guidance for councils

Co-designing climate action with community groups

Case Study

Posted By:

Emma Jones

City Region Network Co-ordinator

Women sitting around tables and talking

Image: Camden Think & Do’s Sharing Space – a community project encouraging climate action. Credit: Sarah Bower/Ashden

Working with community groups helps councils deliver effective climate action. It means tackling local priorities in an inclusive way, with results that are welcomed by residents. It’s an approach that can make projects like boosting green transport and renewable energy, or restoring woods and rivers, more popular and impactful.

The tips and examples in this guide will you ‘co-design’ and carry out successful projects with community groups.

What is co-design – and why do it?

Co-design is an alternative to top-down approaches, which assume what communities want – and how to deliver it. Working more collaboratively lets more people have a say, and share their knowledge and experience. It also gives voices that are normally silenced a chance to be heard, and to shape local climate action. This is vital, as those with the least power in society face the biggest climate dangers.

In general, co-design sparks projects that meet residents’ priorities, and are more accepted. Research shows that community groups are often highly trusted organisations – making them the perfect partners for creating and delivering climate action.

How to engage and listen

Co-creation starts with good communication. Identify and reach out to a variety of community groups – ideally diverse organisations representing different demographics, interests and faiths. Use comfortable, safe and accessible spaces for meetings and workshops that will facilitate open dialogue and idea sharing. You can also use participatory digital planning tools such as interactive exercises, surveys, and mapping tools to gather community input.

This presentation by Sarah Allen from public engagement charity Involve features great advice – including the key questions to ask yourself as you plan your engagement, and how to make it inclusive.

YouTube video

How to create a great partnership: be supportive, open and values-based

Community groups will be more effective partners if you help them boost their impact. Ways to support them include offering training, the use of council-owned buildings, small grants or publicity in council communications. Could you procure services from groups in your area? Or create and oversee networks that bring groups together?

You may need to help partners understand the roles and duties of staff and teams at your authority – open days for community groups could help. Finally, put values at the heart of your partnership. Be understanding of the power dynamics at play, for example at a public meeting or workshop, and be willing to invest time and respect the aims of fellow organisations.

Watch as Ashden programme officer Matthew Ahluwalia shares more on these topics, including proven examples from across the UK.

YouTube video

Your next steps


This site uses cookies to provide you with the best user experience. By using the Ashden website, you accept our use of cookies.

Stay up to date

Be the first to know about our latest projects and news