Managing a community project



most of the information in this video is relevant to bigger projects with complex financial requirements income streams after installation maintenance and fuel contract issues and so on this could be something like a large district heating system wind turbine hydro plant or a solar project involving multiple installations or bulk by Arrangements you'll need to establish yourselves as a legally constituted group to achieve a project on this scale more information on which is available in another video in this resource for smaller projects like a single solar array or heat pump for a community center you probably won't need all of this and nor will you need to setup a legal structure it's more likely you can just work through whatever structure the community center already has but it's still worth thinking through the arrangements systematically meeting regularly and ensuring that you keep the relevant people in the know through email updates for larger projects though effective project management will be essential managing a community project is a collective endeavor and most people will be giving up their spare time to pursue it this doesn't mean that they shouldn't be professional about it one of the worst things you can do is to get involved and promise the earth when you simply don't at the time to devote to it the whole group needs to be realistic about two things in particular first their time no one to promise time they haven't got and no one should feel under pressure to do more stress levels will rise and resentment can bubble be realistic with your family about the time commitments getting a hydro project of the ground for example could require that you attend evening meetings and events and do paperwork in your spare time on and off for three years or more secondly strengths and weaknesses a large renewable energy project is likely to need a group who between them can summon up and dazzling communications saintly patience and the organizational skills of a military planner all of this won't be found in one person alone the person who has the bright idea of getting a project off the ground is not necessarily the best person to be media spokesperson for the project don't be possessive of the idea just because you came up with it in the same vein if you're the sort of person who finds bureaucracy frustrating then you probably shouldn't be the one who deals with the planning department at the council thinking through all of this from the outset means that you'll probably need to consider what skills you have and also what influence you have in your community so it's useful to carry out a sort of skills and influence audit this will help you work out if you need to try to get others involved to strengthen your abilities this will not only help you be more realistic about what you can do as a group but it will also help you clearly identify the gaps that you need to fill so start by thinking about your skills what do you each excel at who has written a business plan knowledge of renewable energy an understanding of the planning system fundraising experience bookkeeping an accounting experience a background of project finance experience of dealing with a media skill and running events and giving presentations the patience to organize and accurately record meetings the skills to facilitate public debates experience of door-to-door or face-to-face communication web design skills obviously some of the work you might do on a major renewable energy project will need the services of a paid consultant but managing any of it yourselves will help you cut costs you should list everything that everyone in the group thinks they have as a skill and then highlight those that you definitely need this should then get you thinking about what you can't do the early stages of your public consultation work will be very useful for asking interested people to come forward and volunteer if you realize Ariane that you lack skills in say managing media you can ask for them specifically at your events because you'll need to do considerable community consultation your networks of influence are also important so a similar assessment should be carried out are any of you linked with other interest groups Bowles Pub Quiz Tennis Club gardening club and so on are any of you elected members or parish councillors or do you have good relationships with any do any of you teach in the local school on the pub run the shop work in the GP surgery all of these things might open up avenues to speak to people informally about your plans and to gauge public interest or antipathy before you go public time spent discussing is useful but if your meetings are unstructured and not minuted then no actions will be signed and progress will be slow therefore you need to have an agenda and to stick to it or discussions can quickly wander whatever you discuss on the agenda get into the habit of not moving on to another topic until it has been agreed what action needs to be taken next by when and by whom try to get into the habit of always having your diary or access to an online calendar with you if extra meeting dates need to be set it should be done there and then wherever possible once you've been assigned some actions from a meeting it can be easy to be put off by seemingly huge tasks projects often stumble due to procrastination and procrastination is often a response to an overwhelmingly large task remember that all tasks however large are made up of simpler smaller actions without a series of simple small actions nothing would ever get done getting planning permission for a turbine is not an action it's a project in itself getting on the council website and finding the number of the Planning Department is an action phoning the Planning Department is another action arranging to meet the planner on-site is an action reporting back to the group what the planner said is also an action looked up this way everything is achievable and nothing really needs to be put off since nothing is overwhelming in itself it's a comforting and sensible way to view progress and gives you a list to take things off on which always feels good a regular meeting schedule is essential in the initial stages this may be as little as every four to six weeks and will probably involve the whole group but as the project progresses you're most likely need to establish some subgroups this will help to ensure that different tasks are being progressed simultaneously having subgroup meetings in the interim period with individuals from each group attending the main meetings will help to maintain an overview of what other subgroups have achieved the makeup of your subgroups might vary but consider including the following groups this group will need to look at a range of methods for raising finances for the early stages of your project the risk finance they will also help to negotiate the ongoing finances for the project once it gets planning permission this being the project finance this may mean getting involved in fundraising share issues and bank negotiations so finding volunteers locally with experience in any of these things would be really helpful to you to raise any sort of capital you will need to write a business plan in the early stages this doesn't need to be too detailed but you will need it for applying for funding you don't need to do this from scratch on your own there are a range of organizations who can help you with model documents you can use some of them will have development workers and we could make an appointment with or email documents to for them to check over business link is a government funded organization that operates nationally and has a series of regional offices that can support you cooperatives UK works in partnership with a range of other organisations who can support people wishing to set up a cooperative or another social enterprise the network covers most of England and Wales and can be accessed here raising money and managing money are not the same thing although there may be some crossover it's likely that you will need a separate group or at least an individual treasurer to keep on top of the day-to-day financial issues that any community group needs to deal with you will also need to manage and report on the long term accumulation of funds through fundraising split the tasks up meet regularly as sub groups and update the whole group on progress these might be the individuals who would deal with consultants installers and other experts you would probably also want to include planning in this group as well a large scale renewables project will attract lots of attention not only will they'll need to be a robust plant for public consultation but you most likely want to speak to the media and regular intervals once your project has planning permission you'll need to be prepared for lots of other community groups beating a path to your door to find out how you did it this is a big task and needs a dedicated team and a robust plan if you are doing this in your spare time you can't afford to be answering the phone all the time web pages can be very useful as long as you update them and they prevent you having to answer the same questions over and over again be clear why you are using a webpage to communicate as it can seem quite aloof if you don't provide any other kind of contact details a web page can also contain a contact form so that people can email you you can then manage expectations by making it clear that you will answer all inquiries within a certain time period within this group you may also want to appoint a main spokesperson for the project again be honest with yourselves about who this should be many projects have been undone by the poor communication skills of the original founder who struggles to let go it's also worth keeping people in the group on board by creating a set of key messages which allows everyone to sing from the same hymn sheet there are lots of web-based project management systems available and we have provided a list of some free and easy to use systems that you could make yourself most of them allow you to store files track to-do lists and provide a central place for forum messaging this can be a much more organized way of managing documents and tasks than emailing a large group group email is loaded with potential for error it can result in multiple versions of the same documents in circulation it can break down if someone forgets to include all recipients on an email and it can overload personal email boxes with large attachments using a centralized project management system means that everyone can keep track of what everyone else is doing and it provides an organized way to centrally store and record the work of subgroups it's easy to be so caught up in planning the project that you don't plan beyond the day of installation veterans of successful community renewables projects have been quoted as saying that they hadn't planned that actually managing the installation once it was established this kind of implications for costs and responsibilities other things you may need to plan for recruiting or contracting maintenance staff and understanding the health and safety implications and of owning and running an electricity generating installation once it becomes more clear whether your project is likely to be successful you might therefore want to establish another subgroup to plan for this operational phase good luck




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