11. Discussions and conclusions
11.1 This review sought to address two key aims: how has CCF3 delivered on its refresh themes; and how can the CCF, or any successor scheme, best enable communities to contribute to the Scottish Government's climate change themes and targets? This section summarises the research and discusses key issues to be included in a successor scheme.
11.2 It is clear that the refresh of the CCF has been a success in many ways. The broaden theme has increased access to the fund from disadvantaged groups, with the development grants and the work with minority ethnic groups particularly successful. In total 292 CCF3 projects (and 96 development grants) were funded. Of these, over two-thirds of projects and almost nine-tenths of development grants were from groups new to the fund. In addition, over two-fifths of development grants came from deprived communities (among the 30% most deprived in Scotland) and over a third from minority ethnic groups. The development grants have enabled groups, particularly those new to CCF and from harder to reach groups, to assess demand for full project applications and access funding to purchase equipment to set up projects. The JCCF and the focus on youth projects was also positively received, but also identified as an area for improvement in a future scheme. There may be scope to explore more effective ways to include young people in a future fund or to engage them in different ways. For example, this could specifically seek to include adult-led youth projects or make engagement with young people a 'desired element' of all funding applications where appropriate.
11.3 The deepen theme was described as encouraging existing CCF groups to take projects to the next level and has been very positively received, with 106 groups (including 95 full project awards and 11 development grants) being previous applicants to the CCF. These significant numbers of successful repeat applicants demonstrate success in encouraging groups to reapply, but restrictions on continuing to undertake the same activity with the same community were a problem for some groups. The CASP programme was well-received, with feedback on training programme and networking activity typically encouraging, although there were many calls to increase this activity, bringing it closer to more rural groups, and to increase and more effectively target support. There was also a suggestion that the Ideas Bank could be enhanced and better explained and understood. There was little take-up of this element of the scheme with only 8 projects funded.
11.4 The explore theme was the least effective of the refresh themes in terms of the number of projects delivered. Five per cent of CCF3 projects (21) were deemed to have an element of adaptation in their project work; 12% (47) included ideas that were deemed innovative, and 10% (37) included some revenue-raising. However innovation and adaptation projects were acknowledged as being particularly challenging for community groups to deliver, and there were suggestions that more support was needed for groups to develop such ideas.
11.5 Many groups have been able to supplement their CCF grant with funding from other sources, with just under half securing funds from elsewhere (e.g. via grants and other income). These sources included: other grant or trust funding; fund-raising activities; in-kind contributions; donations; and other Scottish Government funding. In addition, where appropriate to the type of project, there is evidence that a small number of case study projects have been successful at revenue-raising activities. However this seems to be the exception and many project types do not lend themselves to generating this type of income. Almost all groups have continued their existence beyond initial CCF funding.
11.6 The CASP programme of support and training, along with the DOs, has played a very positive role in supporting projects. In particular, case study respondents highlighted this support during applications, guidance for project execution and feedback. There was some, if not universal, evidence of groups sharing resources and tools with each other.
11.7 However it is clear that for many, access to training courses was limited and there is a clear need for enhanced information on, for example, best practice guidance or toolkits (to prevent groups starting from scratch); support with evaluation and measurement; clarity and standardisation of guidance; and assistance with recording and identifying project outcomes and carbon calculations. In addition, enhanced local networks, locally-based DOs to enhance the relationships between DOs and groups and bringing training closer to remote groups would assist in delivery and sharing of knowledge.
11.8 Although there have been mixed views from those contacted in the research, it is clear that for some (but not all) groups, the reporting requirements are onerous and the feedback to projects is often limited.
Successes and achievements
11.9 The review has also highlighted that the achievements and successes of projects are much more than simply recorded carbon savings. Behavioural and attitudinal changes; education; skills and employability; community cohesion; health and wellbeing and social enterprise developments are all referenced in this report as key achievements as perceived by projects. These are significant and important, yet many of these are beyond the core aims of the fund.
11.10 Central to the development of any successor fund will be considering and defining clearly what any future CCF will be seeking to achieve. At present the CCF is very 'bottom-up' and supports communities to develop projects in their own way. The CCF is not prescriptive in what type of projects should be undertaken (beyond the 'community, carbon, legacy' criteria) and on how these should be delivered. As a result, communities have been able to develop their own success stories as well as make their own mistakes. The scheme has delivered on a significant range of benefits beyond simply changing behaviours and saving carbon. This is an approach that has been positively received by many and has been highlighted in this research as one of the CCF's key strengths.
11.11 However, this flexibility and bottom-up approach has also meant that a number of groups have been expending significant efforts only to 'reinvent the wheel'; and others have been reflecting on a need to have access to more best practice and tools through their project's lifespan to enhance their project. This results in a situation where projects, and therefore the fund, is not maximising its impact. It is clear that there are opportunities to enhance this process and potentially provide toolkits and templates for particular types of projects so that communities can both innovate and replicate, building upon and evolving from what has worked elsewhere.
11.12 Evidence in this review also suggests that there are clear opportunities to build better links between the CCF as it now stands and the other key policy areas delivering on climate change targets. Communities can and are acting as local agents for change. Better co-ordination of any successor fund with climate change policies, targeting low carbon behaviours identified as priorities by the Scottish Government, or supporting areas of focus for current emissions targets that touch communities, would give the scheme and communities a clear purpose towards helping Scottish Government policy goals. There is clear evidence that CCF has already shaped applications toward low carbon activities in its current form. This success could be extended to more strategically meet the aims of Government, whilst retaining community ownership, direction and scope for locally-based innovation.
11.13 In addition, the role, purpose and use of carbon savings calculated by projects should be an area of attention in the development of any successor scheme. This is an extremely challenging element for many groups and one that many groups are mistaken about the purpose of. There is therefore an opportunity to make this process, and the project reporting processes in general, more worthwhile both for those completing these tasks and for the fund as a whole. Feedback is welcomed by participants and there is a need to make any successor scheme more circular by sharing and thus growing its worth in building and empowering communities.
Successor fund parameters
11.14 How any potential successor fund is targeted and operationalised will follow from achieving clarity on its aims. That said, the research suggests that there could be scope to include both innovation and continuation projects, subject to there being demonstrable demand. Similarly the research has highlighted the importance of ongoing funding support for groups from disadvantaged areas and disadvantaged or equalities groups in any successor fund. This will require additional resources to foster projects from these areas, and may not maximise carbon savings as the most disadvantaged are likely to have the smallest carbon footprint. This again raises the question of what the key aim of any successor fund should be.
11.15 The research suggests that having a greater emphasis on the co-funding of projects could act to increase barriers and may restrict the ability of community groups to deliver projects. That said, there is evidence of groups accessing other funding to support delivery. Complementary national and or local initiatives would need to be co-ordinated with any successor to maintain the fund's accessibility. Given the nature of many projects delivered thus far by the CCF, including elements of loan funding and having a strong focus on income generation would seem to be unlikely to be successful except in certain circumstances and for certain project types.
11.16 There was little evidence of projects moving from CCF to apply to other funds such as CARES or the LCITP, although the need to make stronger links between such programmes to build capacity was acknowledged. Similarly there is scope for any successor fund, at a strategic level, to work more closely and foster links with complementary national and local initiatives as well as wider partnerships and organisations. There is strong evidence of groups working collaboratively across many types of organisations, suggesting there is scope and desire for groups to do so.
11.17 This review demonstrates that the CCF is succeeding in supporting communities to address climate change. Communities want to engage in climate change, are willing to develop their projects towards this agenda and these projects make a difference on many levels. If lessons can be learned, any successor fund can further enhance and enable communities to take a key role in the change that needs to happen to meet Scotland's climate change challenges. Communities want to take action and their key role in fostering behavioural change at a local level is acknowledged by wider stakeholders. However this needs to be balanced with the necessary checks, boundaries and drivers of Scottish Government policy needs, and funding requirements and availability. The opportunity is there to listen and join up Government and communities more effectively to co-produce the emerging low carbon future.
Email: Debbie Sagar