Inspired by Communities
By Cathy Ryan, Community Engagement Manager
We would like to say a massive thank you to all who came to the ‘Inspired by Communities’ event prior to the Low Carbon Hub Joint AGM on 7 October and who helped to make it such a genuinely inspiring experience.
The room at the Town Hall was full with many of our CIC shareholder groups represented as well as several burgeoning climate action groups who are setting up in response to the declarations of Climate Emergency in Oxfordshire. Now that climate change has reached the mainstream media it’s more important than ever that we share knowledge of what can be achieved in the community and learn from each other’s projects.
As Community Engagement Manager at the Low Carbon Hub I have definitely been inspired, impressed and moved by the level of energy and commitment shown by the low carbon community groups as well as their ability to transmute that energy into action that motivates change.
The event began with Communities Director, Nina Alphey, who talked about her unique role as the elected representative of the CIC groups on the board and she explained how the community grant fund works and how to apply.
We then heard from four of the community groups themselves who have received large and small grants who described the fantastic projects they have undertaken. There was a beguiling mix of projects but behind each one is a story of profound community spirit and determination with whole communities coming together to overcome obstacles and challenges.
Celia Hawkesworth from Sustainable Kirtlington described the difficult journey to install solar PV on the village hall roof but with a Low Carbon Hub grant and an amazing crowd-funding activity it was finally achieved and now the energy being generated can be watched in real time on a monitor inside the hall.
Brenda Boardman from Low Carbon Oxford North summarised their ambitious coalition project, Healthy Streets and Active Travel. They are out on the streets collecting data from across the city on how we might change our travel habits and asking some challenging questions of the city landowners.
Mim Saxl from Low Carbon West Oxford presented the fantastic Kid’s Climate Action Network project which has compiled a set of questions and suggestions for school children to try to make sense of climate change. The visual material is creative and imaginative and designed to help children feel unafraid and empowered to make a difference.
Eleanor Watts from Rose Hill & Iffley Low Carbon talked about their work in climate change education, focusing on trying to reach out to groups who are not yet involved in the climate change movement. She gave advice on how to avoid some of the mistakes that they had made in the past and it was great to see many groups avidly making notes from her presentation.
They have also just completed a wonderful short film for the Oxford Brand the Bus competition. Winning this would mean buses across Oxfordshire carrying the climate action message. You can vote for their entry (no. 22) here.
We also had an energetic and informative presentation from committed architectural designer and TV presenter, Charlie Luxton, on sustainable measures that could be installed in the 100,000 new homes planned for Oxfordshire. He illustrated his points with the Hook Norton affordable & sustainable Community Led Housing Project in which the homes will be built to PassivHaus standards. Low Carbon Hub contributed to the feasibility study and is providing advice and expertise on the possibility of the project being on its own microgrid.
Following on from Charlie’s extensive summary of large housing developers, Sarah Couch from Transition Eynsham Green TEA gave a fascinating presentation on their courageous efforts to contribute to the local energy plan of the proposed Oxfordshire Garden Village project at Eynsham. Most new houses built do not address climate change and they are trying to persuade some of the huge property developers to achieve a zero-carbon energy positive development.
Barbara Hammond, CEO of the Low Carbon Hub closed the event by summarising the level of gratitude felt by us for the community groups for carrying the work they do and making a tangible difference to climate change. It was a truly inspiring afternoon and we will continue to learn from each other and work collectively.