How can rural communities lead the transition to net zero?

Warwick and Stratford Local Climate Engagement Project Group
Forum for the Future, Warwick District Council, Stratford District Council, Warwickshire and the West Midlands Association of Local Councils
One year

How the UK meets its climate targets will affect all of our lives. These changes could bring significant benefits to communities. And that's most likely to happen where communities can shape the future of their area themselves.

Together with Forum for the Future we have delivered Local Just Transitions pilot projects in two local areas. The second of those was Warwick and Stratford (following the first pilot, Our Zero Selby). The Warwick and Stratford project was also part of our Local Climate Engagement Programme. 

About Warwick and Stratford

Warwick and Stratford District Councils and the Warwickshire and the West Midlands Association of Local Councils (WALC) worked with Involve as a successful applicant to the LCE programme project group. They were aware that they hear more from their urban communities, while the hopes, aspirations, barriers and support needs towards a just transition in their rural communities was less well sighted.  They additionally acknowledged that rural communities face specific challenges and opportunities as they respond to climate change, so need specific support to enable a place-based, just, rural transition. They therefore developed an ambition to create a self-sustaining rural climate engagement infrastructure with dual aims; 

  • To support the development of community-led rural visioning and action, and
  • To enhance the District Councils’ understanding of rural climate issues to inform their climate change action planning and provide support that enables rural community led climate futures to thrive.

Rural community engagement projects demand partnership working in order to maximise reach across dispersed rural communities. In addition to the partnership of two District Councils and the Warwickshire ALC, a Steering Group was formed with diverse representation to ensure that the engagement infrastructure was developed with a multi-dimensional, and contextualised, understanding of the practicalities and issues within rural South Warwickshire communities. The Steering Group included representation from both district councils including officers and elected members, WALC, rural parish clerks, rural community climate groups, the County Council, and Involve.

The project had the following stages:

  1. Delivery of Local Climate Engagement Training to 24 district council officers, councillors, local council clerks, rural climate community group representatives, and WALC.
  2. Development phase; this included two elements. One was the creation of a Steering Group after the training which met regularly to oversee and guide programme development.
    The second was a development and community mapping exercise working with Forum for the Future. This exercise engaged 48 rural town and parish councils, making them aware of the programme development and developing a database of rural community climate groups and assets of relevance. The outcome of the development phase was the formation of the South Warwickshire Climate Engagement (SWCE) programme and the database continues to grow.
  3. Pilot event planning. Involve supported three shadowing groups to develop local climate engagement events in rural communities, as pilots for the programme. We worked in collaboration with the district councils, WALC, representatives of the local town or parish council, and local volunteers.
  4. Pilot event delivery. We supported the delivery of three engagement events in the communities of Alcester, Henley in Arden, and Marston Sicca. Each event had a different approach and each pilot community had a different context as either a local hub for rural areas, or a small rural community.
  5. Showcase and resource creation. Following the community led events we ran an online showcase event attended by 34 rural town and parish council clerks and councillors. The event introduced the role out of the South Warwickshire Climate Engagement programme, and the pilot communities involved shared their learning on the design, delivery, and outcomes of the events including how they have enabled community led climate action. Parishes were given information on how to access support of the programme in the future. Involve have generated a set of resources for the ongoing South Warwickshire Climate Engagement team to support their continued delivery. 

Pilot Events

In Alcester we delivered a Climate Cafe because the Town Council wanted to engage the community in a way that gave participants time to consider their hopes for the future and develop collaborative ideas to realise this, working these into actionable project or initiative plans.

This future visioning and idea generation workshop was attended by a mix of residents, Alcester Town Councillors, and councillors from a neighbouring rural parish. We developed and tested a set of guided worksheets that could be replicated for visioning and idea generation which participants used to develop contextually relevant ideas on biodiversity, flood mitigation, waste and recycling, and sustainable transport. 

Biodiversity projects are being taken forward locally as a result of the ideas generated at the event.


In Henley in Arden we delivered a one day Pop Up Stand because the parish council wanted to understand public priorities for their climate project ideas, the local climate group sought new members and new ideas, and the District Council wanted to understand the support needs of the community to enable them to achieve their ideas.

We held an event opposite the local shop. We engaged over 100 members of the public throughout the day through a variety of activities including:

  • Dot voting - people were invited to vote on local project ideas that the parish council and local climate action group have been considering. The results of this activity gave legitimacy to projects which the parish council have since taken forward.
  • Idea generation map - a map of Henley in Arden for members of the community to add their ideas for what they think is needed for a sustainable future in the community. These ideas have been taken by the local climate action group for future planning.
  • Barrier and support need identification - capturing the current barriers to ideas being realised and the support needed by the community to enable them. The results of these activities have been analysed by the District Council to support climate change action planning.


In Marston Sicca we delivered a Pop Up Stand because this small community was hosting a green community event which provided a good opportunity for the District Councils to better understand the aspirations of smaller rural communities.

We engaged 26 members of the public through two activities:

  • The dotty game -which asked for residents' views on engagement and how important nature is to them. This helped draw people in the stand as well as providing insight into what is important to local people.
  • My brilliant future game - participants were invited to choose 7 cards from a deck; 5 things they want more of and 2 things they want less of.  The cards contain a range of things that the local councils can influence, encourage or support. 


The results of these activities have been analysed by the District Council to support climate change action planning.

“The two Councils have gained some valuable insights into climate engagement by taking part in the LCE programme.  From the training, through the shared planning, to holding a variety of engagement events, we have been able to learn about the opportunities and pitfalls and have successfully applied this learning for the benefits of our communities and the Councils.  In particular we have valued the input of Involve who have shared their knowledge and experience with us and have kept us focused on our twin aims of galvanising local action and informing the Councils’ climate change plans”

Dave Barber, Programme Director for Climate Change at Warwick