F&O District Council's Story
Due to COVID-19 restrictions in place at the time (May 2021) it was not possible to host the normal awards reception. The Chair and Vice Chair still wished to recognise the achievements of our young people and instead recorded a short video, with a message to the district's young people, available to view on the Council's YouTube channel.
Under normal circumstances, the Chair and Vice Chair would jointly present the young people with a small gift and a certificate acknowledging their achievements and their contribution to the life of the district. Since this was not possible in 2021, the Chair and Vice Chair decided to provide each school with a gift in keeping with the Council's commitment to a Climate Change Agenda to reduce our carbon emissions.
Individual letters from the Chair and Vice Chair were sent to each school, recognising the achievements of all the young people within the district through the health pandemic and directing people to view the message from the Chair and Vice Chair on the Council's YouTube channel. A packet of wildflower seeds was enclosed with the letter, for the school to plant within its grounds. The letter further advised that the Council will provide each school with a native tree sapling from mid-November 2021 to plant within school grounds. This will act as a living memento in recognition of the contribution made by the district's young people throughout the health pandemic.
Wildflower seeds have been distributed to 105 schools, while the native tree saplings will be distributed to schools from mid-November 2021 to tie in with planting season. Further communications will support this next phase of activity to raise awareness and understanding of local biodiversity and its importance.
Useful Learnings from F&O District Council
Ensure your project closely aligns with your organisation's overall aims and objectives. In this case, the project supported the Council's Corporate Plan, Outcome 6: 'Our outstanding and culturally rich environment is cherished, sustainably managed and appropriately accessible', and Action 23: 'Commit to a Climate Change Agenda which will reduce our carbon emissions'. The project also supported the Council's Values and the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.
Do your research and engage with the experts - in this case the Council's Biodiversity Team - to ensure sourcing of the most suitable seeds and native tree saplings to support the overall aim.
Establish your project team as early as possible, assigning roles to each person to ensure successful project delivery.
Let people know what you are doing. A communications campaign was developed to raise awareness of and to support the initiative among a number of key stakeholders including, for example, primary and post primary schools and local residents. This included a video recorded by the Council's Chair and Vice Chair recognising the achievements of young people within the district throughout the Covid-19 pandemic with seeds and tree saplings provided to primary and post primary schools to act as a living memento of a challenging time. A letter was issued to all 105+ school principals about the project, with a direct link to the video on the Council's YouTube channel, as well as a press release, and posts on the Council's social media channels.
Keep in touch. Keep in regular contact with colleagues to ensure your project is meeting key milestones and targets e.g. agreed timeframe, ordering of seeds and saplings, distribution of seeds and saplings, planting guidance and information.
The project is still ongoing. Seeds were distributed to schools in early summer while the native saplings will be distributed to schools from mid-November onwards to tie in with planting season. Consider lots of options and be prepared to change plans or make alternative arrangements if things don't always work out as planned.