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Climate action meets Manchester: learnings and expansion of 'In Our Nature'

By Alex Robinson 8th September, 2022

What would happen if we tried to support a whole city to take positive action in response to the climate emergency? That’s the question we set out to answer in 2020 when we began developing a new campaign called 'In Our Nature' in Manchester, working with the council as well as citizens and a wide range of local organisations. This week we’re sharing the results of our first year’s work.

We hoped that by focusing all our efforts on one city we could help to build the momentum, sense of connection and links between activities that could create real impact and local legacy and inspire other towns and cities to follow. Three-quarters of councils have declared a climate emergency, but are not always clear how to engage residents and communities. Citizen-led responses are springing up to fill the vacuum. Manchester, with its famously independent spirit and a target of being a zero-carbon city by 2038, seemed like the perfect place for us to lend a hand. The city has the fifth highest level of green deprivation in the country and initial research with the Manchester community revealed a real desire and need for local community gardens, growing spaces, and resources to connect people with nature. This became our starting point for building 'In Our Nature’.

One year of activity. What impact have we had?

'In Our Nature' includes a huge range of activity from multiple partners: Hubbub’s contribution has included supporting new urban greening projects, opening an immersive pop-up shop bringing nature into the heart of the contrasting shopping district, establishing community fridges, giving grant funding to local groups, and much more. The 'In Our Nature' brand promotes and ties together the activity on the ground, while the projects themselves demonstrate what climate action looks like and how people can get involved.

Evidence so far suggests we’re on the right track. We polled 1,000 residents to gauge their awareness of climate change issues, the reach of the campaign, and how they’ve changed their behaviours. Half of the residents feel part of a movement of people taking action on climate change in Manchester, and two out of five say they have seen or heard about 'In Our Nature' in the last year. Of those:

  • 57% say the campaign has helped them understand what role they can take to tackle climate change
  • 54% say the campaign’s projects and resources have inspired/encouraged them to take action to tackle climate change

The most popular actions people have been taking are cutting their food waste and using less energy – unsurprising during a cost-of-living crisis. What’s perhaps more interesting is that one in three have been speaking up at work and talking to friends about climate action.

What can other cities learn from our work in Manchester?

Here are three things that stand out:

  1. Meet people where they are, and lead with the benefits
    Not talking about climate change can be the best way to engage people in a climate change campaign. We’ve had most success leading with topics people are already interested in, such as saving money, football, and food. The environmental benefits can be served as a bonus. Look out for the results of Manchester is Green, our football and food campaign, next month.
  2. ‘Connecting with nature’ doesn’t always mean gardening and growing
    There’s no single ‘right’ way to relate to nature. For some it might mean playing football in the park. For others, painting a landscape or listening to spoken word. In the next phase of the programme we’ll be exploring various ways communities can feel connected to nature, such as through art or culture. We’ll also be working with the researchers at Chrysalis to explore the question: do nature-based community projects affect attitudes and behaviours relating to climate change?
  3. We all have a place in the system
    'In Our Nature' is a broad coalition, with everyone from the council to grassroots community groups playing their part. As newcomers to the city, we’ve been careful not to barge in, but to listen for where our skills are needed. We’ve learnt from our partners and stakeholders that Hubbub makes the biggest difference to them when we kickstart conversations, tell stories and connect the dots. By shining a spotlight on the amazing work across the city, we can contribute to a campaign bigger than the sum of its parts.

Phase 2: New Funding & Next Steps

We’re delighted that funding from The National Lottery Community Fund’s Climate Action Fund has been awarded to a coalition led by Manchester Climate Change Agency to support 'In Our Nature' over the next three years. Our role will be leading on communications and supporting project design and delivery. Further funding from Wates Family Enterprise Trust will also support our urban greening projects and the research mentioned above. The coalition is planning activities for the next three years, which will certainly include the following:

  1. Supporting residents with the cost of living
    In Our Nature will support residents to save money, showing how actions that are good for the planet can be good for our wallets, too. And we’ll continue to experiment with inclusive and accessible ways to communicate climate action.
  2. Expanding on our urban greening work
    We’ll ensure our current urban greening projects have a secure legacy and explore new ways for residents to connect with nature. We ‘ll connect with Manchester’s vibrant cultural scene, exploring new collaborations that offer different ways of connecting with nature.
  3. Creating a resource hub to share learnings
    Look out for a toolkit sharing the practical ways community groups can successfully engage people with nature and climate action.
  4. Building partnerships with wider Manchester organisations
    'In Our Nature' is all about building a movement of people taking action across the city. We want to expand its reach by collaborating with a range of organisations including faith groups, cultural institutions, sports clubs, festivals and events.

Funders

Thank you to all the funders and supporters of this project, including The National Lottery Community Action Fund, Wates Family Enterprise Trust, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation, Coca-Cola GB, Danone, SBF, the Co-op, and JCDecaux.

Partners

Also, a massive thank you to our local partners including: Manchester Climate Change Agency, Manchester City Council, Amity, Groundwork Greater Manchester, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change and Sow the City.To stay informed of other developments, collaborations, and opportunities at Hubbub, please sign up for our business e-bulletin.

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