With the price of oil, gas and electricity rocketing and climate change the issue of the moment, of course we’re all interested in energy saving – aren’t we?
However, it’s one thing to bemoan the rising costs, but quite another to be prepared to sign up to joining a community-based project, so if you’re thinking about starting a local scheme with a few of your like-minded neighbours, getting a feel for the level of local interest is a must.
Getting started can often seem quite a daunting prospect, so it’s almost certainly best to kick off in little ways, rather than jumping straight in with a formal questionnaire or survey. One of the best ways is to begin by talking with the local people you already know – friends, colleagues, other parents at the school gates and so on.
Chatting to familiar people is not so intimidating for either you or them and you should soon start to get a good idea of how supportive they are likely to be for any future community energy saving project. If you already have the beginnings of a group and all of you canvass your own friends, relations and acquaintances, together you can build up a pretty good picture very quickly.
Taking It Further
Having done your initial work – and hopefully been pleasantly surprised by the level of support in your own immediate circle – the next step is to investigate the strength of feeling in the wider local community. There are many ways to go about this and which one you choose often depends on the community itself and the ideas of people thinking about launching the project – so inevitably there is seldom a guaranteed solution that will work for everyone.
If you have a local shop or post office, a notice in the window can sometimes be a good way to get some feedback, as can church or community notice boards. No matter how good your ideas, or burning your passion for energy saving projects, nothing will happen if no one knows about what you’re trying to do.
Another approach which can frequently prove very effective is to involve other already established groups in the local community, such as the WI, Scouts, Brownies and local schools. Not only does this improve your coverage, but it can also provide a ready pool of possible willing helpers – strange as it might seem, it can often be the people who already have a role in community life who are most willing to take on more, so never be afraid to ask!
Assessing Community Interest
Energy saving is a big topic and everyone has their own particular feelings and priorities. At this early stage of your community energy project, one of the most important goals is to find out what those concerns and interests are – not least because to carry any energy saving initiative through, you’ll need plenty of support for what you’re trying to do.
Ensuring that your activities reflect what people feel about the issue is the best way to carry them along with you; by contrast, ignoring their views is a sure-fire recipe for disaster!
As part of the process of gauging local interest, it is vital to begin to assess just what sort of project the majority of your friends and neighbours actually want. There’s no escaping the fact that everyone works best when they feel motivated and know that what they’re doing is for their own best interest – and community energy saving schemes are no exception to this golden rule.
It’s a sad fact that in many areas, neighbours hardly know each other – something which would have seen incomprehensible a generation or so ago – but underneath people are just the same as they have always been, once you get to know them.
Many people have found that one of the best spin-offs of assessing the interest in energy saving projects is that it can actually get virtual strangers actively talking to each other, sharing common ground in a way that might otherwise never have happened in the normal course of their lives.
For a “community” project, there can surely be few things more worthwhile than achieving that – and the future energy savings are an extra bonus to come!