Awareness raising events

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Awareness raising events can help to educate and inspire, giving people a better understanding of a cause, triggering action or stimulating new ideas. Such events can be valuable at all stages of a project, from the early phases of gauging local interest in developing a project, right through to when an established group or project wish to raise awareness as part of their outreach activities or to recruit new supporters.

Click on the ideas below for practical suggestions and detailed case studies.

Film screenings

Screening films is a great way to introduce a topic and inspire people who might want to get involved in a project. A film screening can be an event in itself, offering a chance to learn something new and meet people, or can form part of a broader event, involving workshops, speakers or an open meeting. Whatever the format, screening a film can inject a bit of fun and variety into an event. There are a number of films out there about climate change and other environmental issues, such as An Inconvenient Truth, The Age of Stupid and The End of Suburbia.


Points to consider include:


Knowing your audience. If possible, try to choose a film or frame your event so that it taps into local concerns, interests and priorities. Are there any topical local debates that your event could tie into, or are people in your community interested in particular aspects of energy transition, whether that be energy generation, food, transport or something else? The more relevant you make your event to the community, the more interest you are likely to receive.


Framing it positively. Film screenings about climate change and other environmental issues can make people feel overwhelmed by the scale of the challenge. It is therefore important to avoid the doom and gloom and to frame the event positively, with time for discussions about the issues and possible solutions, so people can feel engaged and supported. The choice of film can be key to setting the right tone, so make sure you choose carefully.


Inviting local speakers. When planning who you would like to attend, consider whether there are any speakers you could invite who could raise the profile of the event. Inviting a local councillor, well-known community activist or local expert to speak or to be involved in a panel discussion after the film screening can entice more people to attend, as well as helping to connect your project with useful people and organisations.


Encouraging interaction and participation. Your event will be more fun and engaging if people are encouraged to interact with each other. This could be through setting aside some time for discussions around the film or incorporating an informal socialising and networking session. Interactive activities can be particularly valuable at a film screening event to ensure the main messages get across and to make the experience more engaging and active.

Case Studies
Country: UK

Henley in Transition tried to maximise interactions and understanding of the key messages during their screening of An Inconvenient Truth by interspersing short sections of the film with small group discussions. They recommend inviting a range of local people to the event with different areas of expertise and perspectives on the issues, as this can help to stimulate more lively and creative discussions and enables opportunities to learn from different points of view.

Country: UK

Transition Town Totnes start their film screenings by inviting those attending to introduce themselves to the person sitting next to them and to explain what motivated them to come along to the event. After the film, everyone is invited to discuss their thoughts on the film with the person sitting on their other side. They have found this to be an enjoyable exercise that helps to build connections in the community.

Country: UK

Frack Free Upton ran a film screening of Gasland 2, following an energy company gaining planning permission to test for coal bed methane at a local site. This choice of film chimed with local concerns and worries that the test drilling could lead to future applications to carry out fracking. The event was organised as part of a wider programme of awareness raising events, including information evenings about fracking, and helped to generate interest in local community energy projects at Ashton Hayes.

Talks, debates and panel discussions

Talks, debates and panel discussions can be informative, inspiring, and sometimes controversial. Sustainability and energy transition are complex issues and there is a lot to gain from hearing different perspectives on the problems and possible solutions. Speaker events can give people the chance to be inspired, share ideas and question the experts.


Points to consider include:


Knowing your audience. As with film screenings, try to choose a topic or frame your event so that it taps into local concerns, interests and priorities. Are there any topical local debates that your event could tie into, or are people in your community interested in particular aspects of energy transition, whether that be energy generation, food, transport or something else? The more relevant you make your event to the community, the more interest you are likely to receive.


Choosing a speaker. Academics, government officials, local experts and community activists are all good options for speakers. If you are organising a debate or panel discussion, try inviting a mix of speakers to ensure a wide range of views are represented.


Engaging government. Inviting local councillors, MPs or local government officials working in areas related to the environment and planning to speak can lead to a lively and informative event. The presence of government officials involved with decision making could also potentially provide scope for the event to feed into or influence local policies and plans, or to open up opportunities for future partnerships. Government officials can also be a source of practical advice and guidance on local environmental issues and activities.


Framing it positively. As with film screenings, there is a risk that talks about climate change and other environmental issues are doom-laden. Try to find speakers who engage with the issues in a positive way, with a balance between debating problems and debating solutions. Allow time for guests to become involved with discussing the issues and possible solutions to help them to feel engaged and supported.


Encouraging interaction and participation. There is a risk that talks, debates and panel discussions end up being passive one-way events, with little chance for guests to become engaged or involved with the issues. Time should be set aside for question and answer sessions, a workshop component or networking to enable people to interact with each other and to feel part of the event.

Case Studies
Country: UK

Frodsham and Kingsley Transition Initiatives arranged a panel debate on renewable energy and fracking. Speakers included local academics and councillors, and featured a question and answer session and breakout activity, giving those attending the chance to engage directly with the speakers and to voice their concerns with local politicians.

Country: UK

Transition St Albans ran a joint event with the local Friends of the Earth group to share ideas about reducing household waste. They invited a local officer from St Albans Council to talk about recycling arrangements in the area to enable those who attended to hear about steps they could take from an expert.