page title icon Recruiting the neighbourhood group and engaging with decision-makers

Once a neighbourhood has been chosen, the delivery team will need to recruit 12-16 people to participate in the neighbourhood group.

During Oldham Energy Futures, it was helpful for one member of the delivery team to be dedicated to recruitment and managing relationships with the community members and stakeholders throughout the CLEP process, with support from the wider delivery team. 

How recruitment is done will depend on the locality and the level of familiarity the delivery team have with the neighbourhood and is important in building a strong foundation for the next phases. It is advised that the engagement worker, with support from the wider delivery team, leads recruitment activity.

The key questions below should help to inform the approach taken to recruitment. 

Recruitment: the Oldham example

The Oldham Energy Futures delivery team used the key questions below to inform its approach to recruitment. The recruitment process, after deciding on the neighbourhood, took two months (and in Sholver was ongoing through the programme).

  1. The engagement lead carried out desk-based research to find local organisations to connect with and identify local group members. Pre-existing local knowledge within the team informed their approach. 
  1. The delivery team visited the neighbourhoods to walk and meet people on the street to identify additional organisations or groups they could reach out to.
  1. The delivery team sought to identify a community connector or community hub in each area. This person or organisation could legitimise the programme of work and connect the delivery team with other people in the community who may be interested in participating.
  • In Sholver, this was done through conversations with community organisations and anchor institutions in the area. These included the local church, Action Together (Oldham’s community and voluntary sector umbrella organisation), First Choice Homes (a social housing provider with significant stock in the area) and Oldham Council. The community connector identified was well connected, a leader at the Sholver and Moorside Community Hub, and knew how to spread the word about the programme to local residents and volunteers who may be interested in participating.
  • In Westwood, this was done by speaking with a previously identified community connector who was able to connect the team with a local councillor. Pre-existing knowledge within the team meant that there was already a strong idea of which community groups and hubs to connect with, so there was not as much need for a strong community connector as in Sholver. The recruitment team member then went through a local community hub – the Millennium Centre – to reach people who might be interested in the programme.
  1. The engagement lead worked with the community connectors and relevant local groups and contacts to identify days and times workshops could be held (e.g., around local working patterns and childcare) and a local venue. Venues were chosen as places most people locally were either familiar with or would be comfortable attending.
  1. Resources were produced to share with the wider community through the community connectors, local newsletters, other local groups, and flyering. This is an example of one of the flyers used to attract participants in Westwood.
  1. People who were interested were encouraged to get in touch with the recruitment team member, who then went on to speak to them directly.

Key questions

Below is a list of questions to consider when embarking on the recruitment process, with a particular focus on building trust between the delivery team and the community, and ensuring the programme has legitimacy. These questions can be used to inform the approach taken to recruitment.

What is the level of trust the local community has with the initiator of the CLEP process? Are there any pre-existing or legacy issues which may affect peoples’ involvement in the programme? 

Understanding the degree to which there is a lack of trust or cynicism among residents about engagement processes led by local authorities or social housing providers is important. This will inform the amount of time and energy the delivery team needs to put into building the legitimacy of the CLEP process in the eyes of the community. There are also benefits to using external partners or trusted local community groups to support delivery, removing some of its direct association with a local authority which may impact a community’s appetite to engage.

What is the level of trust the local community has with the delivery team? Are the delivery team connected to the area? 

If the delivery team are not familiar with the area or they have not previously worked with groups in the area, more time should be dedicated to identifying community connectors and institutions. If the team has already worked in a place or knows it well (for example if they are a community group seeking to use this approach), use that knowledge and build from it to connect with wider networks within the neighbourhood.

Which respected community connectors or community groups in the area might be interested in the CLEP process? 

Building relationships with and working alongside these people and groups can lend the process legitimacy. This is particularly useful for external organisations which might be viewed as “parachuting” into a neighbourhood – acting as an entry point to reach more people with a level of credibility.

What will the legacy of the process be and how can it be communicated to potential participants?

Focussing on the legacy of the process by dedicating budget to seed funding two community action projects can also lend the approach legitimacy, as potential participants can see the potential for an outcome beyond the programme which continues to impact their neighbourhood.

Has the local authority committed to taking action based on the Community-Led Energy Action Plans? 

This lends the process legitimacy and can help potential participants to see that their input will be impactful. Local authorities acting on this commitment and following through on actions can also help to build trust between the community and the local authority and have a longer-term positive impact on the community-council relationship.

How can recruitment be targeted to ensure the neighbourhood group is as representative of the area as possible? 

It is important to attract a diversity of participants to ensure the group is representative of the local area. This includes a range of ages. As Oldham Energy Futures was delivered during the Covid-19 pandemic, the team could not reach young people easily. If it had been possible, the team would have engaged with local sports centres, youth clubs and colleges to reach out to young people in the two neighbourhoods. 

What motivated you to get involved with the programme? 

“I was interested in learning more. It’s easy to say I’m too old to do anything about it, but that’s not true, as older people we can make a difference to the younger generation in our actions and decisions, but we must make informed decisions.”

Sholver group member

What are the socio-cultural sensitivities which may inform who engages in the process?

Awareness of socio-cultural sensitivities will not only inform where recruitment is targeted and how it is delivered, it should also be used to inform the delivery of the workshops.

Oldham Energy Futures used the team’s knowledge of Westwood and insights from community connectors to inform when the workshops were held. Working patterns in the neighbourhood included takeaway and restaurant work, Friday prayers were observed, and major holidays and festivals such as Eid were taken into account. As such, it was decided that workshops would be held on a Tuesday to cater for the various factors influencing prospective attendees’ availability.

Similarly, recruitment in Westwood was enabled by working with trusted partners and being based in a community-rooted facility where residents already accessed services and felt safe.

What do local people want to get from this process?

When testing their messaging for recruitment resources, the Oldham Energy Futures team found that many people wanted their voices to be heard on changes being made locally. The programme was therefore framed as a way for people to gain the skills and knowledge to engage meaningfully with decision makers and processes which will shape the places where they live. This framing engaged people who were more interested in seeing change happen, bringing those who are active in their community to the table alongside those interested in learning about energy transition.

Sustaining engagement

Beyond this initial phase of engagement, it is important to sustain communication with the neighbourhood group to keep them involved in the CLEP process. Email updates, check in calls and catching up at the workshops were a core part of Oldham Energy Futures’ engagement approach, strengthening relationships and building rapport.

Using this approach ensured that Oldham Energy Futures’ two neighbourhood groups remained engaged throughout the nine month process of workshops and action plan development.

Engaging local decision makers and influencers

Buy-in from strategic local decision makers to the outcomes of the CLEP process is critical to its longer-term impact. The degree to which decision makers and influencers are involved in the CLEP process depends upon how the process is being used. 

Decision makers and influencers can range from local organisations working in the neighbourhood on climate related projects to more strategic organisations and their employees such as a local NHS trust. It is useful to engage these stakeholders one-to-one early in the process to make them aware of the CLEP’s aims and objectives – particularly if it will be useful to re-engage them during the share phase in relation to recommended actions. This may be easier for local authorities initiating the CLEP process. Community groups initiating this process may want to seek support from ward councillors or other key local influencers to connect with relevant decision makers. See amplify for more information about the different types of stakeholders which may be involved in this process, and how they can be involved in different elements of amplifying the approach’s impact.

The Oldham Energy Futures delivery team carried out multiple one-to-one meetings with key officers from Oldham Council, First Choice Homes and Transport for Greater Manchester to engage them in the project at an early stage. This then laid the foundations for these officers to work with the neighbourhood groups through the imagining workshops. The officers provided insights which informed the groups’ decision-making around recommendations in their Community-led Energy Action Plans and the community action projects they decided to take forward.