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Different skills will be relevant for different types of project, but potentially useful skills include:

Finance. Bringing a financial professional on board, such as an accountant, can add financial rigour to the team, as well as monetary credibility with the wider public.

IT. Having an IT whizz on your team will give you a big boost when it comes to engaging your community via online channels. A web designer can help to give your website a professional look and will make it quicker and easier to regularly update your webpages and add new features.

Marketing. Developing a brand for your group or project, including a name, logo and slogan, can all benefit from guidance from a marketing expert. A team member with marketing experience can also assist with designing and producing publicity materials, as well as advising on where to focus your promotion and how to pitch your project to appeal to your target audience.

Energy. Knowledge of energy efficiency or renewable energy technologies and processes will give you a head start if you are developing a community energy project. Someone with a professional background in the energy sector will be able to provide guidance on steps you need to take, suitable technology choices and could have a practical role in carrying out audits, surveys or assessing feasibility.

Planning process. Knowledge of the planning system will help your group to put together a feasible project that is more likely to secure planning permission. Someone with indirect experience of the planning process could be just as helpful as someone who is specifically a planner by profession.

Business. Experience of running a business will help your group to think entrepreneurially, to draw up a sound business model and to judge when risks are worth taking.

Project management. Complicated projects with long lead times will especially benefit from the guidance of a project manager. Project managers streamline processes and make sure actions follow a logical order, thus keeping everything moving in the right direction.

Events management. Events are likely to be central to your engagement activities. Bringing someone with experience of managing events, especially if you are considering anything particularly large scale or high profile, will facilitate the smooth running of planning, organisation and delivery of events.

Case Studies
Country: UK

Sustainable Charlbury’s core group includes a project manager, an energy expert, a landscape architect, a former solar farm developer, an ecologist, a heritage consultant, a communications expert and a local councillor. This broad range of skills and expertise was invaluable in developing their community owned solar farm project. The landscape architect played a key role in navigating the planning process and meeting landscape and visual impact assessment requirements, and involvement of a heritage consultant was particularly helpful given that the site is within the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Country: UK

Brighton Energy Co-operative’s Chairman has a background in business – he has built financial models to do with publishing, travel and online marketing. When the UK Government introduced the Feed-In Tariff (FIT) system, he began building a financial model to assess the business opportunities presented. He found two things: (1) modelling using FITs delivered reasonable returns and (2) renewables were not cheap. He realised that to get a project off the ground would require the involvement of other people – lots of other people. And so he developed a financial model based on community ownership to leverage in more funds and to enable the wider community to benefit from the opportunities. His business and financial skills became increasing important as the group had to adapt to changing levels of subsidy under the FIT system.

Source: Community-Led Photovoltaic Initiatives action pack