Stakeholder sessions on Environmental Sustainable Development (climate action)

Two crucial aspects of delivery, helping to ensure more than a hundred BBO partnerships engage and support a huge range of people in more inclusive, and greener, ways

This is the first of two reads about a series of 6 stakeholder sessions with people representing 70 BBO partnerships, held during September and October 2021. The sessions focused on two important cross-cutting themes:

  1. Environmental Sustainable Development (aka ‘climate action’)
  2. Equality & Equal Opportunities (resonant with ‘EDI’)

Both themes are mainstreamed across all BBO partnerships. Since the programme delivery launched in mid-2016, all grant holders and their partners have been required to upkeep specific policies and action plans/logs of actions to demonstrate, quarterly, the progress being achieved.

The two themes will hold deep resonance with many, including the Voluntary sector organisations which predominantly make up the BBO partnerships –indeed these themes strongly chime with two of four core principles or ‘golden threads’ inside The National Lottery Community Fund: Climate Action and E.D.I. (Equity, Diversity, Inclusion).

Between 20.09.21 and 24.09.21 we held three sessions (8 hours of talk time) all focused in different ways on this theme.

Why the focus on Environment/climate action?

BBO is a significant programme: over £600 Million; multi-annual funding since 2016 for well over 100 partnerships (approx. 2,000 organisations, majority VCSE).

That large scale, and multi-annual nature, is due to BBO having been co-financed between TNLCF and European Social and Investment Funding (within European Social Funding). So EU policy pieces have underpinned the programme since inception – namely ‘social inclusion’ and ‘combating poverty’; while, also, two of the three pillars of sustainable development – the social and the financial – are deeply woven into the programme’s aims around boosting employability and employment (as well as training and education) results. Given that the social and the financial aspects of sustainable development are so evident, woven into the fabric of BBO, the third aspect of sustainable development – environmental – really needed to be emphasised through this particular cross-cutting theme.

What happened at the stakeholder sessions?

At the opening session we cast several spotlights to help explain and to celebrate environmental sustainable development (aka climate action) in BBO:

  • We gave an explainer/refresher on this theme – and why it matters
  • To understand the wider TNLCF context we heard a conversation between Nick Gardner, Head of Climate Action programme at TNLCF and Sue Ormiston, Head of EU Programmes (BBO)
  • We cast spotlights on 5 of the BBO partnerships around England, to begin to show the very wide range of work being done in respect of this theme. In brief, these 5 BBO grant holders spoke about:
    • Staff engagement with this theme
    • Sustainability-themed project activities
    • Involving BBO participants in project work and activities directly related to this theme
    • Having a working group Re the theme with wider, local links
    • Sustainability audits.

The second session was dedicated to topical discussions: small group breakout spaces, where BBO grant holders and partners participated in peer-to-peer chat around four relevant subjects, in turn.

The four groups stimulated a lot of conversation and the talks raised many questions as well as some solutions.

Here’s just a couple of highlights per topic:

Minimising Travel

  • The pandemic has massively reduced travel; and some people prefer online meeting, training –whereas other people really need face-to-face
  • Poor public transport options remain a real issue

Minimising Waste

  • Some projects are doing various things around food waste, e.g. composting or sharing with local shelters, or food banks.
  • Get a green audit done

Minimising Energy

  • Lack of expertise within organizations in terms of knowing what they can do to minimise
  • How to measure and quantify any reduction remains a query/issue for some

The topics above are all mandatory elements of all BBO partnerships’ specific plan for this theme, and likewise their action and implementation plan (which expresses continuous progress). So these are crucial aspects both in terms of the theme itself, and practicalities around the demands of audit and evaluation which the policies and plans are subject to.

In addition each group discussed, in turn, a fourth topic: ‘Co-Benefits’. Unlike the other 3 topics, this consideration is not an ESF requirement for BBO partnerships. Instead it was a chance for the groups to contemplate the broader benefits – the ‘co-benefits’ – to any and all actions they are taking toward the theme of environmental sustainable development. A good range of benefits were tabled, beyond the obvious ties of minimising waste etc, and still related to the core progression routes of people being supported toward employment, training or education, or job search. See the summative lists of discussion points, linked (these documents collate both the spoken points from the topical breakout sessions and items placed in the Chat function of all rooms).

Our third and final session of the first week was for reflective inputs around both the previous sessions and also more general reflections of experience and insight from people working on BBO projects since from 2016 to date.

We had input from BBO grant holders and partnerships, interspersed with a climate emergency-themed quiz.

In sum, the reflections spanned three main areas:

  • Reflections on what it’s been like working on the Environmental Sustainable Development CCT. Exploring this in terms of the respective BBO partnerships; or as an organisation; or as a team/individual.
  • Reflections on how the pandemic has helped &/or hindered work under this theme.
  • Reflections on what ‘post-pandemic’ currently looks like, and how people might keep this CCT in mind, and at the heart of personal and collective actions taken.

Evaluating these sessions, as well as BBO’s climate action

Each session sparked a very positive response in the Chat as well as spoken thanks. A feedback form has been shared to all attendees (70 organisations were represented across these sessions) and extended to those who could not join the sessions so as to gauge ideas for follow-up sessions.

The feedback form remains open (November 2021) so when this closes we will post a summary of points on this webpage.

Many BBO partnerships have progressed well with their actions on this particular Cross-Cutting Theme over the past 5 years of the programme (as of late 2021). Yet this theme remains a crucial focus for BBO’s final extension toward 2023.

In the years remaining of BBO, and inputting to its legacy beyond, is the very broad range of actions being undertaken for this theme: these include the change and improvement within organisations, various activities with participants, green audits, green evaluations, green jobs, and many more different and relevant actions.

Likewise, the multiplier effect is very evident: well over 100 BBO partnerships, and approx. 2,000 organisations, majority VCSE, translates to a growing impact for BBO in respect of climate action since the programme began in the middle of 2016. Before the programme reaches its culmination in 2023, there’s plenty of time to grow the thematic impacts and optimise the legacies of BBO.