Training and Inspiration

Training and Inspiration


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Lack of knowledge is often identified as one of the key barriers to effective action on climate change. Amanda Smith looks at how our new Zero Carbon Britain training programme is helping to address this gap.

CAT’s Zero Carbon Britain training is designed to provide councils, communities and other organisations with the knowledge, confidence and skills to help achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Our training courses and workshops work alongside and are informed by the other aspects of the Zero Carbon Britain programme, using learnings from the resource hub and innovation labs to further develop our teaching. This allows us to quickly and effectively share new understandings and innovative solutions.

It works in the other direction too: thousands of people from hundreds of organisations will benefit from our training programmes, and the stories shared and the knowledge and contacts we gain can feed into the development of other areas of our work.

Word cloud from a Zero Carbon Britain course
A word cloud from a ‘Zero Carbon Britain: Live Online’ course shows ‘lack of knowledge’ to be one of the key barriers to net zero identified by participants.

Building on past successes

CAT had successfully run a Zero Carbon Britain course for a number of years prior to the development of our new Hub and Innovation Lab, with an in-person conference-style event offered at CAT twice a year, usually attracting 50-90 people per event.

The course typically provided an overview of CAT’s Zero Carbon Britain research and an opportunity to discuss and explore themes and case studies through workshops and seminars. Its interactive format provided extensive opportunities for networking and social contact with people interested in, or already working towards, net zero.

This was our starting point for the development of a new, expanded training programme as part of the new Zero Carbon Britain Hub and Innovation Lab. We wanted to build on the success and feedback received from the existing course whilst developing training to suit specific audiences.

In February 2020, as the Zero Carbon Britain Hub and Innovation Lab project started, we delivered our first training, face to face, when the North Wales Wildlife Trust came to CAT for a full day workshop to explore the findings of the Zero Carbon Britain report and use these to inform their climate action plan.

Then the pandemic struck.

Moving online

We had always planned to offer digital training as a development of the project, but now it was first on our list, and over the past year everything has been offered online.

We quickly converted our existing Zero Carbon Britain training to a digital format, offering our first online event in April 2020. The course, which ran over a day and a half, was attended by 93 participants and was a huge success, giving us a great starting point for our digital offer.

From the start, we wanted to build in as much interaction as possible and reproduce the networking and discussions that would have taken place on site at CAT.

The course is highly interactive and includes case studies, real life examples and peer learning with other participants, providing a platform to share ideas about the practical steps participants can take towards a zero carbon Britain. With time built in for reflection and action-planning sessions, participants have the opportunity to think about how they will use what they have heard during this intensive and immersive online learning experience.

We have now run seven of these online courses, reaching over 500 participants through this type of training alone and drawing in a range of people looking for a deeper understanding of CAT’s rigorously researched end-point vision for a net-zero society. Along the way, we have continually adapted and developed the content in response to feedback and based on our experience of running the course.

Specialist courses

In addition to the ‘Zero Carbon Britain: Live Online’ course, we are currently developing more specialist courses that will enrich the training offer by providing a more detailed exploration of the key themes from CAT’s Zero Carbon Britain research.

These can be targeted at specific audiences, for example councillors, senior managers and officers with responsibility for environment, finance, planning and sustainability, as well as those working on projects that have a direct relationship with carbon reductions.

We have just launched our first specialist one-day course on local energy solutions, aimed at community energy groups or smaller councils. On this course we explore the energy themes of the Zero Carbon Britain report and learn from the experience of others through case studies and stories. Expert input on stakeholder engagement and legal perspectives will provide a great overview of what you need to think about when setting up or managing such a project. We will use this model as we develop other themed courses.

Participants on our online Zero Carbon Britain course
Our ‘Zero Carbon Britain: Live Online’ course has reached over 500 people so far.

Bespoke training

We have also been developing a bespoke training offer with a ‘menu’ of options for local authorities and other key audiences. The bespoke training builds on the general Zero Carbon Britain training to look at sector-relevant detail and support for the organisations we are working with to identify next steps.

We have worked with community groups, education groups, wildlife organisations and councils in this way.

Through our bespoke offer, we deliver a range of levels of training – from a one-hour presentation through to a series of workshops. A route often chosen is to start with a one hour session for initial thinking and then have a longer workshop at a later date to get actions underway.

Train the trainer

Integral to the training offer is the development of a ‘train the trainer’ programme. Our train the trainer courses will be available from June, and we are working with local authority audiences for the first one. These courses will be offered as part of our published programme but are also available as a bespoke option.

We are delighted to be delivering this training through the Carbon Literacy Project, offering carbon literacy with a Zero Carbon Britain flavour! The key idea is that one or two people within an organisation or team are trained and accredited to deliver the training, they then share this training with others, using their expertise and sector-specific knowledge.

Accessible learning

Accelerating the switch to online learning has allowed us to reach participants who would otherwise have found it difficult to engage with our training, either due to location or circumstances. We have welcomed participants from Alabama, mainland Europe and all corners of the UK, and we’ve had feedback about how accessible this training is for those who would have found it difficult to travel to CAT.

We’ve also sought to widen the reach and accessibility of this training in other ways, for example through the offer of bursary places for those who might otherwise be unable to take part.

We do have plans to offer face-to-face training again in the future, but this will be alongside our online training and events.

Overcoming barriers to action

We regularly ask participants in our training programmes to share with us what they consider to be the top three barriers to reaching net zero. One phrase that comes up every time is lack of knowledge, and that is what we want to address with the training that we offer.

Our training is current and topical, continually developing and evolving as the findings of the innovation lab, online resource hub, policy, communications, knowledge and outreach work inform what we are doing.

We’d love to hear from you with any ideas you have about how we can develop our training to best support the work that you are doing. Get in touch at zcb@cat.org.uk and take a look at our upcoming courses.

About the author

Amanda is CAT’s Zero Carbon Britain Training Manager. She has over 20 years’ experience in teaching, school leadership, adult training and organisational improvement.

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