To effectively tackle the climate emergency, Local Authorities will require a radical rethink in how policy is designed and applied. In collaboration with The Open University, Talking Tree Climate Emergency Centre, we are working with Spelthorne Borough Council to launch the ‘Community-led Climate Initiative’ to redefine the boundaries between the council and its residents in ways which are more inclusive, transparent and empowers communities to act. The Community-led Climate Initiative is developing and implementing a model for ensuring citizen engagement at every stage of the policy cycle: shaping ideas, policy designing, delivering practical community-led solutions and monitoring impact.

Working out of Talking Tree’s venue on Staines’ High Street, the Community Climate Initiative is transforming Spelthorne Borough Council’s culture of governance so that its citizens are seen as partners who can shape, inform and help deliver net zero carbon emissions policy and solutions. 

One of the main and innovative tools championed by the Cobra Collective in this project is video-mediated dialogue. In order to drive this, we set up and trained the Spelthorne Youth Digital EcoWarriors – recruiting six young people from the Spelthorne’s Youth Hub to digitally document community processes and outcomes. The videos have been presented to Spelthorne Borough Council’s Environment and Sustainability Committee in order to galvanise policy change and resources in support of practical interventions championed by the Community-led Climate Initiative, which includes community food growing and rewilding. 

So far, the key outcomes have been:

– a strong working relationship between Spelthorne Borough Council, Open University, Talking Tree Climate Emergency Centre, communities and the Cobra Collective.

– the initiation of self-sustaining interventions designed by communities with support from the Council, for example, the launch of Spelthorne Incredible Edible’ and the conversion of a site just outside Staines Railway Station into a community food growing and rewilding project.

– skills and knowledge development of 30 community members for leading with participatory net zero policymaking and intervention co-design.

– the production and promotion of a model of participatory net zero community policymaking and action which can be applied by local authorities throughout the UK. We have effectively turned the policy-making process on its head: leading with what works practically for and by communities to then change policy so that these initiatives can be supported.

The project will run from January 2023 until July 2023.

  • Location Spelthorne, Surrey, UK
  • Collaborators Talking Tree Climate Emergency Centre, Spelthorne Borough Council, The Open University
  • Funding Local Government Association, UK
  • Service provided Research and implementation