Oxfordshire community climate action groups start new era
A network of committed groups that have spent almost two decades tackling climate change and improving their local environment are entering an exciting new era.
CAG Oxfordshire (Community Action Groups Oxfordshire) was set up 18 years ago by Oxfordshire County Council and non-profit consultancy Resource Futures, who worked together to secure funding from TOE (Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment) to help kick-start local environmental projects. Since 2004, this work has been financed by Oxfordshire County Council and run by Resource Futures’ staff team in Oxfordshire.
After many years of success, it is to become a community benefit society from December 2019 and will run as an independent and democratically accountable network cooperatively owned by the 65 groups and social enterprises it supports. 2018-2019 was its most impactful year on record with groups across the network holding over 4,000 events, with 80,000 attendees, and contributing 51,000 volunteer hours (equivalent to 31 full time staff).
The county council will continue to provide support and the new arrangement will help to unlock new funding opportunities. We are keen that the community action groups will continue to flourish at a time when the county council pushes forward its own climate action work.
Groups have delivered hundreds of projects over the past 18 years, working with thousands of residents across the county to improve their local community and improve their environment. Some examples of the good work done by Community Action Groups since 2001 across Oxfordshire include:
- In 2009/10 Low Carbon West Oxford installed solar panels on local industrial units to produce energy for the local community and businesses.
- In 2011 funding was secured to develop a reuse and sustainable living centre in Bicester – this has become Bicester Green, a place for sharing skills and repairing items that would otherwise have been thrown away.
- Broken Spoke bike coop in Oxford was set up in 2013/14 to provide workshop space, cycling and bicycle mechanics training courses and provide information for those interested in cycling.
- In 2017/18 Oxford’s SESI developed its detergent refill franchise offer, enabling residents to refill household cleaning products from a large number of locations across the county, dramatically reducing plastic usage.
- In 2019 the number of Community fridges in Oxfordshire grew with the launch of Abingdon Community Fridge and Witney Community Fridge, saving food from being wasted and helping local residents.
- Talking Shop in Sandford-on-Thames (South Oxfordshire) has set up a community café and market that supports local food producers, reduces waste, and tackles social isolation. They won a national award from the Plunkett Foundation for this work.
- Groups across Oxfordshire have run ‘Swop Shops’ for many years, where people can exchange items they no longer need or want. Some years these have saved over 25 tonnes of stuff from going to waste.
- Five years ago, Sustainable Wantage (Vale of the White Horse) opened ‘The Mix’ a community space run aiming to provide practical ways to live more sustainably and to bring our local community together. They have run hundreds of educational workshops and are now setting up a ‘library of things’.
For more information about the groups and their achievements in your local area and to get involved please see the CAG Oxfordshire website www.CAGOxfordshire.org.uk.
Stepping-up valuable climate action work
The change comes after consultation with the staff team and two years of work with the groups that form the network to ensure that they have the right support in place from CAG Oxfordshire to be able to deliver as much as possible for their local communities. Part of this was a desire for the organisation to be Oxfordshire-based rather than managed by a national organisation.
“There was a strong desire from the network to see key strategic decisions about the future of our network and the work we do decided by board members that are democratically elected by the groups themselves,” said Marta Lomza, Chair of CAG Oxfordshire. “We’ve already secured additional funding from Valpak to boost repair and reuse of small electrical items alongside Bicester Green and Orinoco. We will be exploring many more opportunities to partner with and expand on the positive impact the groups have across the county.”
CAG Oxfordshire will also continue to run the council-funded Replenish project, which aims to tackle the issue of food waste by sending a team of Food Waste Ambassadors to public-facing events in order to provide people with practical tips on how to reduce their food waste and start composting.
Positive environmental action
Simon Furlong, Strategic Director of Communities at Oxfordshire County Council, explained: “The county council wants to be part of the growing green revolution in Oxfordshire by helping communities achieve their own climate action goals.
“We have supported a wide range of community groups for eighteen years and will continue to do so as they go from strength to strength with even more say in how they achieve their visions.”
“After 18 years seeing the network of community action groups grow in Oxfordshire, we are delighted to have been able to support them in setting up as a new entity and look forward to seeing how it develops,” said Jane Stephenson, Chair at Resource Futures. “I’ve been involved since the very beginning of this project in Oxfordshire and it has been such a pleasure to see what the dedicated members of the local community can achieve when they come together and focus on what matters to them.”