Carbon Conversations originated in work pioneered by Rosemary Randall, Andy Brown and Shilpa Shah during 2005-7 for the Akashi project and for the charity Cambridge Carbon Footprint. It arose from the conjunction of Rosemary’s work as a psychotherapist and her prior background in creating distance learning materials for the Open University. Aware that the factors that stop people engaging with difficult subjects like climate change tend to be psychological and social rather than practical, she set about creating a project that would help people past these defences rather than reinforce them. There is a long tradition in health and social work of ‘using groups to help people’, creating safe, non-judgmental spaces where people can explore a common problem and work out a personal solution. Rosemary brought this principle of using small, facilitated groups as the catalyst for change into environmental work. Aware also that carbon reduction is an area of confusion and misinformation for many people she drew on her prior background with the Open University’s Community Education team and Andy's expertise as an engineering consultant to create the attractive, participatory learning materials that are an important part of Carbon Conversation’s appeal.
The first, pilot groups were run in Cambridge in 2006-7 and the system of training and supporting volunteer facilitators was quickly developed. Carbon Conversations was nominated as ‘one of the 20 most promising solutions to climate change’ in 2009 for the Guardian’s Manchester Report (video here).
The programme is now used through-out the UK and a few places outside of the UK as well.
The Climate Outreach and Information Network (COIN) ran the programme in 2011 and 2012. The programme has now been handed over to The Surefoot Effect, a Community Interest Company, comprised of key users of Carbon Conversations who are keen to develop it and expand its reach. The Surefoot Effect equips people with the awareness, belief and confidence to take the next step towards sustainable, equitable living and working. COIN and Surefoot will continue to collaborate on programmes to raise awareness of effective action on climate change.
Carbon Conversations is now used by a growing network of organisations across the UK. Facilitators in these organisations use this website to keep in touch with each other and access online resources. They form part of a growing Carbon Conversations Community.
The Surefoot Effect is responsible for:
- Managing and developing Carbon Conversations across the UK and internationally
- Producing and distributing Carbon Conversations materials
- Training Carbon Conversations facilitators and designated trainers
- Organising gatherings of Carbon Conversations facilitators and user groups
- Quality control and evaluation of the programme
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