Power to Change has been a major funder of community-led climate action over recent years, with as much as 25% of our funding supporting community business climate action, including our CORE and Next Generation energy programmes. Our mission is to strengthen community businesses to tackle society’s greatest challenges at a local level and we are committed to supporting the sector in realising its full potential in the shift to a fairer, greener economy. 

It’s not just community energy and renewable energy climate action that Power to Change has supported over the last seven years. Communities are tackling the climate crisis in a variety of ways, from growing and selling food locally, rewilding green spaces, protecting woodland, creating educational tools to tackle fast-fashion consumption, improving access to green transport, to engaging local people in conversations about how to tackle the climate crisis.  

Some community businesses are making huge changes to their areas’ fossil fuel consumption without even realising, by providing goods and services at a local level, paving the way for 15-minute neighbourhoods. A 15-minute neighbourhood includes providing residents access to most of their needs a short distance from their home, creating  self-sufficient places and reducing car use, making areas inclusive and economically vibrant, whilst also reducing emissions. 

But there is more that we can do to support community businesses to tackle the climate crisis. 

To help inform the support Power to Change will provide to community businesses to take climate action, we commissioned CAG Consultants to undertake research to scope the opportunities, considerations and areas of focus for the design of a community business climate action programme.  

 

The study used design principles, focusing on the discover and define elements of the Design Council’s Double Diamond model (below), starting with a literature review including existing data and building through interviews and workshop to identify challenges which we could seek to address through the programme.

We are committed to ensuring the experiences of community businesses and other relevant stakeholders are central to any new programmes we design, so input from community businesses, infrastructure and other funding organisations through interviews and workshops was an essential part of the research.

While the study found that community businesses are already taking climate action across a range of interconnected areas, many want to do more. Further, the study identified that due to their local focus and being rooted in their communities, community businesses are ideally placed to take climate action including through supporting and accelerating localisation. There was overwhelming evidence of need for a wide-ranging programme of support, not just a fund but certainly including one, to support community businesses to do this. 

Reflecting the Glasgow Pact, the need to support the poorest and those most likely to be adversely impacted by the climate emergency, was central in the priority impact areas identified to frame the programme and contribute to a shift to a fairer, greener economy.

  • Social justice – working towards a more equal society, where the adverse impacts of climate change are not disproportionately felt by the most vulnerable
  • Carbon emission reduction 
  • Systems change – bringing lasting change by altering underlying structures and supporting mechanisms, which may include policies, relationships, resources, power structures and values

The study went further to identify a range of potential opportunities that could form part of the programme, which will be explored in more detail in the next design phase.  Whilst the research identified these as potential activities, the design phase will help us prioritise which to deliver and how to do that. We know we will not be able to deliver everything, and activities will need to be phased, so the design period will allow us to dig into this in more detail. These identified potential opportunities are:

  • Providing financial and capacity strengthening support to enable community businesses to take climate action 
  • Working with groups that have been under-represented in previous Power to Change programmes  
  • Supporting the development of community business climate entrepreneurs and leaders to develop their knowledge and skills  
  • Enabling learning – sharing of information, lessons learned across community businesses that is properly resourced to enable maximum learning and engagement on climate action 
  • Providing support for projects to build carbon emission savings into their projects at an early stage and enable monitoring 
  • Networking to facilitate collaboration, replication of good ideas and avoid re-inventing the wheel 
  • Exploring supporting the development of 15-minute neighbourhoods. 

The study showed the importance of Power to Change working with partners to pool and coordinate the resources available to community businesses to scale and join up community climate action. We are keen to explore opportunities for partnership working and several organisations involved in the study indicated they would also be interested in this. 

The next steps for us are to work with community businesses, infrastructure, and funding organisations to build on the findings from the research to design a multi-faceted programme that will maximise opportunities for community businesses to make a real difference in the shift to a fairer, greener economy.