The Sustainable Citizenship project aims to encourage, test and support people’s ideas that make Peterborough a more sustainable place to live – particularly those that could make green behaviour easier in the city. Through convening a series of competitive processes, including workshops to help people develop their ideas, and pitching events to allow groups to apply for small grants, we have so far funded over ten green initiatives. We are also working with Peterborough Environment City Trust (PECT) to further strengthen the network of environmentally-minded individuals and community groups in Peterborough, through events and online platforms.
Supporting Peterborough projects
Our approach was originally inspired by similar processes, such as the ‘sandpit’ events run by the UK’s research councils, and initiatives like Social Innovation Camp, but has evolved to suit Peterborough as the Sustainable Citizenship project has progressed.
We have held workshops for environmental and community activists in Peterborough to stimulate innovative ideas, including networking activities to help participants meet new partners, and creative activities to stimulate out-of-the-box thinking.
After these workshops we have held events to allow individuals and groups who are interested in applying for support to pitch their project idea to experienced judges, who decide whether their idea can be supported with a grant or in-kind support.
One of the workshops we held at the popular Green Backyard
Thinking through the detail of ideas at another workshop
An open-air workshop to generate green ideas in Welland
So far over ten projects have been supported with financial grants, including groups that want to grow community gardens on reclaimed land, initiatives to sell locally-grown food to residents and others planning to reclaim stewardship for an area of ancient woodland.
For example, at the most recent pitching event, the judges heard from one group who wanted to replicate the success of a Cambridge paint up-cycling project in Peterborough. Rather than sending paint straight to landfill, they planned to collect waste paint from local recycling centres, store, sort and redistribute it to community groups and families.
A group of students from Peterborough Regional College presented a plan to convert old unused bicycles into safe and usable bikes. The improved bikes will be available for college students to buy at low weekly cost over the course of a year – making travel a more active and healthy experience, as well as being better for the environment.
The judges also heard from another individual who wanted to demonstrate the effectiveness of alternative energy systems like hydrogen power to people at public events. He planned to use an education fuel cell to power a low-energy projector, at the same time demonstrating and explaining the physics behind the post-oil future.
The environment network in Peterborough
The importance of an enthusiastic, knowledgeable and innovative support network is critical to help such community-led projects thrive, and Peterborough Environment City Trust (PECT) and the Citizen Power team have been working to develop this. Through facilitating workshops which have forged new connections among Peterborough residents, to events which have drawn in environmental speakers from outside the city, part of our role has been to strengthen the network.
Pam Warhurst, co-founder of Incredible Edible Todmorden, presenting at a public event
Citizen Power and PECT have also partnered with Project Dirt, the most active green social network in the UK that connects people and organisations doing tangible green projects, to create a Peterborough cluster on Project Dirt’s platform. This cluster draws together community-led environmental projects in the city and displays them in one place, showing the growing range of citizen-led environmental action in Peterborough. Each project funded under the Sustainable Citizenship project develops its own profile on Project Dirt and records their progress, forming a living record of people’s experience of the challenges and secrets to starting and maintaining a project in Peterborough.
Early on in the Sustainable Citizenship project, we commissioned Kerry McCarthy to develop a set of principles that would guide the project’s approach. Read her report 'The Ecology of Innovation' below.
We face unprecedented challenges from climate change, long term health conditions and an ageing society, which generate costs public services can no longer afford. Solutions devised and delivered by central authorities are unlikely to work; they are not based on enough local knowledge, nor are they flexible enough to respond to what is happening in a specific local context. So we need to learn how to devolve power to communities and enable them to innovate.
To be effective, communities need resources, skills, support and connections in a way which traditional 'top down' models of working on social and environmental challenges do not provide. Radical new ways of working collaboratively at a local level are needed; not just to come up with new ideas, but also to better access and work with the value that exists within communities.