To change the future we need to change the present, but to do that we need to have the right conversations. That’s exactly what Alan Heeks and Pamela Candea understand when they work with local people using Future Conversations. Recently, Pamela worked with people from the Uist community, using Future Conversations to help outline a community-led local energy plan.
Local Energy Plans
To address the looming spectre of climate change and meet net zero targets it’s no longer enough to address the issues at an individual level. Of course, it makes an impact if we reduce our carbon output and eat less meat, but to make leaps forwards collaboration is needed.
One form of collaborative action on climate change is a Local Energy Plan (LEP) which is a community-led and government-backed process for helping people to identify areas of action in their local communities. Focused action for local climate change targets can then be made.
The Island of Uist
The Island of Uist is located in the Outer Hebrides off the North coast of Scotland, it is known for its natural beauty, but it’s also the place where local people from a variety of community groups are building a (LEP) with support from Community Energy Scotland and The Surefoot Effect.
Surefoot trained a group of facilitators from across Uist to enable them to help local groups identify their needs and make changes to benefit the region and contribute to climate targets. A structured series of sessions, called Future Conversations, created by Alan Heeks, founder of Seeding our Future, was used as the basis for workshops for the facilitators to run with local community groups.
“The changes to decarbonise the energy and travel infrastructure will be complex to implement,” said Pamela Candea, a facilitator and Managing Director of The Surefoot Effect, “ but the good news is the Scottish government is encouraging groups to create these Local Energy Plans and has agreed to support the implementation.”
“Often the changes needed in a local energy plan require large-scale infrastructure like wind turbines; however, the Scottish government is currently interested in supporting these initiatives and helping to ensure local people benefit from them. It’s a key step forward, “ she said.
Local buy-in to infrastructure changes starts with including local people at the initial stages of planning and the workshops being run on Uist do just that.
Future Conversations is a series of six workshops that train facilitators and empower local people to think about their energy needs for today and tomorrow. These can be adapted to local circumstances and requirements as was done for the project on Uist. This conversations series has been used in several communities across the UK, and more recently in online sessions.
At the heart of a Local Energy Plan in collaboration with Future Conversations is a community spirit that strives to improve the planet by improving its local area. Measurable outcomes are achieved and new perspectives are developed through creative activities and local interactions.
In this example, an area of Scotland, armed with a Local Energy Plan of their own, can then lobby the Scottish Government for the funding it needs to make practical changes.
The road to Net Zero is not straight and predictable, but if there’s one thing we can do it’s to empower local people to communicate, organise, and lobby governments for the actionable changes that fit their requirements so they can move to low carbon sustainable future.