SSEN funding and assistance helps keep ‘Communities Prepared’ across Dorset and Wiltshire

Through SSEN’s Resilient Communities Fund (RCF), over £30,000 has been awarded to Groundwork South to deliver Communities Prepared to communities within a two-year period, working with volunteer groups to build community resilience to floods and other severe weather emergencies; a priority in the context of climate emergency. In-person training, a first-of-its-kind online resilience hub and an advice line are all features of the support package on offer to communities, with resources designed to be adaptable across multiple emergencies, including snow, fire and utilities failure.

Groundwork South is a not-for-profit organisation supporting communities and working with a range of partners to create social, economic and environmental improvements by enabling both communities and individuals across the south of England to make positive changes to their lives and neighbourhoods. Communities Prepared is one of its flagship projects, providing people around the country with the knowledge and tools to effectively prepare for, respond to and recover from, severe weather emergencies, while strengthening working relationships with the emergency services and other key local stakeholders.

Across Dorset and Wiltshire, the programme has identified fifteen communities with a combined population of over 81,000, who will be invited to take part in locally held workshops; there they will be introduced to the project, given an outline of the training on offer and the opportunity to network and share experiences. Presentations from key agencies and discussions on community resilience to floods and severe weather emergencies, volunteering opportunities and the support on offer from Communities Prepared will be part of the workshops, with coordinators and members of existing local flood warden, community emergency volunteer groups, community representatives from the surrounding parishes and emergency professionals in attendance.

Based on interest from coordinators, Communities Prepared will then run training sessions for individual groups, tailored to their needs and priorities. These will offer a choice of modules, covering a range of issues including flooding, snow, fire and utility failure, delivered with support from the Environment Agency and local Cat 1 and 2 responders.  The programme will also support groups in developing and testing their community emergency plans, and offer guidance on other issues such as fundraising, communications, risk assessments and insurance as required; this will be complemented by an online community resilience hub, offering free resources and advice.

The first workshop has already been delivered in Marlborough Town Hall, where SSEN’s Customer and Community Advisor, Helen Vass spoke to the attendees about SSEN’s ongoing work with local parish councils and community groups. She said:

“We were delighted to take part in this first workshop of many that aims to improve the resilience of local communities. SSEN has well established links with local organisations and parish councils, so to be able to bring those relationships and knowledge to other groups and locals residents helps us all to build stronger communities.”

Imogen Smith, a Senior Project Officer for Communities Prepared, helped organise the Marlborough workshop. She said:

“It was great to see so many community representatives and partners at our first SSEN funded event and such enthusiasm for community resilience. We look forward to rolling out our training and support to community volunteer groups across Wiltshire and Dorset over the next two years and thank SSEN for making this possible.”

In its latest round of annual grants – distributed in autumn 2019 – SSEN’s Resilient Communities Fund (RCF) has awarded over £185,000 to the successful applicants across its south network area. 

This most recent round of funding is the first where support has been extended to projects which achieve one of the following criteria:    

  • Vulnerability – to protect the welfare of vulnerable community members through enhancing their resilience and improving community participation and effectiveness.
  • Resilience for Emergency Events – to enhance community facilities, services and communication specifically to support the local response in the event of a significant emergency event.

In addition to the Resilient Communities Fund, SSEN has been working closely with local communities in the south east of England, helping them create resilience plans for emergencies, such as adverse weather and possible power disruption during winter storms. SSEN’s Resilient Communities Fund will re-open for applications in the spring of 2020. Guidelines and applications forms are available on SSEN’s website: www.ssen.co.uk/RCF/England/ with a full report on the fund available here – https://www.ssen.co.uk/RCF/.

Set up in 2014 as a two-year pilot scheme, SSEN has pledged to extend the fund to 2023 using a proportion of the income it receives from the industry regulator Ofgem in relation to its stakeholder engagement performance.

Scottish & Southern Electricity Networks

Communities Prepared provides training and support for volunteer groups on fundraising, which includes guidance on writing and submitting funding applications. For more information, please contact us. To download our introduction to community fundraising, please register here.

Building community resilience to climate change: insights from the social psychology of groups

In our work we apply principles from the social psychological theory of groups to identify the elements that can make communities respond and recover more effectively from disasters. The key term here is ‘shared social identity’, which refers to people’s sense of belonging in the same social group. Social groups play a key role in disasters. During disasters people spontaneously form groups and provide each other practical and emotional support. In social psychological terms, it appears that residents come to share a social identity, which is the basis of what has been termed as ‘collective psychosocial resilience’. This refers to ‘the way that a shared identity allows groups of survivors to express and expect solidarity and cohesion, and thereby to coordinate and draw upon collective sources of support’ (Drury et al., 2019, p.1). This approach is aligned with what is now termed the ‘social cure’ – the notion that groups can positively affect wellbeing by providing their members with a sense of belonging and social support. Since groups that spontaneously appear in disasters can play a key role in mobilising social support and enhancing community resilience, two key questions emerge – how do such groups emerge and how do they evolve in the post-disaster period?

In relation to their emergence, we conducted interviews with residents of York, UK, shortly after the 2015 flooding. We found that residents came to experience a shared social identity due to experiencing common fate. For some, this sense of common fate came from experiencing the same distressing incident. For others, it was the experience of community-wide problems following the floods such as looting or organising to tackle the perceived inefficiency of the local authorities. Nevertheless, shared social identity became the psychological basis for the mobilisation of practical, emotional, and collective support, as well as increased expectations of support from others perceived as fellow group members. Similar findings come from a range of disasters and mass emergencies such as the 2010 Chile earthquake and the 2005 London bombings.

We were also interested in how emergent groups endure or decline in the aftermath of the disaster. We interviewed York residents 15 months after the floods, finding that shared social identity had declined for some participants due to the absence of common fate. Importantly, some participants from minority groups reported inequality and discrimination in relation to the social support they received, which eroded the initial sense of togetherness. However, for others shared social identity persisted. For some, the bonds formed during the disaster persisted long after the aftermath. Also, receiving social support was positive in maintaining residents’ sense of belonging, whereas a third group actively maintained the identity associated with the community spirit through commemorations to celebrate the community’s recovery.

Overall, we argue that community resilience theory, policy, and practice should incorporate current understandings of group psychology. Further attention should be paid to emergent groups, and their operation should be considered in planning guidance. Also, a key task is to consider how community groups can be maintained. The provision of shared spaces that facilitate interaction and strengthen bonds between residents, as well as allowing the expression of community identity through commemoration can assist in strengthening residents’ bonds as well as increase trust towards the authorities. After all, community resilience isn’t only a matter of infrastructure but also of appropriate social relationships.

By Dr Evangelos Ntontis

Biography: Dr Ntontis is a lecturer in social psychology at the School of Psychology, Politics, and Sociology at Canterbury Christ Church University. He completed his PhD at the School of Psychology at the University of Sussex in 2018 and was a member of John Drury’s ‘Crowds and Identities’ research group. His interests lie in collective behaviour and the ways it can be shaped by our group identities.

Dr Evangelos Ntontis

Recovering from the autumn floods: the power of community spirit

Increasing community resilience to the impact of flooding and severe weather emergencies has never been more pertinent. Across the country, communities have been battling the devastating effects of one of the wettest autumns on record. The Environment Agency has been working tirelessly to safeguard and support affected communities, working alongside members of these communities to promote a joined-up response effort. Chair, Emma Howard Boyd, describes being “hugely moved by the community spirit and generosity” at her recent visit to the South Yorkshire village of Fishlake, writing about her experience on the Environment Agency’s blog.

Community volunteer groups not only play a vital role in preparing for, and responding to emergencies, but are also instrumental in the recovery process, continuing to assist with longer-term clear-up efforts and helping to rebuild morale and restore a sense of normality.

Creating active and empowered communities

Ensuring these groups feel confident in leading their community to recovery is a key focus of Communities Prepared. Our training and resources support Community Emergency Volunteer (CEV) coordinators and their members to plan for and implement longer-term resilience measures.   

Become a member of Communities Prepared today and access our full range of free training resources and tools. It’s free to sign up!

We’ve been busy exhibiting, running workshops and presenting at some great regional and national events. You may have seen us at the following:

  • Somerset Prepared Community Resilience Day
  • Wiltshire Prepared Flood Warden meeting
  • Cornwall Community Flood Forum’s annual conference
  • BCI World Conference & Exhibition with Business in the Community
  • Good Things Foundation: Joining Forces
  • ACRE 2019 Autumn Conference

Are you running or attending an event that you think would tie in with our programme? We’d love to hear about it! Get in touch.

“We’re quite good at writing plans but we’re not so good at what you do afterwards. I think that was particularly helpful – understanding the follow-through needed to make sure people are supported in getting back to a working state as quickly as possible.”

Cllr Helen Deas Williams, Brixton Parish Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)

Find out how Brixton CERT developed their resilience to flooding. Read their story here.

The power of 3 words

How can three random words be used to support a more efficient multi-agency emergency response? what3words’ Geordie Palmer discusses.

What the flood

The Environment Agency recently launched its winter Flood Action Campaign which focuses on winter preparation and helping people to know what action to take in a flood. 

Coming up

Developing the UK’s Flood Resilience Forum, 5th December 2019, brings together leading voices to discuss key topics relating to flood resilience.

Our partners