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.

4. Background to projects

4.1 This section of the report describes data collected from case study community group respondents and end of project reports on the background and development of their CCF3-funded projects. It also reviews groups' overall perceptions and understanding of the scheme criteria. Perspectives from stakeholders and insights from the CCF database are also included where relevant.

CCF3 Project Development

Developing Ideas and Applying to the CCF

4.2 Data from the CCF project survey shows that almost all responding organisations were established and active before obtaining CCF funding, with 96% of groups (from 170 responses) already in existence and only 4% (7 organisations that responded to the survey) indicating that they were set up to apply for CCF funding.

4.3 The data collected from case study project reports and respondent interviews highlighted that there was no one typical starting point for a CCF3-funded community group. Groups were made aware of the CCF via a variety of routes. In many cases the fund was identified by staff or was already known to groups. In some cases groups were prompted to apply to the fund by other organisations or networks (e.g. EST, Scottish Outdoor Education), whilst others identified the fund via consultants employed to look for funding sources (e.g. for a community building refurbishment).

4.4 Many case study groups were inspired to seek additional funding from the CCF to continue with previous work on climate change. Continuing groups were typically seeking funding to support an existing group or take a project forward, and others were looking to expand similar or related work. In other cases, project ideas came from a range of sources and drivers. This included specific requests from their community for services (e.g. from schools for educational support or requests from the public, such as local need for cycling support and maintenance services) and requests or ideas from other groups or organisations in the community. Although some groups had tackling climate change as a core organisational driver, for other groups this was significantly less important (e.g. for some groups looking to refurbish a community building or develop assets such as green spaces, the key aim was to gain funding for infrastructure, not to deliver the climate change activities). However, it is clear that the CCF funding requirements and DO support and advice pulled some groups towards engaging with their communities on climate change, and that this engagement would not have happened without them applying to the CCF:

"the money was there, they knew the environment was a 'hot issue' and already had some raised beds… Ultimately they wanted to get the space used, not for the environment" [CS15 R1]

4.5 Other applicants indicated that they received advice and guidance from other sources beyond the DOs, including the EST; volunteers in the community; universities; other CCF groups and from CCF development grants.

The Application Form and Process

4.6 Overall, there were mixed views on the application process. For some, it was straightforward and many felt the guidance was clear. Despite the application form being lengthy, many felt completing it was a good process to go through in advance of undertaking the project: "because of its detailed nature you end up with a very clear structured plan, which helps project implementation" [CS12].

4.7 For others, the scale and detail of the application was more complex, challenging, or "daunting", particularly for those with limited time or experience of similar processes: "And there's a lot of paperwork… because I've already got a full-time job... I do feel as if there's far too much paperwork attached to it" [CS23].

4.8 Particular challenges reported by applicants that indicated concerns included the complexities of the carbon calculations and some lack of clarity over which building measures would or would not be funded (for building projects). However the key challenge was related to the detail and length, which prompted one respondent (from a larger, established group) to comment that that they felt that this could mean that smaller or volunteer groups would struggle with such an application.

4.9 Other groups reported difficulties caused by changes in DO during the application process, which resulted in perceptions of differing advice and recommendations for the application, which in turn resulted in multiple changes and an extended application process.

Meeting the CCF Criteria: Community, Carbon and Legacy

4.10 The core CCF eligibility criteria of 'Community', 'Carbon' and 'Legacy' were typically (but not universally) understood by those who were part of the application process. As a result, there were few significant difficulties reported in terms of completing the application (it is however important to note that only successful applicants were interviewed in this research and those with significant difficulties may not have been successful). Those respondents that had not written applications were less aware of the criteria, but were able to consider and discuss them as evident in the practice of the project.

4.11 Many felt that the criteria provided projects with a clear, straightforward purpose and aims, and that they matched up with the values of their organisation. The challenge for many was converting these criteria into effective practice: "Criteria are reasonable to meet in the application - but meeting them in reality is more challenging" [CS13].


4.12 For some respondents the term 'community' was felt to be a little subjective and one respondent was surprised that local businesses were not felt to be a 'community organisation' (for the purposes of the CCF awards). Other respondents felt that schools-based projects were sufficiently part of the community to be defined as community bodies, although the CCF encouraged projects to operate beyond the school setting. Although defining the community was initially daunting for some, those who had worked within their community for some time found it easy to interpret and others, once they had been through the community consultation necessary in the preparation of the application (to demonstrate demand), were able to interpret it successfully. There was some evidence that those who had received a development grant found it beneficial in shaping their understanding of the community and its needs. Others used established processes and links to other local groups, current projects and community surveys to establish community need.

4.13 A small number of respondents expressed concern in relation to the ability for a community to drive a project forward by itself, and identified a need for paid or very committed staff to manage community needs and demands to shape an effective project.


4.14 Although key to the aims of the CCF, the 'carbon' element of the criteria was the one that presented the most mixed views from respondents. The need to calculate carbon savings and set targets was a very positive element for some, (typically these respondents were technically-minded or had experts as members of their group). For these respondents, carbon was a relatively easy element to understand and the need to set targets was positively viewed. However, others found this process challenging and difficult and some felt uncertain about these targets. The setting and measuring of carbon targets is discussed further in chapter 8.


4.15 Legacy was reported by many group respondents as perhaps the easiest of the three criteria to interpret and understand. There were multiple interpretations of this criterion (reflecting the different types of projects funded). Some saw this as a requirement for the project or group to ultimately move away from grant funding to financial sustainability. For others, this was about the establishment of a low carbon physical legacy in the community (such as an insulated community building that would deliver direct carbon savings or a growing space that could facilitate lower carbon food). Other groups mentioned that their legacy was the establishment of sustained low carbon behaviour changes in their community. Indeed, some respondents indicated that the legacy element made groups consider a behaviour change side to their project.

4.16 These multiple interpretations meant that some respondents felt that 'legacy' was too subjective: "We should meet it but in which form?" [CS10]. Others indicated that they wanted more examples of best practice in order to ensure that they were developing the right legacy. Linked to the discussion on meeting carbon targets above, one respondent felt that "the application should have focus on fewer activities to create a longer legacy" [CS19].

Summary: Background to Projects

4.17 This section has highlighted that there were a wide range of factors driving project ideas, and that these were typically very bottom-up. The CCF was seen as flexible and adaptable and therefore met these needs well. However, the requirements were, for some, too open to interpretation.

4.18 Although projects were driven by the interests and needs of communities, there was evidence of the CCF pulling projects towards climate change (through its criteria) as well as by supporting those already working on the topic (most case study groups were active in climate change-related activities before applying).

4.19 Although challenging for some, the length, content and detail of the application process and form seem appropriate. However, DO support and consistency were identified as key to supporting groups to apply. To maximise impact in any future scheme, the findings suggest that some groups (e.g. those with limited experience of applying for grants, new to carbon calculations or lacking technical skills) may need more support and structure to enable them to develop the best possible applications in terms of these criteria.


Email: Debbie Sagar

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