Create a community hub

Think And Do (Camden)
It’s hard to explore new ideas and socialise – to discover how to lead lower carbon lifestyles and enjoy living sustainably – without a physical community space that can bring together the interests of people, places and prosperity. At the same time as we lack these spaces, there is sadly no shortage of boarded-up shops on many of our high streets.

Encouragingly, dozens of empty high street stores have already been taken over for use by local communities, as eco-centres.
These sustainability hubs are run by communities themselves and offer a range of activities that focus on both addressing the climate emergency and bringing people together. The offerings vary by hub and may include a zero-waste shop, co-working space for start-ups, repair café, swap shop, roof garden, library, event space and more.

The intelligent reuse of vacant infrastructure in our towns and cities is an exciting opportunity to revitalise often declining high streets with something other than retail shops. Vacancy rates are reduced where there is community ownership on a high street, according to charitable trust Power to Change. Typically, these community-owned spaces provide affordable, appropriate services and products for the community as they more nimbly meet shifting local demand than traditional high street occupants.

Camden was the first council in the UK to set up a Citizens' Assembly on the climate and ecological emergency and the Think & Do community hub was set up in response. Today, Think & Do Camden is just one example of over 40 groups around the UK currently running or setting up a climate emergency centre, with each hub a reflection of their local community and what matters most to them.

Acquiring a space can happen through private developers too. Any tenant is better than no tenant at all, and commercial owners of vacant premises have the option to reduce their business rates payments by up to 100% through leasing the property for community benefit to a not-for-profit or charitable organisation, such as a climate emergency centre.

Is your area deprived of a community space? Could an alliance of groups and individuals in the local community build better solutions, relationships and resilience in the face of the climate emergency and multiple social crises?
Talking Tree, Staines-Upon-Thames Talking Tree, Staines-Upon-Thames
Start something new…

Do you want to take immediate action? The Climate Emergency Centres (CEC) project has grown out of 30 years of grassroots environmental community centre projects, boosted in recent years by over 300 local councils declaring a climate emergency. Each centre is autonomous but interconnected with a broader network for sharing skills, resources and knowledge. The CEC handbook is a rich and evolving source of advice to get your community hub started.

Inspired by all the possibilities of a CEC? Check out more high-impact, low-carbon initiatives.

… or join an existing community project:

The Climate Emergency Centre Network lists over 40 hubs around England which are either established or in the process of setting up. These centres depend upon people to help them voluntarily at all stages - from planning and fundraising, right through to running an existing centre. You don’t need to be a sustainability expert to get involved - you’ll learn as you go. What is important are business, communication, and operational skills. Find out if there’s a hub near you. The Low Carbon Trust also lists a few eco-centres.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to be an expert in sustainability: a whole range of skills is needed to guarantee the success of projects like these and it’ll also be possible to learn as you go.

Other related community actions: Walk and cycle, Build homes better, Create a food partnership, Take flood action, Plant green infrastructure, Use less plastic, Repair instead of recycle, Plant trees

What do we mean by community action?
23 community actions