How Defra is supporting the Low Carbon Communities Challenge

[Guest post by Harriet Festing, Deputy Head, community-led policy making, Department of Energy and Climate Change] 
Over the winter, Grassroots third sector organisations participating in the “UK’s largest citizen-led trial on sustainable living” were given £100,000 from Defra to deliver their citizen engagement plans.  The funding is Defra’s contribution to a cross-government initiative: the Low Carbon Communities Challenge.  The ‘challenge’, which was first announced in September 2009 as part of the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan, involves 22 test bed communities trialling a mix of technological and behavioural approaches within their area, ranging from solar panels and hydro turbines to food growing, electric cars and water saving measures. 

100,000 people live in the areas defined by the 22 communities.  In order to understand both the social (as well as technological) implications of their progress, each community has been appointed an independent facilitator from Dialogue by Design.  The facilitators will work with the communities to help develop their engagement plans and lead a process of structured learning and co-inquiry between the community lead and people living and working in the area.  The co-inquiry element of the Challenge is co-funded by Sciencewise-ERC.  Defra’s contribution – which will be split evenly between the communities – will ensure that they have the funding to deliver on these engagement plans.

In addition to public dialogue, the programme of evaluation includes gathering hard data, and is a test bed for a new, extensive, programme of academic enquiry funded by the UK Research Councils ‘Energy and Communities venture’ worth £7.5m.  The challenge was launched formally in February 2010 and lasts for two years.  The findings seek to inform Government policymaking.

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