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

Outcomes

Since the projects creation, involvement with the local community has more than quadrupled with 360 champions working with the project. There have been over 600 projects in the community with Environmental Champions and partners being able to make many improvements to the community. The project has increased social cohesion and bolstered social capital within the Solihull Borough. 

Projects have helped to combat a culture of environmental crime that can result in more serious crime. One project revamped a problem shrub bed that local youth had previously used to hide drugs and as a toilet, with the surrounding walls covered in graffiti. The project involved local residents in an effort to build relationships in the area and show the benefits of effective partnership. As part of the project a Neighbourhood Watch group was set up. Environment Champions and the local police team worked in partnership to replace shrubs in the bed and paint over the graffiti. Sergeant Liam Dalton said:

“This project has not only created a safer and more pleasant environment for local residents but it shows the benefits of effective partnership working in the local community.”

 

Middleton Hall: Before
After

Another project rejuvenated a rundown community hall in an area with few community resources. 49 Champions both young and old participated in the project with the incentive of a celebratory tea party with the mayor. Due to a lack of funding the initiatives private and public partners sponsored the efforts by donating or offering reduced prices for supplies. The halls users co-designed the plans for the rejuvenation. The refurbishment means the hall can now be utilised better for community activities like a pensioner bingo club, a karate club, a dance troop, and a drop in centre for a range of activities. The project built cooperation and strong relationships amongst users, volunteers, the council, and private partners. It also made a saving of around £13,000. The project instilled pride in the community creating social capital and improved cohesion. The mayor highlighted the positive lessons of the project:

  "The reinvigorated building and improved facilities demonstrates what can be achieved by organisations working together in partnership with local people and communities."

Environmental Champion projects have sought to involve young people in the community. This enables their imagination and enthusiasm to be harnessed. Students’ ideas have been used for projects. One high profile example included a community garden exhibited at Gardeners World in the NEC. The project:

  • Used an ‘Alice in biodiversity land’ theme with many of its feature coming from recycled material. This served to inform students and the community of the importance of protecting biodiversity and the environment.
  • Enabled students and those in the Future Jobs Fund to gain skills and use the volunteering towards qualifications (such as the future jobs fund and Duke of Edinburgh Award) improving their employability. The involvement of these young people also provides clear role models to other youths who may be inclined towards anti-social behaviour.
  • Empowered the community residents by letting them feel they could make a difference and rewarded them with a high level of publicity
  • Created a legacy for the project with its features kept in the community library and a primary school.


Before
After

These pictures of environmental conservation projects speak for themselves in terms of positive environmental outcomes. The conservation projects also show how the coordinator has been able to provide support for ideas enabling residents to work as a efficient team carrying out work themselves. They have also created a strong social group, act as community role models and teach other residents about getting involved.

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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