How can hubs catalyse the development and strengthening of climate action networks, embedding cooperation and learning at a regional level?
Respondents suggested a wide range of ways in which the hubs can catalyse the development and strengthening of climate action networks, embedding cooperation and learning at the regional level.
This question in particular was interpreted in a wide range of different ways, the below structure is a reflection of the recurring themes.
1) Establishing the hubs
The recommendations from the respondents include principles that should guide the selection of the hubs as well as the resources needed for successful development of the hubs network.
- Avoiding duplication
Almost all respondents mentioned that focus should be given on supporting and enhancing existing networks rather than creating new ones.
A mapping exercise of existing services and active environmental organisations and networks would be useful as a first task to be completed by the hubs in each region. This would enable the hubs to identify the gaps and signpost people to existing services.
“The Third Sector already has strong networks, and a sense of sharing and collaboration through the already established Social Enterprise Networks, Development Trust Associations Scotland, Community Resource Network Scotland and their localised forum meetings.”
Respondents recommended to allow time for meaningful engagement, enabling the hubs to establish local priorities, build their own networks and establish their own decision making processes involving the community groups they will be supporting. The funding provided to the hubs should be long term funding. This will also increase confidence in the value of the work delivered from people engaging with the hubs.
“They should be set-up and funded for a minimum of three years, ideally five years.”
- Knowledge and resource needed
It was widely recommended that each regional hub should have at least one full time regional hub network coordinator as well as additional support staff. More generally, it was suggested that the hubs should have capacity to assist local organisation with:
- Event facilitation
The hubs should have the staff capacity and budget to regularly organise best practice workshops and networking events, drawing in external speakers as well as accessing both online and physical venues. One respondent suggested that the hubs don’t necessarily need to own a venue to host the event themselves but could rely on members to host events:
“I also believe the “rolling hosting” of any in person networking events should be encouraged to see examples of good practice in action, rather than having the same designated host venue/s.”
- Enabling the transfer of knowledge and experience
As well as identifying and sharing best practice with climate networks, many respondents believe hubs should initiate and contribute to the publication of case studies, interactive maps of local climate action, online knowledge repository for members at regional and national scale.
“Crucial to the effectiveness of the network both locally and nationally will be the sharing of information. To do this a shared digital space should be created that enables members to share information.”
“This might be done through something like a regional portal for the HUB which allows members of different & similar projects types to interact, engage and share this practice.”
- Providing training
Several respondent recommended that the hubs should provide training to support the growth of climate action networks. Training provided could related to improving governance, project management and climate change awareness. Climate literacy will be particularly important in areas with less historic climate engagement.
One respondent even suggested that a formal staff mentorship scheme should be created as part of the support provided by the hubs.
- Marketing and communication
It was presented as essential that regional hubs should have their own website and communications channels, so that they can fulfil the dual role of sharing information and resources within and between networks and engaging with the wider public.
“Climate action networks would benefit from support to increase their capacity to hold more events and communicate with their members, and more outreach events, external marketing and communication. In our experience, as many climate action networks are voluntarily led by the groups and organisations making up their membership, they often lack the time and resources to put into this. This can mean that members aren’t as engaged and that networks are often not widely known outside the environmental sector.”
- Secretariat functions
- Troubleshooting project issues
- Identifying and sharing funding streams
2) Strengthening climate networks
The recommendations included in the responses detailed the functions they envisioned for the hubs as well as the ways in which they could most effectively provide assistance to local community organisations and strengthen climate networks.
- Engagement and participation
For the hubs to be successful in their role to establish and support climate networks, a key dimension of the suggested role for the hubs was to engage directly with the general public to increase climate change awareness and involvement in climate action, as building interest for climate action within the region would in turn strengthen the development of local climate action networks, with more people being interested to participate in them.
“Although awareness of climate change is widespread, understanding and behavioural engagement are often far lower.”
To lead successful public engagement, it was recommended that the hubs organise events and marketing campaigns to increase interest in climate action focusing on positive and empowering messages as well as the co-benefits of climate action. The messages should focus on concrete action.
- Remunerating participation
Many of the respondents, some with practical experience in implementing this, suggested that participation in the climate networks should be remunerated in order to increase participation and send a positive message on the value added by the member’s contribution. This would also address the limitations associated with relying solely on volunteering.
“A network should be inclusive and encourage participation. We have made our work at South Seeds a success by valuing people’s time. We propose £25 for each participant who joins the network and completes the initial survey. This approach could establish a network of well over 100 active participants within 3 months. It would also set a tone of valuing the input of participants.”
- Linking climate networks with other actors
Several respondents suggested that the hubs should look at creating synergies within the wider community sector and not limiting their role to connecting climate action groups with each other. This was also seen as enabling factor in creating a sense of regional identity.
“Climate action networks also need resources to engage with ‘non-climate’ groups. They need to make links with other community networks to reach established community groups not currently working on climate change and work more with local partners across all sectors to embed action at a regional level.”
- Linking climate networks with local businesses
The hubs could strengthen regional networks by encouraging links with local businesses.
“Encouraging a non-competitive ethos; encourage groups to work with businesses; particularly building relationships across climate groups and farm / crofting groups would be useful for rural areas.”
- Linking climate networks with funders
One respondent suggested that the hubs should not only actively identify, map out and share relevant funding opportunities with their climate networks, but they should also actively connect and engage with the funders to encourage them to take on a more climate-orientated focus.
“Changing the focus of funds like Wind Farm Benefit money should be an action the hubs lead.”
- Linking climate networks with national advice bodies
The hubs could then further strengthen local climate networks by linking them with national advice bodies like Sustrans or Zero Waste Scotland, and fostering collaborations so they can deliver projects jointly without losing the link with the community.
- Linking climate networks with local authorities
The hubs could assist local climate networks navigate local authorities organisational structures and rules, as well as increase collaborations between them by making the link between the work delivered by community organisations and local authorities priorities. The hubs could provide them with support in implementing carbon emission reduction monitoring.
“Hubs can assist community organisations make the link between action and area based strategic objectives.”
- Linking climate networks with schools
The hubs could facilitate the dialogue between schools and local climate action networks. The hubs could provide them with support in implementing carbon emission reduction monitoring and drawing the link between their engagement activities and how they could contribute to the schools’ Curriculum for Excellence.
“Connect schools with charities and design programmes for schools, resource lists, appropriate equipment purchases, funding and grant streams for schools, early years, private schools and settings, plus childminders.”
3) Fostering collaboration and learning at a regional level
Most of the respondents were broadly supportive of the approach presented in the proposal. Some respondents envisioned the hubs as being deeply rooted and active within the community, going above and beyond the role of network facilitator, with climate action activities being delivered for the local community. Another respondent suggested the hubs should have office spaces that can be leased out to other organisations.
“Local hubs are where stories are told, produce shared, visits arranged creating the environment where change takes place.”
However, one respondent highlighted issues with the focus being on regions and suggested to move away from a strictly place-based approach. Not all regions might have a strong regional identity or be well connected transport-wise which will make the setup of a hub difficult.
Many respondents echoed this concern and suggested alternative and/or additional areas of focus to remediate this issue, including:
- Networks across regions
The recommendations also included suggestions of enhancing collaboration and facilitating networking across regions. The different regional hubs should meet regularly and organise events across regions. Several respondents mentioned that a nation-wide event should be organised annually.
Many respondents also suggested that knowledge should be shared at the national level across Scotland through a joint platform.
- Thematic networks
Several respondent suggested that more focus should be given on thematic networks and events (i.e. food growing, active travel) rather than geographically defined ones. This could be done both at the national scale and at the regional scale.
“Topic based (food, energy, circular economy, etc.) cooperation and shared learning would be popular if well facilitated by a Hub and tailored to groups.”
- Virtual networks
Almost all respondent highlighted the importance of accessibility and inclusivity and the need for the hubs to hold their activities both online and in person. One respondent felt strongly that virtual networks should replace physical one altogether, as they present numerous advantages in terms of efficiency, cost, and associated carbon footprint.
“In the past, the confidence to use this kind of technology for networking might have been an issue but post-covid there is much greater confidence to use video meetings and web forums for sharing.”
Other respondents mentioned the limits associated with virtual spaces:
“Covid has accelerated the growth and familiarity of on-line connections. This can be built on. The educational and networking meetings with SCCAN and HiTSI have been excellent, as is the Keep Scotland Beautiful Climate Literacy for Community Leaders course. However, as mentioned, broadband provision is still lacking in many rural areas. Further exclusion may occur with resistance to using new technology and financially.”
- Multiple locations
There was a suggestion that the hubs should not be constituted in one single physical space, but rely on a team of community leaders based in different locations:
“A hub as a geographical collaboration, not based at one site. Hosted by many local established projects with room and clear pathway for new projects or organisations to participate.”
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