Mobilising Your Community
How do you establish a community action group and mobilise a community to take an interest in sustainability and climate change issues? Here are some practical tips drawn from some of the most active and successful community action groups in Victoria.
- Approach your local council and water authority to learn about sustainability projects they may be working on which can form a nucleus for an action group project
- Follow up any leads they provide such as projects in your area being initiated by a local Greenhouse Alliance, Tertiary Education establishment, business, or regional representatives of State or Central Government (eg the 16 Regional Development Victoria offices or the Local Area Consultative Committee)
- Organise an information evening with appropriate content such as:
- Show Al Gore’s ‘Inconvenient Truth’ documentary or equivalent
- Invite a guest speaker from another community action group, Sustainability Victoria, Greenhouse Alliance or your local council/water authority
- Talk about examples of successful projects from other communities
- Include a ‘small groups’ discussion session to start to identify local issues and interests so as to guide future direction
- Advertise the event in the local paper, local community internet site, and on community notice boards
- Directly engage your personal network and enlist their support as well as other community groups already in existence such as Landcare, Rotary/Lions, Sports Clubs, School Councils, etc.
- If sufficient interest exists at the evening to move ahead, invite volunteers to form a Committee to drive the initiative – 6 to 8 is a good number
- Look for a mix of people with experience including local business, marketing/web use, building or related trades, council, other community organisations, etc.
- Establish a web site with links to other community groups and motivational and educational information (copy what other action groups have done – they will be only too willing to help)
- Refine the discussions down to a small number of projects which ideally can be implemented without substantial cost.
- Identify one project as a starting point which can be executed quickly and cheaply and publicised widely as further motivation to the community to get involved. This might be:
- Free energy audits (seek resources via council or other community groups) for member households (drives membership)
- Increased purchase of green energy plus tree plantings
- Replacement of bulbs with low energy lights – volunteer labour to actually do the changeover, and discounts on purchase of lights from local retailer or in quantity by direct order from wholesaler
- Water audit and retrofit program – low volume shower heads, taps, etc. using bulk buy discounts and/or local water authority support to minimise cost
- As membership, interest and confidence grows, more ambitious projects requiring external funding can be planned – seek input from other community groups to see what works and doesn’t work.
The Consumer Utilities Advocacy Centre (CUAC) published a report in 2008 entitled “Community Based Water and Energy Initiatives in Rural & Regional Victoria” which contains more information about community group activities and initiatives.