When it comes to getting a new project off the ground, sooner or later you’re going to need some help – however committed and supportive your local community might be. Fortunately, with energy and green issues so high on just about everyone’s agenda these days, there are plenty of places to go to get it, if you know where to look.
There are all sorts of areas that a project can need help with, from the likes of printing posters to installing solar panels. If you need some kind of practical assistance, it’s worth trying to think if there is anyone in the community who might be able to help; local guide or scout groups, for instance might be willing to distribute leaflets, while local businesses may be able to provide services either free or at a reduced cost. Whatever you need, have a look in your own neighbourhood first and never be afraid to ask.
Your local authority is another possible avenue of practical help. Councils have experience of every manner of project management issue you can think of – and council employees cover a wide range of skills and professions, so having a quick chat with the town hall can often pay dividends. Even if they can’t help you themselves, they can often point you in the right direction.
For specialist help – perhaps while planning some aspect of a new energy installation, for instance – many manufacturers and suppliers offer excellent support and will be only too pleased to try to sort out your problems. Of course, they’ll expect to supply the equipment when you do decide to go ahead, but after they’ve been so helpful, that seems only fair!
Getting financial help for any project can be a demanding task. Although there is quite good support for installing a wide range of energy technologies, energy saving devices and so on, there are a lot of people competing for it. In addition, grants schemes do change and the kind of assistance available can often depend on the type of groups involved in the project and whereabouts in the UK your community is located.
While getting your hands on hard cash to finance your scheme is, of course, the ultimate goal, just being able to find someone to guide you through the maze of possible funding sources can be a tremendous help to a project.
One of the best first stops for good, up-to-date information is your local council, once again; aside of knowing what national or regional money you may be able to apply for, many councils have a budget of their own to promote various green initiatives. If you’re lucky, you may find yourself getting more than just advice.
In addition to the local authority, government grants are available to help with the cost of implementing a range of energy saving measures; some of these are aimed at households, but others only available to community groups. Probably the quickest way to find out what is on offer and see if you are eligible is to contact the Energy Saving Trust – a not-for-profit organisation, which offers free and impartial advice on energy matters – either by telephone or online.
A large number of organisations, including trade associations and charities, are involved in the energy efficiency arena, with many of them offering a wealth of information either as printed matter or online. A number of equipment manufacturers, installers and increasingly, major DIY stores also provide brochures and good “how-to” leaflets which can be a really valuable resource, especially when first planning a project.
Energy companies too can be very useful sources of information and some even have advisers who will visit to give on-site advice. There is plenty of project support available and much of it is free – so make use of it!
Community projects can often seem to bring out the best in people, so – whether you’re looking for help with finance, issues of project management or technical queries – if you do a little bit of homework first, you should be able to find someone to lend a hand.