Monthly local group feature

Our grassroots network is made up of incredible local groups. Each month, we'll showcase a few of these, their key successes, and some top tips from Friends of the Earth staff on how they can keep thriving.

19 Mar 2020

We'd love to feature your group next month. Get in touch on localgroups@foe.co.uk. Help us to celebrate your work, share your advice, or get tips to make your group even stronger.

Ipswich Friends of the Earth

Ipswich Friends of the Earth are one of our newest local groups. They've been active since July 2019, kick-starting after a conversation among a group of friends.

Since then they've received local press coverage for their litter picks and have a (currently postponed) Borrow Bag Sewing Bee organised.

The group plan to start pushing their local council for change in Ipswich soon but in the meantime they've been using events like these to build connections with the local community.

They've also been busy finding allies they can work with like Extinction Rebellion and the Women's Institute. 

It's been exciting to find out about community activity I wasn't aware of.

Ipswich Friends of the Earth have occasionally found it challenging to keep their meetings on point and effective so Friends of the Earth staff and activists had these tips:

  • Have a clear agenda set out in advance of the meeting and make sure everyone has a copy. Group members should be invited to draft the agenda too.

  • Use the matchstick method. Each member gets three (or more) matchsticks at the start of the meeting and has to spend one to make a point. Once they've spent all their matchsticks they can't make any more points!

  • Have strict time limits set for each section of the agenda and use a countdown timer with an alarm to keep everyone to the time slot. Give a warning to the group when there's only 5 minutes left on the timer.

  • Create other ways for people to explore topics they care about. Arrange a separate session focusing on the issue or ask them to write up a briefing and present it to the group.

The group also asked whether there's an online list of the grants available to community groups. If you know of one let us know at localgroups@foe.co.uk so we can pass it on.

They had this advice for anyone starting up a new group:

  • Work out which groups have similar aims to you and how you can work together. Reach out and ask for help and advice.

  • Discover people’s skillsets when they come to meetings so they can really contribute to the group.

  • You can adopt train stations as planting spaces. Speak to staff at your local station to find out how you can use this as an opportunity to promote your group.

Climate Action Leicester and Leicestershire

Climate Action Leicester and Leicestershire (CALL) are one of our network's new Climate Action groups. They've been active since last October and they've been busy!

CALL has about 50 active members and is divided into 6 working groups that focus on housing, trees, climate coalition building, education/schools, event organising, and transport.

They recently forced their council to think twice and commit to a new draft of their climate plan, along with a new consultation. 

The group have planted 2000 trees, held a successful engagement event for the climate consultation, and recently added Nirvana football club to their list of 16 coalition partners. Together they plan to bring young people on tree planting events and help to empower them and their communities.

This is only a snapshot of the amazing work of CALL so far though. Have a look at their website to get the full picture.

The group have found it challenging to get all of their members active, so Friends of the Earth staff had these suggestions:

  • Hold some fun, social events for people who are brand new to campaigning. 

  • In general, think about what it's like for a newcomer to join a group and try to organise the way you work around them.

  • Create space for well-being and resilience. A working group just for this could be a good idea.

CALL also had some really great suggestions for how to improve our Climate Action support framework. We've taken these on board and adopted them to make the network even stronger.

Is your local group campaigning on climate? Make sure to register as a Climate Action Group

Heathrow win!

This month we took a look at the local groups who kept the campaign against Heathrow's third runway alive and formed the backbone of this historic victory for the climate movement.

This win is largely down to the hard work of a host of our groups over many years, but two had some feedback for the rest of the network.

Hillingdon Friends of the Earth

Our Hillingdon group have campaigned against the third runway for 15 years. They had this to say about how they went about their work:

  • We acted very much in a supporting role for the residents who would have been most affected by Heathrow expansion.

  • We attended their local events, marched with them, and invited them to speak at our monthly meetings.

I would like to think that they always knew we were there, from the beginning in 2005

The group like to think that they influenced Friends of the Earth's decision to take Heathrow to court - and they're right.

West London Friends of the Earth Network

The West London network was set up 26 years ago and has focused nearly all its activity on Heathrow over the years.

Their coordinator had some words of caution over remaining vigilant in the aftermath of big wins and had this advice for fellow groups:

Don’t get diverted into unproductive activity, like responding to consultations when no notice will be taken of what you say.

Pace yourself. Campaigning frenetically and then burning out is less use to a group than campaigning steadily and thoughtfully.

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