Review of the Climate Challenge Fund

This report reviews the Climate Challenge Fund (CCF), a Scottish Government scheme that supports communities to take action to address climate change.

1. Executive Summary

1.1 The Climate Challenge Fund (CCF) is a Scottish Government scheme that supports communities to take action on climate change. Projects funded by the CCF are community-led and focus on fostering behaviours that reduce carbon emissions. The CCF is administered by Keep Scotland Beautiful (KSB), which provides support to grant applicants and grant recipients.

1.2 This report presents the results of a review of the CCF and was undertaken by Changeworks on behalf of the Scottish Government. The review focused specifically on the third phase of the CCF (CCF3) which has run since 2012. CCF3 included a 'refresh' approach aimed at broadening access to the CCF, deepening projects to embed more profound change and exploring new approaches.

1.3 Specific research aims were to review:

  • How CCF3 has 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 objectives and targets?

1.4 The review was carried out using the following research methods:

  • Review of KSB's CCF projects database, to enable profiling of CCF projects.
  • Review of the results of an online survey of 170 CCF groups (administered and analysed by the Scottish Government).
  • Semi-structured interviews with 20 stakeholders (half of whom were internal to the Scottish Government and half external).
  • Focus groups with the CCF and Junior CCF (JCCF) grants panels.
  • Case study research with 24 CCF groups.

Refresh themes

1.5 The 'refresh' of the CCF has been a success in many areas. The broaden theme activities (aimed at increasing access to CCF funding) have indeed increased access from new, disadvantaged and hard-to-reach 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, 197 projects and 85 development grants were from groups new to the fund. Over one quarter of all project awards (27%) went to deprived communities (among the 30% most deprived in Scotland), 17% to JCCF projects and 7% to minority ethnic communities. The development grants have enabled groups, particularly those new to CCF and from minority ethnic groups (34% of development grants went to minority ethnic 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 any future scheme, with potential scope to explore more effective ways to include young people..

1.6 The deepen theme (aimed at embedding more profound changes) has been positively received, with 106 groups (including 95 full project awards and 11 development grants) being previous applicants to the CCF. This demonstrates success in encouraging groups to reapply for funding, but restrictions on continuing to undertake the same activity with the same community were a problem for some groups. The Community Action Support Programme (CASP) was well-received, with feedback on training programme and networking activity typically encouraging. There were however 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, which was intended to increase the CCF's impact, could be enhanced and better explained and understood. There was little take-up of this element of the scheme with only 8 projects funded.

1.7 The explore theme (aimed at researching and testing new areas of activity) 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.

1.8 Where appropriate to the type of project, there is limited evidence that a small number of groups 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. That said, there is evidence from the CCF project survey that just under half of CCF projects had been able to supplement their CCF grant with funding secured from elsewhere (via grants and other income).

Impacts of the fund

1.9 It is clear that CCF3 has many strengths and successful elements. The CCF and its community basis have demonstrated an ability to empower communities to support climate change-related activities. There is a wide range of factors driving project ideas, and these are typically very 'bottom-up' and community-driven. The CCF is seen as flexible and adaptable and therefore meets these needs well. There is also evidence of the CCF pulling projects towards climate change (through its criteria) as well as supporting those already working on the topic.

1.10 The CCF requires projects to achieve measurable carbon savings in order to help them think through the logic of how they are addressing climate change and to demonstrate the change they have achieved. Carbon targets were shown to impact on projects both positively and negatively: adding elements to some projects to increase potential carbon savings, but restricting activities for others where it was felt that measurement of changes was difficult. Calculating carbon savings was perceived as a challenging, complex and confusing process by many groups and, as a result, recording progress against, and meeting, targets became a significant concern for groups and required substantial efforts to undertake. There was some concern that this was acting as a barrier to progressive activity within community groups as too much focus was being placed on this element.

1.11 The achievements and successes of projects were also identified as being much more than simply recorded carbon savings. Behavioural and attitudinal changes; community education relevant to climate change; skills and employability; community cohesion; health and wellbeing and social enterprise developments were identified by research participants as key achievements of projects, in some cases over and above that of any carbon savings.

Need for greater support and targeting

1.12 The CASP programme of support and training, along with KSB's Development Officers (DOs), played a positive role in supporting projects. However research participants identified a need for more, and more targeted, support for groups and projects, to ensure that they are learning and building from the experience of previous projects and have the best chance of achieving success. There would also be some benefit in significantly enhancing the provision of templates or best practice guidance for a range of project elements including: community engagement, audience targeting and understanding; volunteer and staff management; project and group management and administration; data collection; and best practice in project delivery (by type of project). In addition, enhanced local networks, locally-based DOs and bringing training closer to remote groups were all requested by research participants as elements that could assist in delivery and sharing of knowledge.

A successor fund

1.13 Evidence in this review suggests that there are opportunities to build links between the CCF as it now stands and the other key policy areas delivering on climate change targets to generate an effective successor fund. Communities can and are acting as local agents for change. In some ways co-ordinating any successor fund more closely with climate change policies, targeting low carbon behaviours identified as priorities by the Government, or areas of focus for current emissions targets that touch communities, would give the scheme and communities a clearer purpose. There is clear evidence that CCF has already shaped applications in its current form (through encouraging projects to include behaviour change and additional carbon-saving activities than groups initially considered). This success could be extended to more strategically meet the aims of Government, whilst retaining community ownership and direction.

1.14 Given the range of benefits identified, any successor scheme will need to consider what its core purpose, or purposes, are and, from this, develop the scheme and criteria. Clarifying the role, purpose and use of carbon savings calculated by projects should be a key 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 (i.e. some perceive that the CO2 savings calculated are directly contributing to the calculations of Scotland's emissions). 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.

1.15 In terms of the key elements that could be retained in any successor scheme, the research findings suggest that the focus on disadvantaged groups should be retained, and that there should be an option for innovation, but not to the exclusion of all alternatives. There could be scope for groups to continue to deliver similar projects without the need for innovation, should a clear need or demand be presented.

1.16 Co-funding and revenue-raising approaches were supported, but it was felt that these should be an option rather than a requirement of any successor fund. It was not felt that loans were appropriate for CCF-type projects due to the limited assets of community groups and the limited ability for many CCF-type projects to generate income.

1.17 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 projects make a difference on many levels. Any successor fund can further enhance and enable communities to take a key role in tackling climate change through closer alignment to Scottish Government policy areas and activities, whilst retaining the scope for communities to develop their own projects.


Email: Debbie Sagar

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