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How Solihull's Environment Champions work with the council to transform their neighbourhoods

Change Management

Environment Champions was created by Solihull Council in 2007.  The council initially registered 63 individuals, from the existing Neighbourhood Watch Scheme, who it considered highly inclined be involved in the project. During its first year and a half the project was run by one Council member of staff as part of their existing duties and another part-time staff member.

The project success and potential was immediately evident to the community. This led to high levels of will for involvement. Due to its success, funding was sought and granted by the Council in November 2008 for a full time post and a small capital budget. The Environment Champions now forms part of the Neighbourhood Activity Programme that also delivers sports based intervention to tackle Anti-Social Behaviour among young people at hotspot locations across the borough.

This included:

  • health and safety training to ensure the safety of volunteers
  • clear and effective communication. It is easy for members of the community to highlight environmental problems or give ideas for projects. There is regular communication of the projects achievements through a quarterly newsletter. This provides an incentive to  volunteers and community partners by highlighting the value of the work they do;
  • clear targets for the recruitment of volunteers, affiliated organisations, and the number of projects to be completed. Some of these targets are now included in the Council’s Neighbourhood management divisions monthly performance reporting. Ensure these are promoted regularly;
  • the Environmental Champion coordinator, Trish Willetts, who provides a driving force behind the project.
  • a charter outlining ground rules for membership. These rules were put in place to protect the scheme and volunteers. The guidelines ensured that all of the initiative projects had the awareness and support of the co-ordinator. Projects have to be easy and non-invasive to other residents. Projects had to prove they were bringing benefits to the whole community, and are targeted in areas without the financial or physical capability to do the work without help. The project also maintains political neutrality. Projects proposed or led by political organisation will not be supported by the coordinator or other Neighbourhood staff.

Environment Champions engage in the following activities:

  • Litter picks 
  • Graffiti removal
  • Putting up dog fouling signs
  • Projects to improve the communities appearance (wall painting and planting schemes)
  •  Metal Marking Scheme
  • Conservation projects
  • Large scale projects

 

The project connects the following partners:

  • The Police
  • Community organisations (Parish Councils and ward member, charities, the Princes Trust, social enterprises, and resident groups).
  • 20 schools
  • 89 local businesses, such as small local companies, and larger national ones like the National Grid, and Barclays.
  • And the Council’s partner contractors (Amey).  

Despite the project’s success the council doesn’t want to rest on its laurels. The Council wants to:

  1. Create a number of ‘super-champions’ to supervise project and recruit more volunteers.
  2. Align the programme with local priorities and agenda’s i.e. Community Safety Focus on
  3. Large Scale projects with increased impact while maintaining quick wins i.e. assisting resident led litter picks
  4. Increase engagement with the community to build confidence and capacity to volunteer.
  5. Further encourage links between community groups.
  6. Improve the efficiency that projects are matched to business to support corporate social volunteering.
  7. Ensure Lean principles are adhered to ensure productivity and maximising ‘value for money’
  8. Work with the Council’s employer volunteer scheme
  9. Full time rental of a small van to allow officer to transport equipment, deliver and collect equipment.
Through supplying effective equipment and materials the initiative helped build community capacity
Without Council Help
With Council Help
About this case study
Main Contact

Alison Lush
Neighbourhood Manager

Email:
alilush@solihull.gov.uk
Telephone:
0121 704 8031

Chris Edgell
Environment Champion Coordinator

Email:
cedgell@solihull.gov.uk

This case study was written by Frankie Hine-Hughes in April 2011 and updated by Chris Edgell on 29 August 2013.

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