Our second Innovations in Climate Tech grantee was im23 (previously known as Better Futures), working in collaboration with Sandwell Council. They put forward a proposal for researching and scoping a database to share climate projects from councils across the UK.
We were excited by the possibilities of this project, which is all about councils learning from one another so that the best ideas can be copied and implemented elsewhere — a theory of change which has some parallels with our work in collaboration with Climate Emergency UK on CAPE and the Council Climate Scorecards.
In principle it sounds reasonably simple — find the case studies; publish them! But how have they been getting on? Rob Hale gave us this update:
“We set out to build a website that could bring together real examples of climate adaptation work to act as a knowledge hub for local government and communities.
“Our idea was that by showing what others had done, it could act as both a catalyst for the adoption of climate adaptation solutions, in the form of a searchable project database, but also bring people together to share ideas and challenges.”
So, have there been any surprises along the way?
“We knew from the outset that building a way for people to access key information quickly and easily would be really important, so we focused a lot of effort on making the site really clear and easy to use.
“What we found interesting is that the need for a way for council officers to share info openly and candidly seems to be as important as the projects database. To respond to this we’re adding a form and chat tools to the site from the outset so that we have a mix of projects and a place for the community to talk to each other!”
Part of the project was to scope the landscape. Has it become clear that there is a need for the site?
“Over the course of the project we’ve received nothing but positive reactions and support,” says Rob. “This has been from the local government teams – infrastructure, transport and climate – and also from trade bodies such as the Local Council Roads Innovation Group (LCRIG). Along with mySociety, LCRIG have added resource to the project and enabled us to get further and much closer to a sustainable project going forward.”
And have there been any stumbling blocks?
“So far the biggest challenge — or rather surprise — has been the difficultly in sourcing examples of varied climate adaptation projects.
“From the outset we knew that there was a need for a site like this to showcase projects to act as a guide for others, but we genuinely thought there would have been a far bigger resource to draw on and pull together.
“It may be that we’ve been looking in the wrong places — and we’re certainly asking everyone we can — but the response has been far more of “This is a great idea and just what we’ve been looking for!” rather than “Great, we’d love to share what we’ve done!”.
“Still, either way it’s good to know that what we’re building will be useful, and even if it starts with fewer projects then at least these are shared and we can play a small part in helping accelerate the takeup of workable climate adaptation solutions.”
Rob tells us the website will be live soon, so keep an eye on our social media and we’ll be sure to share it when it is. And one more thing — if you’re a council with a great climate adaptation project you could share, do let im23 know.
“We’re still very much looking for projects,” says Rob, “and will always be going forward, so please let us know if you’d like to share your knowledge with the community!”.
Thanks to im23 for the update — we can’t wait to see this project in all its glory.
It finally feels like Spring is in the air, and you know it’s been a busy start to the year when we’re rolling the first two months into one set of monthnotes – in the middle of March!
So, what have we been up to?
Well – we’ve been adding datasets to and testing our alpha version of the Local Intelligence Hub tool that we built with The Climate Coalition. Feedback has been really good and this feels like something that’s really going to level up the ability of UK climate organisations to share data and coordinate their actions, at both a local and national level. We hope to share more about this project in the coming months, once it’s been made available to TCC members.
We submitted talks to a couple of conferences/events – and lo and behold, we’ll be in Sheffield (and online) for the Festival of Debate on May 24, with a panel of exceptional guests. Our topic? “What if you could reshape democracy for the better — and you had 20 years to do so?” Climate is sure to be part of the answer. Fancy joining us? Book here.
Between all this we’ve been working hard with our friends at Climate Emergency UK on the next round of the Council Climate Scorecards. Their draft methodology was released in November 2022, and the first round of marking started in January 2023. Part of our support has included building a Django application to store the marking data – and this has already dramatically improved the experience for Climate Emergency UK’s volunteers.
Climate Emergency UK are also working with mySociety’s Transparency team, using WhatDoTheyKnow Projects (a WhatDoTheyKnow Pro beta feature that helps researchers crowdsource data out of batch FOI requests) to gather some of the data for the scoring. All their FOI requests will be published on WhatDoTheyKnow later this year.
Our IICT grants are coming to an end soon – we’ve put out a blog post about Lynsted Community Kitchen Garden and the data they’re collecting with the weather station we funded. They have a public event on March 25 if anyone lives near Lynsted and wants to visit to check it out! Updates from Possible and Better Futures should be coming soon.
On the research side, we launched our report on unlocking the value of fragmented public data, which is part of our work into the data ecosystem around climate data. Our plan over the next few months is to support a few research commissions which link in to this report and help to show use of climate data.
We’ve confirmed a partnership with Dark Matter Labs – we’ll be moving forward with them and our Neighbourhood Warmth prototype, exploring how we could encourage neighbours to come together to take their first retrofit action, such as getting a house survey. We’ll be building a working prototype over the next few weeks, then testing it out with communities in three pilot areas around the UK, to ensure that what we’re building makes sense to the people we’re aiming to serve.
And finally, we met up in person! We had a team meeting in early February which was a wonderful chance for us all to take stock of the last year, and discuss the future. We’ve been making some plans for year 3 of the Climate programme and after widening our scope through prototyping, now we’re going to be focusing back in again on building and proving the impact of the services we’re running.
That’s a very whistlestop tour of our first months of 2023!
Image: Daniel James
Lynsted Community Kitchen Garden
Regular readers may remember our Innovations In Climate Tech events, which led to the selection of three projects that would receive a small grant. These are intended to help the groups trial a climate project at the local level, in collaboration with one or more local councils.
We announced the successful projects back in November. They’ve had a few months to get up and running, so we thought we’d check in to see how they were doing.
First to report back is the Lynsted Community Kitchen Garden (LCKG). Working with Swale Borough Council, their initial bid was around using tech to showcase sustainable approaches to gardening, with an emphasis on adapting to a changing climate. A key part of this was the purchase of a weather station, through which they would be able to collect data that would help inform some insights for future gardeners.
LCKG’s report on their progress so far is as follows:
The new digital Davies weather station has been purchased and built, and a month’s worth of data has already been collected. The arrival of this wonderful piece of technology has awoken an entirely new level of ‘weather chat’ within the community garden membership and no doubt some of those discussions reach workplaces and home too.
We are sharing what we learn from our weather station through a new blog on our website. This combines a weekly, local weather forecast with practical ideas for gardening and gardens.
On Sunday evenings we post an overview of the week ahead: temperature highs and lows, frost warnings, precipitation patterns and ‘a best day for gardening’. We’ve been amazed by the accuracy that data generated at the local scale can deliver.
“Climate is what you expect and weather is what you get” … or so the saying goes. At the local level we are aware of the need for accuracy and clarity about the weather we ‘get’. Hence, the immense value of having a digital weather station and this piece of tech is something we would never have been able to have without the mySociety grant.
Over time, weather patterns can hopefully inform us about climate, which in turn can allow us to adapt the way we garden and, indeed, live. We firmly believe that the weather station and the information it collects will have a lasting legacy.
The mySociety grant included an allocation for starting a herb ‘dry’ garden, focused around drought tolerant planting.
Plans have now been drawn up for this, and the footprint has been measured up. The impetus created by winning the grant propelled us to make this part of the project bigger and more creative, and we’ve applied for further funding (from another source) to support some additional elements.
It will offer somewhere quiet to sit, a space for sharing culinary and medicinal tips as well a place with climate adaption built in. The proposed herb garden has climate resilience credentials, community bonding opportunities and huge educational potential.
It’s the community that has advanced the wellbeing vision for the herb garden in this way, to match its vitally important climate adaption facet. There is a palpable sense of excitement about the opportunities this duality will bring.
Informational signs are being designed, but will not be constructed until March. They will be added to key parts of the garden to explain what things like the weather station, or no-dig growing beds are and how they work. Importantly, they will link back to information on the website that helps support the community first, sustainable approach we follow.
Additional rainwater harvesting equipment has been purchased and is under construction.
An open morning has been scheduled and planned for Sat March 25th to show case the weather station and talk about practical steps towards climate adaption. Lynsted Primary School is due to attend the gardens for five Fridays from 24 Feb 2023 and the children will use the weather station as well as other aspects of the garden.
Thanks very much to LCKG for sharing their update, along with the general sense of excitement and activity that’s underway. We’re glad to have been able to bring something we’re very familiar with – data – to a completely new area for us – gardening – and to see so much happening as a result.
We’ll be checking in with our other grantees soon, so watch this space to find out how their projects are coming along.