Energy saving holds potential benefits for everyone in the community, so it stands to reason that there have got to be some big advantages to working with other community groups. Whether or not they’re specifically interested in energy, the environment or sustainability, there are still things to be gained and with any community project, the more people who are involved the more successful the whole thing is likely to be.
Identify Other Likely Groups
There are two sorts of groups that make ideal partners for a community energy scheme – those who share the same kinds of interests and those who have something to gain and, of course, the very best of all partners are those clubs or societies which do both.
School groups, for instance are natural allies. On the one hand there’s the interests of the pupils – and the value of having these remarkably persuasive advocates of all things green on your side can be enormous – while on the other there’s the lure of cost savings for those responsible for balancing the budget.
Groups that have their own building and are responsible for heating and lighting it are another good option to explore. Joining in with energy efficiency will help save them money, while your project gets additional support from people who might otherwise not have thought about taking part.
Depending on the needs of your particular project, it can sometimes be worthwhile looking for groups with particular skills or abilities. Putting on a play about energy for local schools, for instance, becomes a lot easier if you recruit the local amateur dramatic society, while joining up with the local WI might attract good speakers.
Obviously, dealing with other groups can often call for some nifty diplomacy; people can become very defensive of their own patch, especially if they think – rightly or wrongly – that their group is being threatened or their authority undermined. The trick is never to make the other group feel used, but always to let them see how they will get some kind of benefit – and a healthy slice of tact will never go amiss!
Aside of the economic benefits, co-operating with other community groups can also increase access to resources, contacts and even grants and in addition, it can sometimes open up the chance to use your combined numbers to negotiate a discount for goods and services.
Just by working together, community groups make a powerful statement to the outside world about their joint intent to get something done – and that’s just the sort of thing that helps grab the attention of the likes of MPs and the local authority. Any group that speaks for a larger number of people is going to be taken more seriously – and it can certainly make dealing with officials much easier.
Another advantage which shouldn’t be over-looked too readily is the opportunity for a spot of mutual support. No matter what you’re trying to do, whether it’s encourage the village to install micro-generation or put on a little light opera, there are always going to be times when things don’t go well. When it all looks bleak, having a few friendly faces to offer a little encouragement is always worthwhile – and sometimes particularly if they don’t belong to anyone directly involved! By the same token, when things go brilliantly, you’ve got someone to share in your successes.
The best sorts of community projects are those which involve the biggest slice of the community and this is especially true when it comes to anything to do with saving energy. The more people who are actively taking part in some way, the more effective the whole scheme will be. While the levels of tact and diplomacy required may, at least at times, try the patience of a saint, in the long run working co-operatively with other community groups – whatever their purpose or interests – has got to help the scheme be as inclusive as possible.
Now, while that alone won’t guarantee success, it is a pretty good start!