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Helping people, places and nature to thrive

19 Mar 2024 11 min read

Paige Wilson, Policy and Public Affairs Officer at Groundwork UK, looks at how the charity supports local communities to tackle hardship, achieve a just transition to net-zero and help nature thrive.

Two people standing in a greensouse with lots of plants. One individual is wearing a Groundwork t-shirt.
Helping people and places adapt to climate change

With climate change bringing ever more extreme weather to our shores, the likelihood of communities being impacted by events such as flooding is increasing. We know that those most likely to suffer the greatest impact from these events are those with least choice about where they live and the least protection in terms of insurance.

Building the capacity and resilience of communities to cope with and recover from extreme weather events is therefore of great importance. This is the aim of Groundwork’s Communities Prepared programme. We work in partnership with a range of organisations, including the Environment Agency, Local Resilience Forums, and voluntary sector networks to ensure that responses meet local need. Training, support, and advice is provided to communities so that they can incorporate local knowledge into their community emergency plans, equipping them to deal with the challenges ahead.

Helping to grow a skilled green workforce

Responding to the climate and nature emergencies also requires a new green work force. The government’s Green Jobs Delivery Group talks of supporting the creation of 480,000 skilled green jobs by 2030, with some employers and industries already struggling to meet demand. For example, the Institute of Chartered Forestry has said urgent action is required to meet current tree planting targets, which will require a 70% workforce increase.

Green jobs are not universally understood and are not necessarily seen as a career of choice – particularly amongst young people. New to Nature is a Groundwork UK initiative funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. It targets people who may not have previously considered an environmental career, demonstrating the breadth and quality of opportunity, showcasing career prospects and championing inclusivity and diversity across the sector. So far, it has provided 95 work placements in a range of environmental roles, targeting people from diverse backgrounds, specifically young people (aged 18-25) who are:

  • ethnically diverse,
  • disabled, and/or
  • economically disadvantaged.

Each trainee participates in a full-time, year-long paid work placement, hosted by an environmental sector organisation, and is supported by a Groundwork Employment Coach, with access to a peer network, development programme and individualised training budget. The employer (‘Placement Host’) benefits from access to training and development opportunities to enhance their Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) strategies.

We’ve learned a lot from New to Nature and have produced a 10-step guide to inclusive recruitment. We’re also encouraging environmental organisations to make the ‘Force of Nature pledge’ and commit to working towards a more inclusive environmental sector. If you haven’t signed up yet, you can find the pledge here.

Helping more people overcome hardship

Across the UK, an estimated 6.3 million households experience fuel poverty. Our Green Doctor service provides free, impartial advice that saves energy, reduces bills, and assists people to live more comfortably in warmer homes. Green Doctors provide households with an extensive range of measures and support that can reduce heat loss, damp, and mould, improve water efficiency, and save money. They also signpost individuals living with other difficulties, such as poor mental health, to local specialist services and liaise with energy companies about hardship support and boiler repairs.

With support from the Cadent Foundation, we have recently launched the ‘Green Doctor Academy’, to attract diverse talent to take on Green Doctor roles, and to provide paid work placements, training, and qualifications.

Working with householders to improve water efficiency

Our accredited programme, developed with Northumbrian Water and Waterwise, is designed to boost understanding of water systems found in our homes. When people undervalue water and are unclear on where it comes from their usage can be inefficient, putting pressure on water supplies and creating barriers to behaviour change.

The programme aims to help 2,000 people become ‘Water Literate’ over 2.5 years, an approach modelled on the highly successful Carbon Literacy programme. The course content covers a mixture of unique, industry-wide topics that relate to water scarcity, including the value of water as a resource and the explicit link with climate change. The programme is designed to be accessible to the most underrepresented groups in our communities, as our experience shows those who have the least power to act will be most affected by any resulting high bills.

Connecting people with nature through community engagement

Groundwork was chosen as the lead partner for community engagement in a project to regenerate West Gorton Community Park in Greater Manchester. Staff facilitated a consultation with residents, whose views on the aesthetic finish and priorities of the space were incorporated into the park. A lasting impression was made on the community by grounding the design in a philosophy that ‘local people are local experts.’ People with expertise spanning numerous disciplines were involved in this project. For example, the project needed experts on biodiversity, architecture and stakeholder management, showcasing how all jobs need to take sustainability into account.

Residents report that, as they have a distinct sense of ownership of the space, conduct such as littering or anti-social behaviour are not tolerated. While some of the design features desired by the residents do not strictly pertain to the water system, such as the community growing area, they will encourage people to spend time outdoors and, ultimately, think more carefully about their use of the natural world, on both a personal and professional level. We also hope to inspire individuals to get involved with volunteering in this space

Read more about how Groundwork is reaching out and supporting people, places, and nature at their website.

This is a guest blog by Paige Wilson, Policy & Public Affairs Officer at Groundwork UK, for the Green Careers Hub.

Photo credits: Groundwork

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