The near-vertical learning curve of Herefordshire New Leaf
Herefordshire New Leaf had a roller-coaster ride in 2013. In just six months they’ve recruited 10 groups of neighbours to their version of Transition Streets and delivered 100 Green Deal energy assessments.
When the government announced the Green Deal in 2012, the Herefordshire sustainability co-operative realised that the Pioneer Places free energy assessments could be a good incentive for local people to be part of Transition Streets’ behavior change scheme.
New Leaf was part of a successful joint grant application to the Green Deal Pioneer Places fund, alongside three local authorities and Marches Energy Agency. New Leaf set up h.Energy Savers in January 2013 after Streets-wise training attended by 45 people from New Leaf, the British Red Cross, local Transition groups and the local community.
‘In order to incorporate the Green Deal into the Transition Streets model, we asked participants to get to chapter two of the workbook, on energy use, to become eligible for their free assessment,’ says Dave Prescot who jointly coordinates the project with Kate Gathercole. ‘The energy saving has gone well, while the Green Deal has been a little more complicated
New Leaf found it was not easy to identify who wanted a Green Deal Assessment and that there was a shortage of local assessors. The Green Deal website had technical problems and the flat rate payment to assessors did not cover the extended hours required for more complicated properties. Dave says that consequently it hard to get people new to sustainability involved, because ‘we were asking them to give up their time for something that appeared risky’.
Following this experience Dave says: ‘Think carefully about the administrative overheads of any incentives you use. Keep it fairly modest. We think cash a small and flexible incentive (such as a modest cash payment, to be spent on something sustainability-related) rather than the assessments might be the way forward.’ h.Energy Savers offered £150 to facilitators for their time. However, few facilitators claimed the money and instead used it for group minibus hire or for their pub quiz prizes for example.
‘We’re now trying to bring people in for a second round and exploring what we could offer them, such as skill shares, or to be an sustainability week show home’, he says.
‘My advice to other project teams would be that it’s important not to exaggerate the benefits: be careful to manage expectations. A modest, easily-administrated incentive would also be a good idea. And you just need one or two good groups to spur you on’, says Dave. ‘One of our groups for example, is still meeting quarterly, making trips to our recycling centre and to the Centre for Alternative Technology’. They even made a donation to the costs of reprinting the booklet, which says Dave, was ‘fantastic and quite humbling’. They are one of the show homes in the h.Energy sustainability week in October 2013.
The Streets-wise session enabled facilitators to make the start on door-knocking, with New Leaf providing weekly emails, offers to facilitate meetings and Green Deal resources to support them. New Leaf successfully reached into their community to get the word out by using Community Access Points (which provide employment and training opportunities); in rural communities; and via Hereford women’s centre where volunteers assembled the project workbook.
Dave says of Streets-wise: ‘It’s useful to be given a project structure that has been proven to work in a different place, backed up by evidence. It was also good to understand the evidence of the programme’s impact in Totnes: both the social impact research and the headline figures on energy-saving. And Streets-wise is good value for money – we had a discount for a five-day training session – we’re happy with the cost. There was a good buzz and a good response to the training from the facilitators who came along.