Community connections

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A range of community connections, socially and professionally, will give your group an existing network to engage with, to call on for support and to provide other wider contacts. Volunteers and group members with the following connections are likely to come in handy:

Community groups. Connections with other community groups pursuing social or environmental aims will give you a pool of potentially interested, passionate and likeminded individuals to engage with.

Community or residents’ associations. Members of community or residents’ associations typically will take an interest in local issues and affairs, have connections with movers and shakers in your area or experience of bringing the community together.

Business. Connections with local businesses may lead to opportunities to gain in-kind support with your finances, legal aspects or simply finding a venue and providing refreshments.

Government. Someone who has connections with the local council may have influential contacts that could help to build support and promote your project. However, it is wise to avoid recruiting members directly from government bodies who may have their own political agenda or conflicts of interest – looking for someone with connections to, rather than taken directly from, the government may work best.

Media. Local media contacts can help with securing features in local newspapers, radio and TV.

Sports groups. Sports clubs and organisations bring people together and promote community spirit, offering a key link to the local community.

Religious groups. Religious groups tend to be tight-knit and take an interest in local affairs and ethical issues. They can provide a large pool of contacts that could provide help or support for your project.

Schools or kids clubs. Connections with schools, through school governors or members of PTA committees, and all types of kids clubs can provide an avenue into engaging with local families.

Case Studies
Country: UK

Low Carbon West Oxford’s community connections gave them a head start when it came to engaging local people. One member of the core group had spent ten years as Chair of the Local Community Association helping to build community interaction. Two others had been key leaders behind other local environmental groups with a large body of members and another had been Chair of the Parent-Teachers Association of the local school. The core group members were able to bring these groups on board to create a critical mass of supporters and to build momentum.

Source: Low Carbon West Oxford and West Oxford Community Renewables (2010), Low Carbon Living: Power to make it possible

Country: UK

Community Energy Birmingham is an Industrial and Provident Society which aims to reduce Birmingham’s carbon footprint by enabling community organisations to install renewable energy systems. It was set up by a trio of green community groups from south Birmingham: Sustainable Moseley, Kings Heath Transition Initiative and Balsall Heath Is Our Planet, giving the group three existing networks who were already engaged from the outset.

Country: UK

Southend in Transition has a group member who works for the local authority and therefore personally knows relevant movers and shakers within the council to contact about their projects. This has helped to secure the group slots at speaker events, such as the council’s annual Low Carbon Conference, as well as meetings with people involved with environmental grants and local sustainability policy. For example, the Sustainability Officer at the council had connections with Pure Leapfrog, a business-led charity that provides social investment and professional support to community energy projects, who they told about the group's plans to develop a renewable energy co-operative. As a result, Pure Leapfrog got in touch with the group and met with them to discuss how Pure Leapfrog could support the project. This provided them with the information, support and momentum to apply for grant funding from DECC and to involve a wide range of people in the application. While their funding application was not successful, this process brought a group of people together in a following meeting which is now driving the setting up of the Southend Community Renewable Energy Co-op.