Stoke Environment Partnership
A StEP in the Right Direction
Stoke St Gregory, Somerset, England
In 2020 the Parish Council convened the Forward Strategy Group (FSG) to advise on the steps necessary to inspire our community to create a greener future. Some scoping work was undertaken, and it was clear that there was support for this initiative. In the April 2021 Parish Council meeting, it was agreed that a new, independent, group would be created to take the project forward.
Having gained independence, members and supporters of the group decided to review its community role, objectives, scope of activities and means of effectively engaging with the community to utilise the broad range of existing interests and skills.
The FSG (Climate Action) was tasked with the responsibility of researching and co-ordinating ideas which would make a positive contribution to the reduction of carbon emissions in the village. This was to be supported with the use of a ‘Carbon Footprint Tool’. Opportunities were to be identified and forwarded to the Parish Council for consideration. Networking with other local parishes facing similar challenges was to be an important way of gathering ideas, collaborating on common projects and identifying best practise.
With independence from the Parish Council came the opportunity to consider the merits of broadening the remit so that a wider range of environment-based activities could be undertaken. It was thought that this would provide further opportunities for real community engagement – particularly with our younger members who have most to gain from this work.
It is thought that a revised objective of improving both individual and communal wellbeing whilst responsibly managing and reducing damage to our environment would provide these opportunities.
How can this objective be achieved?
The key to achieving this objective is enable true community involvement and engagement. But what does this mean in reality?
Everything we do, from the mundane to the extraordinary, affects our fellow citizens and the natural world around us. It is becoming increasingly important that we are prepared to think about our impact and how we can contribute to the creation of an environment where we can lead a safe and healthy life and look after the natural world at the same time. This may mean we adapt the way we do things and to think harder about how we can make positive change in both the short and long term.
Other important tools we can use is good communication and access to reputable information. The group will be focussed on good communication using all the tools available and respond quickly and accurately to the community’s ideas and concerns. Actively listening to the younger members of our community is especially important so that we can understand better their interests and concerns.
Having an easily accessible source of reliable information on environmental matters will be the basis of our actions. Where available, any information provided to the community will be supported by advice from reputable expert bodies.
Engagement and so-called ‘ownership’ of any projects we undertake will rely on the input of as many people as possible. Most of this input will be in support of a range of practical activities – particularly with our younger people. Simple, practical ways that educate and engage will help our community understand how our actions can make positive improvements to our wellbeing and environment.
Following the decision by the PC to make the group independent, a small group of enthusiastic people have been considering how best to coordinate the activities that will contribute to the objective.
Further work is necessary, but at this early stage the fledgling group is asking all members of our community to consider supporting this initiative by offering support and help. It is likely that a small coordination group will be formed and this will include a number of key roles, such as communications, research, activity management and liaison with other groups inside and outside the Parish.