviour of the public and works with managers of land to improve their services and strategic approach. ENCAMS has recently set up a public engagement campaign under its Keep Britain Tidy banner, called the Big Tidy Up. This campaign is all about encouraging groups to go and do a clean up of their local area. The campaign is targeted at all sections of society from schools, community groups and councils to businesses and individuals. Keep Britain Tidy ran an advertising campaign on phone boxes and on websites to encourage as many groups to participate in the campaign throughout the month of September
Participants are asked to register their commitment via a website www.thebigtidyup.org and were then sent a free kit to help them tidy up their area. The website offers the opportunity for groups to profile their event and encourage others to join as well as to showcase their results by uploading photos and highlighting how much rubbish was collected.
ENCAMS worked with a number of different organisations to achieve it aims. By partnering with CPRE , Waste Watch, Thames 21, BTCV and Cleanup UK, ENCAMS was able to reach a wide variety of groups and offer on the ground support.
Encams worked with councils in England, schools, community groups, parich councils and business to promote the big tidy up and encouarge action.
The aim of the camapign was to encourage 10,000 groups to get involved in clean up activities collection 500,000 bags of litter.
The work is on-going and will be reviewed in six months time when the project has come to an end. By working in partnership the campaign has achieved so much already. By the time of the official launch of the campaign on 1st September, already over 6,000 groups had registered to take part. Time will tell on the effect on local environmental quality.
British Waterways is a Public Corporation and is sponsored by Defra. Thames21 is an environmental regeneration charity that works with communities to restore the rivers and canals of London. Thames21 became an independent Registered Charity in 2004 and works with more than 4,000 volunteers a year. British Waterways contributes to the running of Thames21. (approximately £174,000 p.a.) and supplies specialist plant to enable the organisation to carry out work under contract for British Waterways. The funding that Thames21 receives from British Waterways is vital to its work. Without it, innovative projects would not have been created.
Thames21 has a programme called “Canalkeepers”. This sees local people adopt, care for and improve a stretch of the canal. As part of this initiative, Thames21 works closely with a day centre for adults with learning difficulties. Staff found it impossible to find outside placements for the centre’s users because few organisations were willing to work with them. While physical regeneration attracts funding, social regeneration is often neglected. British Waterways’ funding helps to redress this balance and makes a profound and unique difference to the lives of these volunteers.
Thames21 to created the first angling club in Central London in a generation. Angling is an effective way of helping communities to work together, strengthening social cohesion and changing community attitudes to their local canal areas in London. The Ladbroke Rovers Angling Club sees all ages fish along side each other; established and newly-arrived communities fish together; and it has encouraged retired anglers back to the canal. Work will soon begin to improve the local habitat for fish with the planting of lilies. This is with funding brokered by British Waterways.
Taken from Debbie Leach, T21 Chief Executive’s evidence to the Efra Committee’s enquiry, March 2008
Page last modified: 3 November 2008
Page published: 3 November 2008