Social events

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It is important for community projects to have a fun and social element. Not only can this help to engage those within the community who may be less interested in the technical or practical side of the project, but it is also important for morale and team building within the group.

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

Food and drink

Food and drink are a successful tried and tested way to bring people together. Holding an event which involves a meal can also help to engage time-pressed individuals – they have to eat after all!

Potlucks. A potluck or bring-and-share meal, where each guest contributes a dish, is a great format for an event in itself, or to provide food and drink for a broader event. This kind of event is cheap to run, and as everyone gives, receives and shares what is on offer, it can help to create a feeling of togetherness.

Micro-financing 'soups'. Micro-financing 'soups' are a fun and easy way to raise small amounts of money for local community projects. The basic premise is that food and drink are donated to be served to guests, and those attending on the day pay a donation to receive food, drink and a vote for their favourite community project. Ideas for community projects, either new or existing, are submitted in advance and a short presentation is delivered during the event by an advocate for each idea. Guests then vote, and the project that gains the highest number of votes receives the money raised.

Pub trips. Weekly pub meet ups or ‘green’ drinks are a common activity for lots of community groups. Pub trips are an easy and informal way to bring together like-minded people who might also be interested in finding out about or getting involved with your project.

Picnics. Picnics are another easy and informal way to engage people in the summer months. Pick a picturesque spot, and perhaps combine it with a walk or other outdoor activity. Added extras, such as picnic blankets, a marquee, outdoor games or bunting, can all make it feel that little bit more special.

Case Studies
Country: UK

Low Carbon Oxford North organised a low carbon picnic by the River Thames. The group provided English sparkling wine and local apple juice, and secured some low carbon snacks courtesy of a local small business, Learning for Good. Those attending were asked to contribute a small contribution of food or drink, and were encouraged to bring a swimming costume or shoes suitable for paddling in the river. The event was run as part of Low Carbon Oxford Week.

Country: UK

Southend Soup is a community micro-finance project based on an initiative founded by Detroit Soup in the US. Every few months they invite people to submit Good Ideas via their website, and publicise the invitation through their Facebook page and community network by word-of-mouth. On the day, those attending pay a minimum of £3 to buy soup, a roll, a drink, and a vote. People with Good Ideas have five minutes (with a short time afterwards for questions) to talk about what they want to do and how they would use the money. Everyone in the room votes for the idea they want to see happen and the idea with the most votes wins the money raised. Past winning ideas have included Southend in Transition’s community allotment project, Christmas presents for those receiving support from the local foodbank and an emergency mental wellbeing therapy service.

Parties and festivals

Everyone enjoys a party! Whether or not you have anything in particular to celebrate, organising a party or festival can be a really positive and energising way to engage people.

Street parties. Streets are often a level at which people feel a sense of community, or feel there is scope for a sense of community. Neighbours within a street normally recognise and bump into each other more frequently and have more shared interests compared with those across a larger area. Newcomers may feel it is therefore less daunting and worth investing the time (as well as more convenient!) to get involved with a party at this scale. After all, everyone wants to get along with their neighbours.

A street party can be anything you want it to be, and it needn’t take a lot of time and money to organise. Inviting people in itself can provide a great opportunity to engage with people and to start building new connections and relationships. Try to engage the whole street and provide extra encouragement for those who may be harder to reach, such as the elderly – inviting people face-to-face and having activities for all ages can help with this.

If you are considering a big party, it is worth contacting your local council to find out if you need permission and to request a road closure. Permission may also be required if you are planning a party in a park – it is always worth checking. Smaller street parties in front or back gardens, driveways or parking areas (and sometimes at the end of cul-de-sacs) are not likely to require permission. Visit for more ideas, guidance and tips.

Festivals and fetes. If you are feeling more ambitious, a festival can be a great way to reach a lot of people. A festival can provide an opportunity to appeal to a range of different interests, from music, art and crafts, to food and drink - the trick is to have a coherent theme or branding to bring it all together.

Festivals can take a lot of planning, starting a long way in advance. You will need to formulate a festival programme, invite speakers and acts, manage the logistics and develop a marketing strategy. Community contacts are likely to come in handy here, so ask around. Publicising the festival will be just as key as planning the programme – if few people know it is happening, few will attend. Securing a strong headline act or speaker, while not a necessity, can be a big boost for promotion of the event.

To reduce the burden on your group, it is well worth working in partnership with other community groups, universities or your local council. You may also be able to get sponsorship from local businesses, a venue in-kind or at a discounted rate, or grant funding.

House parties. House parties can be another great way to bring neighbours together.

Case Studies
Country: Netherlands

Loenen Energie Neutraal (Loenen Energy Neutral) organised an energy festival in order to inspire the community of the village of Loenen, with a particular emphasis on involving local children with saving energy. One of the activities at the festival was an award for the children with the best energy saving idea. The whole day was devoted to energy projects in the village and finished with a party in the cultural centre of Loenen. The involvement of the children and wider community in the energy projects resulted in more support and knowledge about the positive dynamic of the projects. Read more about Loenen Energie Neutraal here.

Country: UK

Sustainable Kirtlington held a Footprint Fair to raise money to install energy efficiency measures in the village hall. The event involved a dog show, pony rides, quizzes, games, a raffle, demonstrations of local crafts, an art exhibition, plant, produce and cake stalls, a swap shop and a fancy dress competition. The activities were designed to include traditional village fete attractions, but with a green twist to raise awareness about climate change. They successfully raised £500 to put towards improving the energy efficiency of the village hall.

Country: UK

Transition Leicester initiated the founding of Leicester’s Green Light Festival, an annual one-day celebration of sustainable living. The event features over 40 interactive stalls, 20 expert talks and practical workshops, in addition to an art exhibition, live music, local food and helpful tips on how to live more sustainably. The event showcases a full range of local environmental community projects, and aims to inspire action at home, in businesses and within communities. The inaugural Green Light Festival was planned by a core group of 6 people, supported by 25 volunteers. The planning took 4 months and the event cost approximately £3,000, with grant funding provided by a Climate Friendly Communities grant, Groundwork’s LIFE fund and Leicester City Council.

Country: UK

Transition Town Poole considers engaging with neighbours as vital for building community spirit and conviviality. In 2010, members of the group initiated 3 street parties as part of the Eden Project’s The Big Lunch event, which aims to bring neighbours together every year on the first Sunday of June. Over 60 people participated across the full age range, including lots of new faces who hadn't previously been involved with the project. The group have promoted these events to happen in gardens, parks, beaches and streets on any scale as often as possible. They see this as a key way of building trust, connections and friendships to enable more working together and sharing of resources.

Outdoor activities

Outdoor activities can be a lot of fun, weather permitting! This kind of event can be great for engaging children and families and those who may be less interested in the technical aspects of your project. They are likely to attract people whose values align with those of your group, given that sustainable energy projects invariably contribute to safeguarding the natural world. Getting outdoors is also a healthy way to let off steam, to build team spirit and to take a breather from the pressures of managing a project.

Below are a few ideas and examples of different types of outdoor activities:

Walks. Walks are a cheap, fun and easy activity to organise. All you need is some comfortable shoes, a pleasant footpath, a packed lunch and hopefully some sunshine!

Camping. For those with an adventurous side, why not consider arranging a camping event? A camping event will best suit those groups who have access to a piece of land as part of their project, although other local community venues or a nearby camping site are possible alternatives. Incorporating workshops, practical tasks or other interactive activities can be a great way to make it engaging and closely aligned with your project.

Picnics. See the Food and drink suggestions.

Case Studies
Country: UK

Canalside Community Food organise camping events on the land they lease to run their Community Supported Agriculture initiative. They hold a camping weekend every September during their potato harvest, during which they encourage large numbers of their members to help bring in the harvest and to celebrate the growing season. The camping weekends involve a range of different land-based and craft activities and a tasty harvest supper, as well as music and stories around the campfire or film showings in the evenings. The harvest supper is usually attended by about forty people of all ages, representing around one fifth of their total membership.

Country: UK

Hampshire Energy’s fundraising walk offered the opportunity to meet people involved with the project whilst raising money for the cooperative. A choice of circular routes was offered, of 4, 7 and 9 miles in length, all starting from the same meeting point. The cost of participating was set at £8, and this included a drink and BBQ. Participants were encouraged to get their friends and family to sponsor them, and those who couldn’t make it or didn’t fancy it were invited to sponsor the team online via their BT donate page – they had an ambitious target to raise £1000!