How can city-wide collaboration inspire climate action?

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How can city-wide collaboration inspire climate action?

By Gavin Ellis 18th November, 2021

COP26 has shown the challenges of getting agreement from countries to adequately respond to the scale of the climate crisis we’re facing. To avoid the worst effects of climate change we need rapid, ambitious and joined-up action from all sections of society.

Can this be more easily achieved at a city-level? That’s what we’re testing with the yearlong project, In Our Nature, in Manchester. Working with a broad range of local and national partners to inform, support and amplify the project, we aim to identify the most effective ways to engage residents and communities in climate action.

Now six months into the campaign, what have we learned so far about city wide collaboration?

  1. Build cross-sector coalitions
    In any city there are a multitude of organisations across different sectors striving to achieve the same aim of reducing carbon emissions and, for change to happen, they need to work together in a spirit of openness. In Manchester we’re lucky to be partnered with brilliant organisations including Manchester City Council, Manchester Climate Change Agency, Tyndall Centre, the Co-Op, Sow the City and the Manchester Climate Change Partnership, which includes the arts and culture sector, universities, housing providers, faith institutions and football clubs.

    To ensure subject expertise, reach and genuine community engagement we’re also working with a vast and growing number of local collaborators - charities, community groups, experts and academics. Convening these partners is time-consuming but it’s a critical part of the process.
  2. Amplify the voice o communities
    We have involved residents and local stakeholders throughout, to ensure the project is locally relevant and responds to genuine community needs.

    As well as using conventional routes such as surveys and focus groups, we’ve also used creativity and strong design to grab people’s attention and inspire them to get involved and share their views. For example, we partnered with a local design studio to create an interactive and accessible to all ‘Sensory Structure’ in Moss Side which asked residents what they wanted to see, hear, taste, smell and touch as we make the city greener, with more than 2,730 votes recorded.
  3. Embrace unusual collaborators and activations
    We’ve actively been looking for interesting and unusual collaborations which will help us to reach a wider audience beyond the ‘usual suspects’. We’ve partnered with local sound artist Jason Singh, who transforms biodata from local trees into musical notes, and young people from spoken word collective Young Identity talking about their relationship to nature – forging a musical collaboration between the voices of local young people and local nature.

    We’ve also worked with highly regarded Manchester-based street artist Akse P19 to create a nature-inspired mural at a Moss Side community centre.
  4. Seek out the hyper-local partners
    Recent Hubbub polling revealed that 2 in 3 of us are concerned with the impact of climate change, yet only 1 in 5 know what action we can take to reduce our impact.

    To give people the tools they need to get started, we launched a city-wide communications campaign sharing practical tips, hacks and inspiration including ‘How-to’ videos and infographics. We’ve teamed up with over 20 local groups, projects, and influencers to create Manchester-specific content, showing what’s possible and inspiring people to get involved in local initiatives.

    It hasn’t all been online; we’ve also found that physical materials for community centres, libraries, GP surgeries, places of worship and community groups are both necessary and effective for reaching new audiences.

    These hyper-local and targeted communications can have an enormous impact in inspiring others, as they allow local people to see others like them making a change.
  5. Build media partnerships

    Building strong connections with local media is essential to increase the reach of the campaign.

    Since the project was first announced we have run four high profile PR campaigns, securing 26 pieces of coverage, with opportunities to see/hear of +23 million. Coverage has included Sky News, BBC Radio Manchester, BBC North West, CBS News, Manchester Evening News and more.

Since the project was first announced we have run four high profile PR campaigns, securing 26 pieces of coverage, with opportunities to see/hear of +23 million. Coverage has included Sky News, BBC Radio Manchester, BBC North West, CBS News, Manchester Evening News and more.

What's next?

In the coming months we’ll continue to work with local partners, groups and stakeholders to ensure our messaging and approach is inclusive and relevant to as wide an audience as possible across Manchester.

We want to create a campaign that will leave a genuine legacy for the city, as well as providing inspiration for any of the 290 UK local authorities who have declared a Climate Emergency and are seeking positive and impactful ways to engage local residents and communities.

Thank you to our generous funders who made all of this possible - the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation, the Wates Family Enterprise Trust, as well as our coalition of corporate partners including the Co-op, Suntory Beverage and Food GB&I, Danone UK & Ireland, JCDecaux, Coca-Cola GB and Tetra Pak.