1 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
1.1 The Scottish Government's Climate Challenge Fund ( CCF) was set up to help communities combat climate change by reducing their carbon emissions. Since 2008, the fund has supported hundreds of community projects across Scotland.
1.2 Brook Lyndhurst and Ecometrica were commissioned to carry out a review of the CCF, with the aims of exploring the impacts of projects and identifying the factors which contribute to the projects' success. The review also explored questions around the potential of community projects to deliver behaviour change, emissions reductions and wider sustainability aims; the limits of what they can achieve; and how government can support them to do more.
1.3 The review methodology involved extensive qualitative research with a sample of 21 projects, and a quantitative carbon assessment of eight of these.
1.4CCF projects work in four key areas: energy (efficiency and renewables), food, transport and waste. The reviewed projects had generated extensive uptake of hard energy efficiency measures ( e.g. insulation), some less widespread changes in everyday energy behaviours, and several plans for domestic renewable energy installations. Most food growing projects were operating at capacity, while sustainable food purchasing projects had stretched participants within their comfort zones. Travel behaviours proved difficult to influence, but there was evidence that attitudes were changing, with cycling more likely to be considered a viable option. Food growing appeared to be an effective gateway into composting, while both growing and composting had the potential to lead into food waste reduction.
1.5 Impacts on participants' environmental attitudes appeared limited. Projects were mainly working with audiences who were 'moderately interested' in the environment, with much more scope for changing behaviour than attitudes.
1.6 Carbon emission savings were calculated for eight of the projects taking part in the review, and expressed as both 'higher' (optimistic) and 'lower' (conservative) estimates. In total, the eight projects were estimated to have saved at a higher level, 46,694 tonnes of CO 2e (equivalent to 7,140 average households' energy consumption) and at a lower estimate 15,459 tonnes (2364 households).
1.7 The carbon savings achieved through interventions focusing on hard measures appeared more clear-cut, while there was generally much more uncertainty as to the scale of carbon savings from interventions to change habitual behaviours. Some of these habitual behaviours can, however, have more 'engaging power' in terms of inspiring participants to get involved in projects - food purchasing is a good example. There is also a balance to be struck between the resource-intensity of an intervention in reaching a large number of people, compared to the carbon savings per person.
1.8 The CCF projects taking part in the review were also found to have additional sustainability benefits, for example in terms of health and well-being, community cohesion, and benefits to local economies.
1.9 Project participants were generally motivated to change their behaviour by personal reasons related to, for example, finances or well-being. The environmental benefits of behaviour change were often a secondary motivator, or 'feelgood factor'. Barriers to behaviour change tended to be more diverse and specific to the behaviour in question, and included barriers at the personal level as well as external barriers.
1.10 Some of the key characteristics of successful projects were:
- Careful and realistic planning;
- A team with good people skills and knowledge of their subject;
- A good understanding of the target audience, including their motivations and barriers, and how the proposed intervention will work in that context to change behaviour;
- Messages that tapped into participant motivations - this often meant non-environmental messages;
- Interventions that activated motivations and helped participants overcome barriers to change - some notable successes were:
- "Hand-holding" participants through the process of insulation installation overcame barriers related to fear of hassle and effort;
- Intensive personal support overcame the barrier of inertia with respect to taking up cycling; and
- Providing interested participants with information about outlets for local produce enabled them to make more sustainable food choices;
- A learning culture that enabled the organisation to learn from experience (its own and others' ), and a willingness to adapt and continuously improve its approach; and
- A good reputation - which generated trust among the target audience.
1.11 Projects' capabilities to monitor and evaluate their impacts were found to be variable. The Scottish Government's Low Carbon Route Maps, evaluation support and training were valued and useful.
1.12 Most projects strongly felt that their community identity was an integral part of their approach. Strong links to the local community seemed to be an essential ingredient in retaining the community's trust. For this reason, many projects felt that their activities were only feasible on the community scale. Projects which felt their activities could work on a larger scale were those working through existing entities such as workplaces or schools (communities in their own right), and effectively delivering a service to them. Essential for scaling up, however, is for the project's lead organisation to relinquish some control, and for the separate communities to take ownership over the project activities.
1.13 Projects were keen to share what they had learned from their experiences and help new projects in this way. Face-to-face sharing was the preferred means of diffusing learning - and visiting other projects was in fact something that many of the reviewed projects had done themselves in the early days.
Potential of community projects to deliver sustainability objectives
1.14 Evidence from the CCF review suggests that community projects are well-placed to deliver pro-environmental behaviour change because of:
- Their ability to tailor and personalise their messages and interventions to appeal to individual participants' motivations and overcome the particular barriers that apply in each case;
- Their position in the community as trusted entities that are seen to have the community's interests at heart; and
- Their ability to engage those who are 'moderately interested' in the environment and open to the idea of change (who make up a fairly sizeable proportion of the population), and spark them into action.
1.15 The community scale also seems to be one at which climate change action is meaningful to people. It seems to be a large enough scale at which the overall impact is significant enough for action to be perceived worthwhile, but small enough for each individual to feel they have a valuable contribution to make, as well as a responsibility to contribute.
1.16 The contribution of community projects to carbon emissions reductions is necessarily limited, when considered in the national context. Community projects, by their nature, engage only a proportion of the population, and although some deliver rapid carbon savings (through, for example, insulation initiatives) the carbon impacts of behaviour change projects in particular are difficult to measure accurately. Carbon impacts are, however, just one part of the equation. Much of the value of community projects lies in their ability to enthuse people about sustainable lifestyles more widely, and to deliver on other aspects of sustainability, such as well-being and community cohesion.
1.17 The potential of community projects to achieve change is also limited by a number of external barriers. Issues that CCF projects had come across included:
- Participants experiencing financial barriers to change ( e.g. not being able to afford the cost of insulation);
- Participants experiencing difficulties obtaining planning permission ( e.g. for a wind turbine) or projects themselves finding planning conditions onerous ( e.g. for allotments); and
- Lack of infrastructure ( e.g. for cycling) or other facilities ( e.g. local food outlets) making it difficult for participants to change their behaviour.
Implications for the Scottish Government
1.18 The review identified a range of ways in which the Scottish Government could further support community projects in achieving their objectives. The key recommendations include:
- Build on existing practice to provide additional training and guidance in key areas such as monitoring and evaluation, behaviour change, communications and the statutory planning process.
- Build on existing practice to further support sharing of learning and best practice between community projects, for example through networking meetings and potentially peer mentoring. The system of funding in rounds was also found to encourage reflection and learning.
- Provide long-term support to projects with the dual purpose of building community capacity to tackle climate issues and progressively engaging communities in more significant elements of sustainable lifestyles - both processes were found in this review to benefit from an explicit long-term plan and approach.
- Identify crossovers between support for community projects and other policy areas where linking up would have mutual benefits - one such example is the development of new transport infrastructure, where community projects can feed in valuable information about on-the-ground demand, with the potential to have related barriers removed.
- Consider reviewing the CCF's strategic aims in the context of climate change policy, to more explicitly support the unique contributions that community projects make to sustainability goals, such as longer-term sustainable lifestyle changes and community capacity building.
1.19 The following tables provide a summary of the implications and recommendations of the review.
Lessons for influencing behaviours in community climate change projects
In order to have the broadest possible reach, projects should consider what role they will play with respect to the Acceleration, Facilitation, Activation, Consolidation or Conversion of participant behaviours.
Projects need to have a good understanding of their audience, including motivations and barriers, both personal and external. They should be able to articulate where the audience is starting from with respect to the behaviours being promoted and how their project model will achieve behaviour change. Projects may need to conduct audience research or piloting then adapt their approach in the light of early learning.
Tailored and personalised interventions are a key strength of community projects - whereas poorly targeted and unsolicited communications generally struggle to achieve their desired impact. Where passive approaches are to be used ( e.g. direct mail) projects should consider carefully why the messages will appeal to and influence recipients.
Building a local profile for the project can enhance the impact of engagement activities but will take time.
Participants are often motivated to adopt new behaviours for non-environmental reasons, but projects should be transparent about their own environmental motivations to secure trust. Whether or not projects lead with environmental messages, it is crucial that project teams are not judgemental about participants' attitudes to environmental issues and climate change.
Lessons for running effective community climate change projects
Projects in the review consistently under-estimated set-up and delivery timetables. Projects should identify risks at the project planning stage and devise contingencies.
A learning culture - to reflect on what does and doesn't work - and an ability to adapt accordingly was a key strength in project delivery. Projects should consider how they will capture lessons as they go and set out occasions for reflection and review as specific tasks in their project timetables.
To maintain interest and involvement, volunteers need to feel they have a stake in the project. Project managers need to consider what motivates volunteers and how volunteers will be allowed the space to shape their own roles.
Monitoring and evaluation can be built into project processes ( e.g. recording numbers of energy efficiency measures installed; brief surveys as part of home visits). Projects should aim for a balance between robustness and simplicity.
Removing barriers to pro-environmental behaviour change
Community projects can spot barriers to change and emerging demand for services that might not otherwise be evident. Government should develop ways to encourage and respond to feedback from community groups about barriers to low carbon behaviours and identify ways that communities could be supported by, or work with, government and others to remove barriers.
Specific possibilities for further consideration include:
- Identifying and promoting strategic opportunities where community groups could enhance the take-up of low carbon measures by reducing cost, effort and complexity for participants ( e.g. bulk buying clubs; home insulation).
- Encouraging and helping community groups to identify where they fit in with national energy programmes, to avoid duplication but also to identify opportunities to join up the capacity of large programmes with the unique audience engagement capability of community groups.
- Enabling (and perhaps funding at local level) community projects to develop local infrastructure that supports behaviour change ( e.g. in transport).
Where a project is reliant on getting planning permission ( e.g. for renewable energy or allotments) Scottish Government could:
- Assess planning risks of bids and offer advice at the start of a project;
- Offer training on planning matters;
- If possible, offer individual support from KSB officers to attend meetings with planning authorities.
Monitoring and evaluation
Better methods are needed for capturing the wider social impacts of community climate change projects. This includes both direct social benefits to individuals and indirect benefits, such as changing social norms for non-mainstream behaviours.
Longitudinal research is needed to identify the long-term impacts of behaviour change initiatives, including: whether behaviours are sustained over time; whether participants 'ratchet up' pro-environmental behaviour over time; whether and how projects change social norms in their communities. Scottish Government should consider funding (on its own or with others) a study of the longer term impacts of selected CCF projects.
The Low Carbon Route Maps and evaluation support offered to projects was useful and should be retained in any future rounds of funding. Projects' experience and good practice could be shared through CCF networks, a case study bank, and possibly a peer mentoring scheme.
The qualitative approach taken in this review has provided rich data on why and how behaviours changed. Methods for capturing quantitative data on the degree of behaviour change and feedback from non-participants need to be developed further - though remaining mindful that community projects can easily be undermined by heavy-handed evaluation. A two stream approach to evaluation and learning is therefore indicated:
- Guidance on simple but robust methods to all CCF projects that will generate 'good enough' data for fund accountability, building on what the CCF does already. Projects should be encouraged or required at bid stage to identify opportunities within their project activities for capturing behaviour change and energy data;
- Select learning case studies to develop 'fit for purpose' quantitative methods and in-depth qualitative insight. These projects would need to be identified at bid stage and supported by research/evaluation experts (and extra funding if possible) to develop evaluation plans that fit with their project activities but also deliver robust data to support learning by Scottish Government.
Specific recommendations apply to measuring carbon emissions:
- Encourage projects to estimate lifetime, rather than annual, savings.
- Encourage or require projects to use the template of baseline and scenario savings used by Ecometrica and demonstrate at the start of the project how they intend to collect data to fill the template, including opportunities for capturing energy data through project activities.
- Encourage projects to prioritise data on actual consumption ( e.g. energy consumption or car usage) and fuel type (because it provides a more accurate estimate) but use emission saving factors where this is not possible.
- Support projects by providing a portal to approved data sources that will help them calculate emissions reductions; if possible, enable a 'wiki' space for projects to share experience and knowledge of using secondary data in emissions calculation.
Fund design and processes
The Fund managers should use insights from the review about Acceleration, Facilitation, Activation, Consolidation and Conversion to guide projects and monitor their progress.
Applicants should have to explain why they think their interventions will work, preferably backed up by evidence ( e.g. audience research, proven case studies or best practice).
Assessment panels should play an active role in highlighting risks of delays and over-runs in project plans and play a supportive role in suggesting contingencies, alternatives, or a change in budget for those selected for funding. Panels need to include or have access to relevant expertise.
The fund managers should consider how they can further encourage and build capability for action learning in funded projects and design better ways to capture key lessons about 'what works' in individual project reports ( e.g. "summarise your top 5 lessons for influencing behaviours" or "your top 5 tips for effective communications and engagement" or "what you'd recommend to others about working with volunteers").
The CCF already provides projects with various forms of guidance and support which is valued, including the Low Carbon Route Maps. Further guidance and training in the following areas could be useful: communications (including events), behaviour change theory and practice, project planning, planning applications; monitoring and evaluation.
To maximise the opportunities for scaling up and replication of CCF approaches, Scottish Government needs to continue its active support of the sharing of good practice. Supporting diffusion could include:
- Requiring fund applicants to consult with at least one other project;
- Developing a case study directory of CCF projects;
- Covering travel and subsistence costs for newly funded CCF projects to visit other similar projects, perhaps supported by recommendations from the assessment panel of which one(s) to visit;
- Funding 'buddying' or peer mentoring support from experienced projects or external advisors, especially for less experienced projects.
To avoid duplication with national energy or other low carbon programmes, bidders should be required to demonstrate how they would complement, build on, or work in partnership with existing initiatives.
Scottish Government may wish to review its strategic priorities for the CCF, to explicitly include support for the unique functions that community-based approaches can play with respect to sustainability goals. This would avoid an over-concentration on actions that deliver rapid carbon savings but no further behaviour change, while still providing the flexibility to support projects that are pioneering ways to tackle 'difficult' behaviours (such as transport and low carbon diets) or building long term community capability to reduce carbon emissions.
The Scottish Government's willingness to support pilot projects and feasibility studies in earlier rounds of the CCF has been conducive to learning: it has allowed projects to hone their project plans and intervention approaches before applying for larger sums of money in later rounds. This positive and distinctive feature of the CCF should be retained in future or in any similar fund.
Behaviour change and building community capacity takes time, which points to funding some of the more effective projects over several years so that they can build presence, momentum and capability. Projects seeking such funding would need to demonstrate a track record and how they were going to extend either the scope or reach of their work.