Engaging with Communities

Places of worship can also encourage retrofit amongst their congregations as well as improve their own buildings.

Congregations and faith community members, as well as most Birmingham residents, are also facing escalating energy bills. 

As well as undertaking faith building energy assessments, Footsteps’ Project 4F has been working with the Act on Energy Warmer Homes programme to provide practical support for faith community members who are facing difficulties paying fuel bills and keeping warm.

Some key principles underlie engaging with congregations and communities.

Know your audience

It’s important that you understand who you are engaging with amongst your congregation in terms of what are their motivations and crucially, how able are they to engage in retrofit? This will depend on things factors like:

  • Whether or not they are in private rented sector, social housing, owner-occupier
  • Their levels of income

In the world of retrofit, there is a distinction between the “able to pay” households and the “grant funded” households.

  • Able to pay households are the people that tend to have the disposable levels of income and savings needed to pay for retrofit measures. They tend to be homeowners. If you’re engaging with able to pay households, it’s not whether they can afford the measures or not that may be a barrier to not retrofitting, but it’s more to do with what their motivations are.
  • Grant funded households are the people that do not have the income or savings required to retrofit their homes. Depending on a number of different factors including: level of income, health conditions, benefits, energy efficiency of home – they may be eligible to receive funding (either in whole or in part) for measures to be installed in their homes.

There is a challenge in that a lot of grant funded households live in the private or social rented sector and therefore don’t always have the permission to make changes to their home. They may be eligible for funding but would need the permission of their landlord to install any measures.


Marcela Gara / Resource Media

There are a number of different reasons as to why people may be motivated to retrofit their homes:

  • Reducing carbon emissions and doing their part to tackle climate change
  • Increased home comfort levels (reduced draughts, warmer temperatures in the winter, cooler temperatures in the summer…)
  • Reduced energy bills
  • Potential increase in value of the home
  • Improved health of residents (if there are issues of damp, mould and cold which can exacerbate health issues in vulnerable residents)

It’s important to ensure that your messaging is appealing to what your congregation care about (or multiple motivations since not everyone will be the same!).

Setting an example and peer-to-peer sharing

Research demonstrates people are more likely to act if they see others doing something. People more likely to listen to their friends, family and people they respect in the community. This is called “social learning” – where people learn from those similar to them who have done something already.

This approach has worked really well for encouraging retrofit – things like case studies from people who have done it to their own buildings/homes, “green open homes” events, webinars and events with peer speakers work really well.

Where can people go for advice / financial support?

As previously mentioned, there is funding available for some households who are eligible through the Local Authority Delivery Scheme (LADS). An energy advice organisation called Act on Energy are able to help eligible people access this funding.

Act on Energy are also able to advise for free anyone who is struggling with their energy bills and needs advice or support with this.