page title icon The workshop approach

The workshops progressively build understanding through their delivery, based on energy transition themes which are relatable to peoples’ everyday lives.

This helps participants recognise how the knowledge and understanding they have developed can be applied at both a personal and neighbourhood level. The workshop themes are:

  • sustainable transport
  • energy efficiency in the home
  • renewable energy generation
  • community ownership and energy transition

Oldham Energy Futures used an approach to workshop delivery which was repeated throughout the programme, using activities which were designed to help the group develop:

  • an understanding of how the issue impacts them
  • a deeper understanding of the issue
  • an understanding of how the issue impacts the community
  • the mechanisms for change

This approach helps the neighbourhood group to identify key local challenges, needs and solutions in relation to the energy themes, as well as developing their awareness of the change they could bring about following the programme. 

  • assume limited prior knowledge;
  • expect the group to have mixed technical capabilities;
  • recognise that participants will have a mixed experience of learning environments.

When designing the workshop content and delivery, it is important to consider the level of participant knowledge. Any participant accessibility needs should also be addressed. Experts delivering presentations or activities should be instructed to:

Workshop activities should seek to emulate an educational style which prioritises interactive experiences, accessible formats and accessible language. Where possible, facilitators and presenters should use images, objects and stories to engage the group. Activities should be rooted in real life and physical experiences, building participants’ understanding from a starting point of the personal and the local.

Oldham Energy Futures was delivered at a time when Covid-19 could have easily disrupted the diagnose phase of the project. All workshop sessions were written with a back-up plan for how to move the session online. 

Outdoor workshops and mapping activities

Top Tips

These tips are based on learning from Oldham Energy Futures. 

Be mindful of the power dynamics in the room

Facilitators hold a lot of power in the workshop space. Similarly, experts and stakeholders can dominate with technical knowledge which can be disheartening for group members if it goes unmanaged. There are also power dynamics between members of the community. Be mindful of these and try to balance these power dynamics where possible by putting the group first and ensuring people’s voices are equally heard.

Some people engage differently

Depending on the confidence of the people in the group and how comfortable they are speaking out in large groups, opportunities should be created for people to express their opinions in different ways. For example, this might be by allowing people to talk in pairs, then a slightly larger group, then to the room; or adapting voting exercises so that people can vote on paper rather than raising their hands in a group. See Liberating structures for some ideas.

Avoid sessions turning into complaining shops

Facilitators are familiar with the challenge of ensuring a space doesn’t become a “complaining shop”. It is important within every workshop to give the group an opportunity to talk about solutions, so anticipating these solutions and bringing in relevant experts and case studies based on the community data gathered in the prepare phase will be important.

Highlight good practice

Use examples of good practice to highlight the art of the possible and inspire the group to think differently about how they could drive and benefit from change. Where possible, invite someone from another community to share an account of how they approached tackling a particular issue or developing a solution. Ideally find examples from neighbourhoods with similar demographics and contexts so that participants can “see themselves” in the example.

Orientate conversations towards action

The group should be supported to recognise that it is possible for things to change from the bottom up. This will be very important if the programme seeks to build community ownership of energy transition solutions. See amplify for more information about how to use the process to catalyse action.

Remember the basics

Make sure to factor in breaks for tea and coffee, and a decent lunch. Keeping the room at a comfortable temperature also has a big impact on peoples’ mood and productivity.

Think about how to harvest data

If this approach is being used with a focus on gaining neighbourhood-level data it will be important to use activities which enable data to be harvested. Participatory spatial mapping, an approach used throughout the workshops, is a particularly useful way of gathering qualitative neighbourhood-level data. 

This is a data dashboard which was used to present the data harvested for the neighbourhood profile and through the Sholver workshops.

Sometimes simple is best

Analogue data presentation, such as using printed maps, is more effective than trying to present data on a screen. Similarly, during Oldham Energy Futures, participants found it difficult to stay engaged through presentations using PowerPoint or similar. Use images, objects or short films as alternatives to screen-based presentations and data.

Try to go analogue where possible and, when gathering data, translate it onto a digital format such as Google Maps for future reference.

A “grand day out”

An inspirational site visit to a great community-led project relating to any of the workshop themes is a really good way to bring the group together, create trust and momentum and open peoples’ imaginations. Do this if the resource is available as it can be very impactful to change the setting of a workshop and expose the group to a different place. Make sure to factor in commitments such as school drop-offs, pick-ups and other requirements on peoples’ time to set leaving and returning times. This will influence the length and content of the workshop delivered on the day. 

It would also be beneficial to do this trip without incorporating a workshop.