Sustainable Blewbury found out how to get new people involved
‘We were stuck in a groove: we were trying to convince people of the importance of sustainability and combating climate change through traditional methods like showing films or getting speakers’, says Jo Lakeland, a retired physics teacher from Oxfordshire, ‘but the Streets-wise training showed us how it was bringing people together that could get them interested in the ideas’.
Jo and Sustainable Blewbury, a community initiative for sustainability, environmental and heritage projects, went on to successfully recruit four Streets groups in Blewbury. One group, Way out West, includes members ranging from 30 to 70 who are really enjoying the Streets meetings. Another, Sticks and Bricks, are exploring how to apply energy-efficiency measures to older homes such as those which are timber-framed.
Jo Lakeland first heard about the project at the 2011 Ashden Awards conference in London, where it won the behaviour change category.
Sustainable Blewbury were already familiar with the ideas of the Transition Handbook (by Transition Town Totnes co-founder Rob Hopkins) but felt this was further than they wanted to go. The group’s current projects include a prize-winning energy initiative, managing the restoration of a dynamic spring basin; improving local chalk downland; and creating a small forest and orchard garden in a permaculture project. They were drawn to Transition Streets because it was not necessary to become a Transition initiative to do it.
‘What we wanted to get out of the training was the skills to be able to attract people,’ said Jo. ‘We’ve got years of experience of trying to get people interested, but we felt we were talking to the converted. What we really wanted to do was to get new people involved.’
‘Looking at the technique, the whole approach to changing behaviour, that was interesting,’ says Jo of the training session run by trainers Fiona Ward and Hal Gillmore in October 2011. ‘The whole principle of setting up groups that then go out on their own is a big plus as a way to do things.’
After the training day the 10-person group re-wrote all the project materials in about six weeks to suit their own local audience, also adding specialist detail from their collective knowledge of sustainability and environmental issues. They allocated different chapters to different specialists and used second readers to check readability and content.
They received funding for the pilot project from CAG (Community Action Groups Oxfordshire), successfully applied for a small grant from Didcot Power Stations, and have just heard they have been awarded enough money to keep the project going for an entire year by Awards for All, subject to conditions.