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.

7. Project achievements and legacy

7.1 This section of the report describes data on the impacts of the CCF projects in terms of their perceptions of their greatest achievements, legacies and other wider benefits, which were all explored with groups.

Key achievements

7.2 Groups' impressions of their greatest achievements were diverse but fell within a range of key themes. These are described as follows.

Community Education and Learning

7.3 The education of community members leading to behaviour change emerged as a key achievement of many project groups, particularly where projects focused on local food production and reducing food waste. In the case of one community food-growing project this awareness led to a reduction in site vandalism, anecdotally due to self-policing by community members. Elsewhere, knowledge of energy usage, appliances and behaviours (leading, in some cases, to a greater awareness of climate change) and the provision of professional energy assessment qualifications to students were highlighted as key accomplishments. These findings were echoed in the CCF Projects Survey [Q19], where nearly 20% of question respondents mentioned that engaging with children and young people was important. Moreover, 9% of respondents stated that raising awareness of climate change was a main achievement. More generally, many projects instilled a belief among participants, and particularly with children, that they had sufficient personal agency to make a meaningful difference in relation to influencing the behaviour of adults.

7.4 Some projects identified that they were able to influence other (non-CCF project) organisations through promotion of their activities. For example, one school-based project reported that other schools and businesses in the local area had shown an interest in composting. Another project highlighted how the activities of a school-based restaurant serving locally-grown food acted as a vehicle for engagement, promoting the benefits of locally-grown food to the extended local community and partners. It was also mentioned that refurbished community buildings provided access to new or improved activities and services (e.g. medical, pharmacy, nursery care) for communities.

Carbon reduction

7.5 Some project participants regarded meeting or exceeding CO2 reduction targets (e.g. via increased active travel) as the greatest achievement of their respective projects. However, in many cases carbon reductions were often induced by incentivising community members to reduce costs rather than address climate change: "Getting them to save money was a good approach - more than climate change or carbon footprint approach" [CS03 P1]; "The 'what's in it for me' question has to be answered. People do want to hear about the environmental story but it's not the motivating factor" [CS05 P1].

7.6 Respondents to the CCF Projects Survey stated that greater awareness of low carbon and climate change behaviours leading to engagement and normalisation (4.2%) and demonstrable benefits (13.1%) were significant achievements [Q19].

7.7 Many commented on long-term behaviour change and the carbon savings arising. Although it was not typically described as the groups' key achievement, it was acknowledged by many respondents that this process takes time beyond the scope of a typical CCF project. That said, respondents commented that this was and could be, achieved through, for example, curriculum-linked educational activities in schools, awareness-raising and 'changing mind-sets' within their communities. This issue is discussed further in chapter 8.

Measuring change

7.8 Despite the challenges of this process for many groups, some groups talked of their success in measuring change. Depending on project aims and desired outcomes, evidence emerged of the use of pedometers (to measure walking distances), energy monitors (to record domestic electricity consumption), active travel materials (e.g. journey planners, cycling maps), and, in one case, the Global Positioning System (GPS) software application Strava (to track cycle journey distances). One project team reported sharing a bespoke spreadsheet for calculating CO2 reductions with another group, thus avoiding duplication of effort and encouraging further information exchange between teams.

Health and Wellbeing

7.9 For many groups, key accomplishments tended to be expressed in 'softer' terms, including increasing the quality of life of community members: "…lots of good feeling in the community and togetherness and people supporting each other" [CS09 P1]. Reducing stress (and potentially winter deaths) by taking positive action to reduce fuel bills and debt were also perceived as benefits by energy projects. Also noted were mental health benefits for community members (leading to personal development) and establishing relationships. Physical health benefits, resulting from physical exercise (specifically cycling and food-growing activities), were also mentioned by some groups. Improved physical and mental health benefits emerged as main achievements from 1.2% and 8% of CCF Projects Survey respondents respectively [Q19]. It is important to note that there was a perception from some that such 'soft' benefits were difficult to report and were not of interest to the CCF.

Achievements (by project type)

7.10 Where projects were concerned with food-growing, significant achievements included increasing the number of community members growing their own food, and educating project participants (especially schoolchildren) about the relationship between food-growing, food consumption and healthy eating, composting and food waste. Where key project achievements concerning waste were highlighted, these tended to be associated with food waste (e.g. eliminating food waste and food packaging waste in schools). Increasing bike use (particularly among school children), organising cycling events, the attainment of cycle riding and bike maintenance qualifications by community members, and the creation of a community cycling hub were stated as significant achievements among transport projects.

7.11 The provision of robust energy efficiency advice sensitive to the requirements of community members, which allowed many community members to reduce their energy costs, emerged as a key project achievement in energy projects. Where projects were mostly concerned with renovating a community building, in each case the building itself (and the activities and services it could support) was judged to be the most important accomplishment.

Feedback from the Fund

7.12 Some funded groups felt that project success was judged by the CCF, and highlighted the positive feedback from KSB on their final reports (in terms of progress and achieving planned carbon savings) as their key achievement. Major successes tended to be expressed by project teams in terms of community impacts (e.g. improved quality of life, health and wellbeing benefits, community pride) rather than CO2 reductions.

Other wider benefits

7.13 Other community benefits noted by project participants were wide-ranging and included the use of local suppliers and, in one case, increased support for a renewable energy project which the CCF project in part enabled.

Key legacies

7.14 For some groups, their key achievement related to a legacy, rather than a direct project output. These, along with other legacies identified in the research, are outlined as follows.

Capacity-building and community development

7.15 A significant achievement highlighted by many groups was in enhancing community capacity, through imparting skills (e.g. food-growing, bike maintenance) to allow for enduring behaviour change. The range and depth of engagement with community members (including hard-to-reach and ethnic minority community members) was also highlighted by many projects as a key achievement. For example, energy advice projects took time to understand the circumstances and broader wellbeing needs of elderly householders in order to provide the most appropriate information and recommendations.

7.16 Projects interacting with schoolchildren variously conducted class visits, arranged for students to attend internal/external events, produced teaching resources, contributed towards Eco-Schools objectives, and promoted behaviour change through demonstrating composting and the benefits of walking to/from school. Moreover, there was evidence of schoolchildren being encouraged to develop their own networks, taking newly-acquired knowledge home to influence the behaviour of their parents and developing collaborative working relationships with children from other (non-CCF project) schools.

7.17 Others mentioned the creation and improvement of physical assets (e.g. buildings, gardening space, orchards, bike workshops and cafés) which led to a sense of ownership by the community. Indeed, one community group noted that their building-focused project had "reached out in ways that we hadn't anticipated" [CS09 P3]. The CCF Project Survey also indicated that 14.3% of respondents thought that providing useable community facilities was a wider benefit.

7.18 It was, however, recognised by some groups that delivering project outcomes did not always result in greater community cohesion, whether this was intended or otherwise. Strengthened community relationships were found to be generally dependent on the nature of the project, and were more evident where project volunteers were drawn from the locale and/or projects were linked to 'hard' community assets (such as a growing space or a building). Community cohesion was enabled by project activities and events, demonstrable through, for example, friendlier and more open social atmospheres and less vandalism, and was identified as a significant factor in making future applications easier to compile. CCF Projects Survey respondents (13.1%) also highlighted community cohesion and resilience as a wider benefit [Q19].

Volunteers and staff development

7.19 The effort invested in projects by volunteers (also stated as important by 7.1% of respondents in the CCF Projects Survey [Q19]) and their "appetite for learning" [CS08 P] and development was similarly recognised. Activities leading to unemployed project volunteers becoming more confident and more able to find, or finding, employment was also viewed as important and a significant project achievement. Building long-term capacity within the community, leading to further knowledge exchange, community awareness and enhanced employment opportunities, was also identified as a key legacy by many groups.

7.20 Although not always mentioned as a key achievement, many projects provided opportunities for part-time employment both within and beyond the duration (and scope) of the project. Skills development for community members emerged as an important wider benefit among 10.7% of respondents in the CCF Projects Survey [Q19].

Sustaining groups or projects

7.21 The CCF Projects Survey highlighted that almost all groups are still active and involved in activities to reduce climate change (see table 7.1 below). Other case study groups mentioned maintaining activities after projects had been completed as key achievements or legacies. These included food-growing and composting, cycling, energy monitoring, recycling/upcycling and involvement in Eco-Schools groups.

Table 7.1 Continued status of CCF3-funded groups

Status of CCF3-Funded Group No. %
Still active 138 97%
Closed down 0 0%
Other 5 3%
Still involved in activities to tackle climate change/ reduce carbon 141 99%
No longer involved in activities to tackle climate change/ reduce carbon 2 1%

CCF Project Survey Q6; Q7: What is the current status of your organisation? Is your organisation still involved in activities which are intended to reduce carbon emissions (CO2e) and help tackle climate change? Base =143 (CCF3 Projects only)

7.22 The continuation of a project beyond the funding period to become self-sustaining or, at least, a project team being in a better position to deliver comparable projects in the future, were described as key successes by some groups. One community group made an ongoing commitment to take local action on climate change by signing Scotland's Climate Change Pledge for Communities.

7.23 Although not explicitly described by respondents as their key achievement or legacy, many identified the experience of building on their CCF project to inform future projects or applications as significant. This included using their experience to apply for new funding, providing project information to support other groups and realising the transfer of staff to new or related projects. Some evidence also emerged that new project groups were spawned from existing project groups, addressing similar and different issues. Consultation with communities as part of the CCF application process, and certain project-specific activities (e.g. surveys of domestic energy consumption behaviours), enabled increased knowledge of community needs to be established and refined. A small number of groups also mentioned that their CCF project had enhanced or developed their organisational structure, process and services. In one case this had enabled their project to become self-funding.

7.24 However, it was also recognised that continuity barriers existed, such as the suitability of some project types to generate income, skills deficits within project teams, and use of short-term project staff (as opposed to embedded community members). This was felt to limit the potential of groups to 'step-up' and tackle projects and activities from other funds or agencies (e.g. community renewables).

Partnerships and networks

7.25 The development of partnerships and networks between groups and with other wider organisations was identified throughout the research.

7.26 The CCF Projects Survey identified that 92% of CCF3-funded organisations had generated collaborations with other organisations, networks or initiatives as part of their project (see table 7.2 below). Of these, the most frequently cited as collaborators for CCF3 projects were: local authority (64%), Home Energy Scotland (HES) (45%), Scottish Communities Climate Action Network (SCCAN) (24%) and Resource Efficient Scotland (18%). Of the 45% of respondents who indicated that they had forged collaborations with 'other' groups, one third of these were locally-based such as other community groups, church groups and schools.

Table 7.2 Collaborators of CCF3-funded projects

Organisation No. %
Local Authority 91 64%
Home Energy Scotland 64 45%
Scottish Communities Climate Action Network 35 24%
Resource Efficient Scotland 26 18%
Transition Network / Towns 21 15%
Development Trust Association Scotland 18 13%
Local Energy Scotland 14 10%
Other 65 45%
None 12 8%
TOTAL (CCF3 projects only) 143

CCF Project Survey Q17: Thinking about your most recent CCF project, which other organisations / networks /initiatives has it collaborated with, if any? Base =143 (CCF3 Projects only)

7.27 Many case study groups identified that change at community level required the creation of partnerships with multiple local stakeholders such as schools, businesses, housing associations and local authorities. Although this was often challenging, this was a key success for some groups. The case studies also highlighted evidence of the projects fostering the development of a range of enduring partnerships beyond the CCF project with many agencies (e.g. local authorities, community network groups such as SCCAN, HES) post-funding. In addition, successful peer-to-peer networks, which were felt to enable learning to be shared across CCF groups, were viewed positively. Some case study respondents felt that the CCF should act as a catalyst to create these relationships to a greater extent than was currently the case.

Key Achievements and Legacy: Summary

7.28 This section has demonstrated that, community, carbon and legacy are all present in the achievements of the CCF projects reviewed in this study. Projects are delivering multiple benefits and, whilst carbon saving and behaviour change are present, they are neither always prominent nor perceived as the key achievement by many groups.

7.29 The CCF is supporting a range of outcomes including volunteer and skills development, community capacity-building and health and wellbeing and is producing a legacy in terms of future work, projects and group links. All of this is sitting alongside, and perceived by some groups as more important than, the carbon-saving aims and legacies of their CCF project.


Email: Debbie Sagar

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