This is one in a short series of monthnotes about our Neighbourhood Warmth project. It has also been crossposted on the blog of our project partner, Dark Matter Labs.
We wrapped up our first instalment of monthnotes with thoughts on how to tackle our overarching enquiry:
“How can we support communities to organise locally around a simple and achievable home energy action?”
Since then we’ve been sculpting the skeleton of a digital service that we’re planning to test in June. Currently it outlines the benefits of collaboration and enables neighbours to connect with each other, by forming teams.
Questions lead to questions
You may have noticed that our timescales have slipped a bit! After an initial burst of brainstorming we spotted an impending crunch and decided to extend our partnership for another month. This provided breathing space to organise workshops. And it allowed us to unpack a few questions that are bubbling up as we revisit the drawing board and iterate.
Here’s a flavour:
- How can digital technology facilitate purposeful connection, and on what basis (eg proximity, housing type, tenure, existing relationships or motivations)?
- What mechanisms enable teams to form, evolve and progress together?
- How strongly do we want to encourage a particular sequence of actions?
As we crumble these and related questions into more granular design decisions, we’re regularly referring back to the research questions in our plan for this Alpha phase to maintain focus. We’ve made strides on the first three, and our attention is now turning towards the remaining two:
- How a service like this could signal demand to the council or to retrofit organisations, to help build the supply of retrofit finance and services in an area.
- How a service like this could connect residents with suppliers for services across parts or whole of the retrofit journey.
I’m gonna get myself connected
We’ve also been laying foundations for the co-design workshops that we’ll use to test and learn with communities in Frome, Birmingham and hopefully at least one more location. Due to their distinctive characteristics, these communities allow us to run parallel experiments.
In Balsall Heath, John Christophers is at the heart of a community-led effort to make the most of government funding that involves Birmingham City Council, MECC Trust, Midlands Net Zero Hub to name a few.
And in Frome, thanks to funding from The National Lottery’s Climate Action Fund, the town council has partnered with the Centre for Sustainable Energy so that its Healthy Homes team can advise residents.
We’re interested to see how people’s perspectives on Neighbourhood Warmth may be shaped by these diverse contexts, histories and experiences. By shining light from different angles, we hope their responses will help us to resolve some of the questions that we’re still grappling with.
Thanks to generous engagement with fellow travellers on the road to community-led retrofit, our thinking continues to be stimulated in the meantime. Thanks to everyone who read and shared our previous monthnotes, and made time to meet in the interim.
In relation to the research questions above, we’re honoured to have been invited to drop in to the UK Green Building Council’s local authority retrofit forum. This is a golden opportunity to share our work with council officers. We’re curious to know how a richer picture of home energy action could bolster their efforts to support residents. If Neighbourhood Warmth provided a clearer view of demand, how could that help in the development of local supply chains? And zooming out a bit further, we’re exploring the potential for knock-on benefits at regional and national levels with the West Midlands Combined Authority.
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