Local events

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Local events are likely to be your primary avenue for face-to-face engagement. Having a stand or giving a presentation at events such as local fairs, festivals, farmers’ markets and other community events can enable you to engage with people who may not otherwise come into contact with your group, extending your reach into the community. This can allow you to engage with new and different audiences without having to invest the time, energy and resources involved with running your own event.

Information and resources. Be prepared and take a range of written material with you for people who might want to read more about your cause, group or projects. This could include a flyer about your group, with details of where to find more information and how to get involved, case studies from your project, or tips or guides for actions people can take.

Make stands interactive. While written material is useful, having an interactive element will make you stand out and more memorable. Hands-on activities, competitions or samples that can be tested or taken away will make a stall look more active and spark people’s curiosity. It is possible to hire equipment from various suppliers, such as a cycle powered smoothie makers – check out what is available locally to liven up your stall. If you have limited resources, simply having an area for people to write down and display their ideas or hopes for a sustainable future can be enough to get people interested.

Presentation of stands. How you and your stall are presented will affect who is and how many people are drawn to your stall. Banners or posters can attract attention, and a big smile and welcoming body language will encourage people to talk to you. Try to ensure you have a mixture of people of different ages, genders and backgrounds on your stall to avoid looking like you are representing a certain section of the community, but instead are a group for everyone.

Talks. Try contacting other local community groups, NGOs or residential organisations to ask if they would like a talk from your group. It is likely that they will be happy to hear from you and can enable you to access new and different audiences who could become supporters of your project. Sometimes this can seem like hard work, but it can pay off in unexpected ways.

Collect contact details. Have a means for people you meet to stay in touch if they are interested in your project. A sign-up sheet for your mailing list is a great start.

Case Studies
Country: UK

Sustainable Wantage held a stall at the local Dickensian evening during the Christmas period. They found that having demo mini solar panels and insulation made out of plastic bottles were good talking points, alongside a game: people had to pay money – they hid £5 in the occasional low energy light bulb box, got people to pay £1 and pick a box. This worked really well; it got people to the stall and they then were more likely to engage and look at other materials.

Country: UK

Sustainable Charlbury try to have a presence at all the regular events in Charlbury such as the Farmers' Market, Riverside Festival and the Beer Festival. At the Beer Festival in 2013, they ran a competition for people to guess the top temperature that would be reached by a solar panel during the course of the day. Their first entrant was David Cameron MP, who actually guessed most accurately!

Country: UK

Brighton Energy Co-operative emailed many local organisations and offered to give a presentation about their community owned solar PV project. Often groups were receptive: the idea of something new, local and progressive is an innovative addition to a list of meetings and events. Over the course of a year or so this became a vital avenue for building local support, even in instances where it felt like futile hard work. One presentation was given at a meeting at which five people attended. Two nodded off during the slideshow. Two years later, however, the three who stayed awake that night invested £45,000 into the project. You just never know!

Source: Community-Led Photovoltaic Initiatives action pack