It’s one thing to have a solar panel as a carrot…
… quite another to just have a carrot’, says Fuad Al Tawil of Kingsteignton Transition Together. So how did their team inspire people to get involved without solar-PV grants as an incentive?
‘Our solution to this dilemma,’ says Fuad, a former engineer and current member of Transition Newton Abbot Energy Group, ‘is to handpick people to take part in Transition Together through our networks and contacts. That way we feel we are not cajoling people to get involved, or telling our neighbours that they are not behaving as we think they should.’
They, like other new project teams around England since 2011, are exploring alternatives to the Low Carbon Communities Challenge solar-PV grants that helped the original Totnes project recruit 368 households in 2010. While some project teams, such as Herefordshire New Leaf, have found other incentives to reach out to new people, Kingsteignton Transition Together (KTT) have found it works best in their area to approach local people already committed to sustainability who then recruited their neighbours, friends or work colleagues.
After their Streets-wise training session in 2011 they successfully recruited nine groups to KTT in 2012 while funded by a Big Lottery Fund grant. Their plan now is to expand into Newton Abbot with further adaptations to the project. For example, they plan to reduce the Transition Together group size to about three households because, Fuad says, so it’s easier ‘to all move at the same speed and in the same direction’.
‘Our materials are also beginning to focus more explicitly on whether people are ready to make a change in how they live’, says Fuad. ‘So we’ve included figures on carbon emissions from different activities in people’s lives and left them to do the sums themselves. By discovering for themselves and making their own minds up we think the change lasts longer.’
The Kingsteignton project team developed their own workbook, recruitment and meeting structure known as ‘seed’ meetings – which are run each month for people interested in starting a Transition Streets group. They introduce the Kingsteignton project and support ‘initiators’ to go out and recruit group members.
‘We wanted to learn how to be effective from people who’d already done it’, says former KTT project manager Massimo D’Alessandro of the Streets-wise programme. ‘The training was an important element of us getting off the ground quickly. By attending the training, the KTT steering group was able to more quickly identify the strengths and weaknesses of the programme as it applied to Kingsteignton. We were therefore able to be more effective as a team.’
‘We wanted instead to use personal relationships [to promote KTT] as a low-cost, low-key approach’, says Massimo. KTT publicised their project in the council newsletter and local press ‘which led to some calls of interest, and people stopped and talked to us at our stall at Tesco and at the local library, but it was really our attendance at events that was the most successful. At the Kingsteignton Ram Roasting Fair and we recruited 15 people and the Kingsteignton Craft and Garden Show three signed up.’