The Green Squirrel Project
A three year programme of community workshops
In 2018 we began our three year National Lottery funded Green Squirrel project with the aim to create a programme of affordable, friendly and informal workshops and events to make greener living achievable and enjoyable, and make Cardiff a more connected and sustainable place to live.
Over the course of three years we designed and delivered these practical workshops alongside our community, discovering what skills they wanted to develop and how we could support them to build on their learning, access further resources and scale up the impact of their planet positive lifestyle changes.
Our workshops included a wide range of topics led by both the Green Squirrel team and local tutors; from urban growing, bee keeping and natural dyeing to bike first aid, household repairs and sustainable fashion. In response to feedback from our participants we also developed a range of ‘Wasteless’ workshops, focussing on ways to rethink and reduce waste in the different areas of our homes and highlighting solutions that are practical and realistic. We hosted these workshops across Cardiff in independent venues such as local cafes, community gardens and halls, making them accessible and welcoming.
I knew I SHOULD know how to change a washer on a leaky tap but the opportunity to do it in a workshop, without judgement, with others who felt the same was really encouraging!
It was important to us that our workshops were affordable and inclusive, therefore we worked closely with a number of local organisations such as Cardiff People First and Vision 21 who support people with learning disabilities, Solas who support people recovering from alcohol and substance misuse and local housing associations supporting those on low incomes. As well as creating bespoke workshops for their groups we also offered free places at our public workshops and a buddy system for those that wanted the opportunity to attend our wider community sessions.
In addition to our regular workshops we also hosted a number of seasonal events and community suppers, allowing our community members to connect socially and share their own skills. Our spring seedling swap is always a highlight, attracting community growers, new and experienced from all across Cardiff, and our secret squirrel suppers have taken place in a converted garage, a polytunnel and even a skatepark.
When the Covid 19 pandemic began in March 2020 we were able to adapt this project and develop new ways to keep our community connected and learning together. We created video tutorials that could be followed at home, hosted virtual grow alongs, workshops and community catch ups and even worked with local community volunteers and organisations to deliver craft and growing kits.
“Thank you for a lovely few hours yesterday evening. It was a real treat to spend time with new faces and be inspired by others’ creativity.”
Christmas craft-along participant
What change did this project make?
- We’ve increased access to sustainable skills for local people, with more than 4,500 people taking part in our workshops and events over three years.
- We’ve created more opportunities for local people to co-design social and environmental projects.
- We’ve helped to connect more communities across Cardiff and beyond.
- 91% of our participants told us that they intend to use practical skills developed with us in their own lives.
- 87% told us that taking part has helped them speak with others about environmental topics.
- 72% went on to explore further ways to take action.
They have introduced me to so many other local people through various projects and everything they do is so well thought out, creative and fun, you can’t help but get involved.
What did we learn?
- Socialising, sharing ideas, and normalising lower impact ways of living were a key part of what made these workshops valuable to participants – as the programme progressed we built in more time in workshops, and added specific events, for chat and getting to know one another.
- There was a risk of focussing too narrowly on individual lifestyle change, and not providing context to bridge the gap between small personal changes and collective action. We adapted the workshop format as the programme went on to place greater emphasis on how individual action can create the conditions for wider social change.
- Everyone has something to teach – building mini community skill shares into events has helped us hear from a much wider range of voices.
Although the funded Green Squirrel project is coming to an end, it has hugely influenced our work – to the extent that we changed our organisation’s name from Green City Events to Green Squirrel!
All of the workshops developed for the programme as still available to book for your organisation – please get in touch using the form below if you’re interested. We can deliver both physical workshops in the Cardiff, Vale and Valleys area and virtual workshops across the UK.
Learning from this project has led to the development of The Something Club, developed with support from the Fore Trust, to support individuals to understand what environmental action means for them.
It was a brilliant balance of useful information presented by two very informed individuals in a friendly and accessible way and the practical 'have a go; activities made the achievement of a better way of living really attainable. I think your approach to using participative methods that enabled peer to peer learning was expertly pitched.
This project was funded by the National Lottery Community Fund – we are very grateful to them for making this project possible, and for their flexibility and support during the pandemic.
We’re also grateful for the support of our brilliant tutors, volunteers, and venues, particularly the team at Little Man Coffee who have been consistently wonderful to work with, and very accommodating of us bringing weird stuff into their space…