As we pause to introduce ourselves to new colleagues, we are reminded of how diverse the range of activities are. But we needn’t worry, there is depth there too.
It has been an exciting few months at Green & Healthy Frome. We welcomed our new Project Manager, Becky, who takes over from Sue in the lead role at Edventure. Becky joins three other recent additions to the team, delivering our programme of health, climate and cost-of-living linked action.
It seems appropriate to pay tribute to Sue, who navigated us brilliantly through our development phase, while growing Future Shed into a vibrant network of community action (which she will continue to do!). The energy and insight Sue brought to the role was often inspirational, sometimes hilarious, and always supportive. Thanks, Sue.
Poppy (the youngest of the gang) has moved on to new challenges. She achieved much as our Storytelling and Comms Lead at Edventure, including coordinating our hugely successful Health and Climate Conference last year, producing five award-winning mini-films and our downloadable Green & Healthy toolkits.
As we say farewell to Poppy, we are happy to welcome Cami to the expanded Storytelling role for the next three years. Cami brings nearly 20 years of experience in marketing and communications, as well as a passion for the outdoors and wellbeing through nature connection (particularly through her own paddle boarding and wellbeing projects).
Meanwhile, we have been joined by Richard as Sustainability and Evaluation Lead at Frome Medical Practice; and Sally, our new Community Retrofit Lead at Frome Town Council. A qualified architect, Sally will head up an exciting new initiative for our programme, offering free Retrofit Home Energy Assessments to help identify efficiency measures that will improve health, save on bills and reduce carbon emissions.
At our first team meeting with new PM Becky, as we each introduced ourselves and explained our roles, we were reminded of the sheer breadth of the Green & Healthy Frome programme, which can sometimes be a little overwhelming even for seasoned team members.
I was reminded of the mapping exercise that I recently completed for consultants who are helping us to measure our Social Return on Investment (another new aspect of the programme, evidencing the social value of what we are doing, relative to the financial investment). As one of us observed, “most projects focus on one thing, we do everything”.
Indeed, at face value, the wide-ranging nature of initiatives that make up Green & Healthy Frome might give the impression of a project that is ‘spread too thinly’. However, beneath the glossy ambition and kudos of a lottery award, there is considerable depth to our achievements so far. As evaluation lead for the programme, it’s my role to show that depth.
For projects like ours, evaluation—monitoring and collecting data on participation and evidencing our impact—is now an essential requirement of grant funding applications. This importance is demonstrated by the expansion of the role at Green & Healthy Frome, from 2 to 8 days per week for the duration of the programme.
Instead of just crunching numbers on reduced carbon emissions and bill savings, this allows us to spend more time doing what researchers [rather pretentiously] call ‘being there’.
Rather than ‘hanging around’, this is a method of data collection that involves both participating and observing, having conversations with participants and organisers, and listening, bringing us a little closer to the experiences of those involved. By keeping a journal of these encounters, themes can then be identified to help tell a richer, more complete story of the changes that are experienced as a result of the project, beyond the numbers.
Making a Difference
For example, last week I joined Emma, who leads Cycle Together on a ride around town to see how she and the Frome Community Bike Project are helping people get cycling, save money, boost their health, reduce congestion and improve our air quality. The ‘Dr Bike’ repair stand they had set up on Selwood Road was fully booked for the day. Whilst there, I spoke to an enthusiastic Cycle Together participant, who said the scheme had made it possible to cycle to work in Devizes (20 miles away). I had another conversation with a volunteer who spoke of how valuable it was for them to be part of the project. Meanwhile, a generous resident came out to donate an ebike, and passing cyclists remarked how they “need one of those where we live”.
For a climate action project in a small market town, the Green & Healthy Frome programme is uniquely ambitious and broad in its scope. However, with time for this kind of qualitative evaluation comes depth of knowledge, and the ability to tell a more powerful story of how our actions benefit the community. And, with the wealth of talent, experience and passion now among our team, our network of partners, and within the community, the possibilities seem endless.
There are plenty of opportunities for those in and around Frome to get involved – from joining the e-bike loan scheme, booking a retrofit assessment, coming along to a Future Shed community initiative, signing up to our free Healthy Homes workshops or becoming a Green Community Connector to help raise awarness and spread the word about all the great health, climate and cost-of-living support available here in Frome.