Community Action for the Environment – how charities and community organisations can help build a sustainable green movement
The National Lottery Community Fund has been supporting community-based environmental projects for years, and we have long been aware of the important role voluntary and community groups play in making change at the local level.
At the launch event for our new report, Community Action for the Environment: Small enough to care, big enough to make a difference, we heard from colleagues at the Fund and grant holders about their experiences and top tips for community climate action.
Here are some of my key takeaways from the event:
Importance of co-benefits
Our speakers talked about the success of projects that first listen to the concerns people have in their communities, before coming up with solutions that would be environmentally friendly. Not everyone is interested in being involved in environmental initiatives, but when they understand the co-benefits – for example the economic benefits of making their homes more energy efficient – they are more likely to decide to get involved. Our Knowledge and Learning Manager Zoe Anderson told us about Transition Streets in Dorset, set up to share advice on transport, energy, food and water. They presented their community group primarily as an opportunity for people to get to know their neighbours. Members of the community were motivated to get involved out of a desire to connect with others, and these relationships helped maintain their commitment to environmentally friendly behaviours.
Funders giving organisations the opportunity to try new things
Jemma Nurse, one of our Funding Managers, spoke about our climate top-ups pilot initiative in Wales. This project aimed to give existing grant holders who wouldn’t usually take part in environmental activities the opportunity to find their own ways to respond to climate change. Many of the groups Jemma’s team worked with had ideas about how to make their activities more environmentally friendly, but hadn’t had the time to take them forward before. The combination of funding and advice from the Fund’s partners allowed them to focus on these ideas, so they could make a difference in their own organisations. Projects included upgrading to more efficient building insulation, installing new boilers as well as growing orchards and gardens. Following the success of the pilot programme, we will soon be announcing new funding for a further 34 community organisations in Wales, supporting them to reduce their environmental impact.
Start small and grow bigger
Our speakers reflected on how successful projects had grown from small initiatives to a wider scope. Gwydion ap Gwynn from Y Dref Werdd, a project funded by us based in North Wales, told us how the project had grown from providing advice on saving money and energy to a range of activities focused on wellbeing and the environment including river cleans, food waste reduction and a social prescribing service. Gwydion described how talks at schools were a vital way of getting members of the community on board with the projects.
Building an inclusive climate action movement
Lizzie Testani shared insights from the work of Bristol Green Capital Partnership. Lizzie reflected that previous environmental initiatives in the city had not been as inclusive as they could have been, but that everyone has to be involved to make real change. The Black and Green Ambassadors project aimed to provide professional experience to ambassadors from Bristol’s Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities to lead community action on environmental and racial inequalities. Lizzie reflected that environmental messaging that wasn’t developed with different communities in mind could seem irrelevant or uninformed. Environmental projects that are produced with and by diverse communities and so seem relevant to their lives may enable a more inclusive sustainability movement to be built. The next phase of the Black and Green Ambassadors project, funded by us, will help us see what a more inclusive environmental movement could look like.
”Community environmental projects should be small enough to be personal, but big enough to make a real difference.”
- Zoe Anderson, Knowledge and Learning Manager, The National Lottery Community Fund
The full report, containing ways that community action can help the environment and examples from our grant holders, is available here: Community Action for the Environment: Small enough to care, big enough to make a difference.
More information on our upcoming events is here.