Ahem, well, it’s been a while… For us June and July have been all about the team both busily beavering away as deadlines loom, and looking up to the horizon to start to envisage and plan for ‘what’s next?’
To provide some context, the programme has benefited from the generosity of two major funders, Quadrature Climate Foundation and the National Lottery Community Fund, over the past two and a half years. Their support has been key in enabling mySociety to firmly plant its feet in the climate space: to better understand the sector and where and how civic tech could add value, as well as bring about tangible change through our work with an array of talented partners.
But all good things must come to an end, so as well as planning what more we can possibly achieve in the next eight months or so, we have started to think about the next stage for our climate work. Watch this space for the outcomes of our thinking on ‘what next’; suffice to say for now – we’ve learned a lot from the last couple of years and are looking forward to fundraising for and rolling out more impactful work.
Meanwhile, back at the coal solar-panel(?) -face…
We’re aiming for an Autumn launch for the 2023 Climate Action Plan Scorecards (aka ‘Scorecards’). Climate Emergency UK and their volunteers are mid-audit: it’s looking like a sizeable chunk of work but they are still aiming to complete it by the end of August. At the development end, Struan has set up the foundations for the Scorecards site so that Lucas could start experimenting with new branding and a header for switching between years.
Climate Action Plan Explorer
On CAPE, this month finally saw the fruition of a project we’ve had bubbling over much of the year so far. Thanks to some machine learning wizardry, document search on CAPE is now much more flexible. Our new language model (based on the meaning of words and phrases, rather than basic text similarity) means you can now preview which key topics are covered in different documents, and see results for closely related terms when you search. You can read more in Alex’s blog post. Our thanks go to Louis Davidson and the Faculty Fellowship for working with us on this.
We also attended the LGA Annual Conference in Bournemouth this month, and talked to a number of councillors and council officers about both CAPE and our plans around domestic retrofit. In particular, we were keen to test out an experimental interface that makes it easier to compare your council to its ‘climate twin’, based on the machine learning topics mentioned above. The twins algorithm isn’t quite ready for prime time, but feedback from the conference is helping us move it closer to launch.
Our Neighbourhood Warmth project continued to explore new territory as we held workshops with communities in Birmingham and Frome, as well as with council officers via the UK Green Building Council, to get feedback on the staging site and our ideas for rollout.
Siôn is now leading a process of reflection with our partner, Dark Matter Labs, to pull our key lessons together and to look at the next stage of development for the project. We’ve got some ideas but are keen to collaborate and ground this project in the communities we hope to serve. Check out our Neighbourhood Warmth month notes for more detail on where we might be headed and what we’re learning along the way.
Local Intelligence Hub
The Local Intelligence Hub—our climate data sharing platform, built with The Climate Coalition and soft-launched to their members in April—has now served users from almost 100 different Climate Coalition organisations. This autumn, we’re planning to open up public access to most of the datasets on the platform, so community groups and citizens can benefit from the data without requesting an account.
The detail-oriented amongst you might have noticed this means two big launches around the same time this autumn. One of our priorities for this month was to estimate the development and design requirements of both projects, before deciding we could do two launches at once. On paper it looks fine, so we look forward to seeing how that works out in reality!
In the meantime, the data set on the Hub is getting richer and richer as Alexander continues to upload new demographic datasets and deal with the glitches with incredible commitment and good humour. We’ve also started laying the groundwork to ensure the Hub supports the new (2023) constituency boundaries, when it launches to the public later this year.
Last but definitely not least, we welcomed Julia Cushion as our new Policy & Advocacy Manager in June. Julia has done more than hit the ground running: speeding out of sight almost immediately, I think she’s managed the fastest first mile in mySociety history, with blogs such as From fragmentation to collaboration: strengthening local climate data and What local climate data do we need. Talented and a really great person too.
And on to the future
If you’ve had an idea of ‘what next’ for mySociety in the climate space, please email us at email@example.com – now’s a great time to chat with us.
Image: H. Zell (CC by-sa/3.00)
Joining mySociety as the Climate Programme’s Delivery Manager a couple of months ago, it soon became clear I had walked into a super-organised, passionate and able team. What was there left for me to do? Turns out the answer is to variously support, organise, communicate, enable, help them look ahead, let them get on with it and occasionally help them to say ‘no’ or ‘not right now’ to the things that aren’t top of the list. I led the team through cycle planning last week. This is a particularly favorite part of the job for me: it gives us a chance to look back and see how far we’ve travelled; and then think big for the future.
The last six weeks has seen Climate Emergency UK (CEUK) steam ahead on the analysis of councils’ climate action plans, recruiting around 140 volunteers, developing and delivering training, and designing subsequent stages to the process which will include a ‘right to reply’ by councils and second marking by a smaller group. mySociety has supported CEUK by developing technical systems that enable them to carry out this work – from robust spreadsheets that minimise the risk of scores being overwritten by other volunteers, through to automatically tracking the number of plans started and completed. We expect the results to go live in January 2022.
mySociety developer Struan joined the Climate team full-time in early August and, along with designer Zarino, he has been working on improvements to the Climate Action Plan Explorer (CAPE) including better search, a zip download of all plans, and the basics of an API.
Our new Outreach and Networks Coordinator Siôn Williams started in mid-August and hit the ground running, helping the team think through its approach to outreach while bringing fresh perspectives and considerable relevant experience. Several relationships are already bearing fruit including Friends of the Earth asking all their supporters to ask their Councils for stronger Climate Action Plan commitments, using CAPE as their main source of information. Myf meanwhile has developed a set of ‘explainer resources’ to help people understand how to use CAPE to maximum effect; as well as forming key relationships and building up a database of ‘who’s who’ in a range of sectors.
We’ve also been starting to explore our assumptions about how we can best support local communities and local authorities to act quickly and effectively, laying out our Theory of Change for the programme, encouraging us to pan out and think about what change we want to see in the next few years. CAPE is a start, but we are hungry to achieve more.
Looking forward, we will develop this further over the next few weeks, using it to lead into some longer-term planning. We have also been working on mechanisms to ensure we can work emergently, and hope to detail this out in next Climate month notes. Watch this space. And enjoy the crunchy autumn leaves when they come.
Image: Andrew Ieviev