Are there restrictions on who can participate?
This programme is for engineers and community groups based in the UK. The engineers are expected to live or work within travelling range of their group’s venue, as that will make it much easier for them to help the group think about their building.
Our funders, the Royal Academy of Engineering, have given us a target for the number of qualified engineers taking part in the programme. They expect engineers to have an undergraduate degree in some engineering discipline, an HND, or equivalent experience. We’re happy to discuss this constraint with anyone who is unsure whether we fit, because we recognise that the need for formal qualifications can disadvantage some applicants.
What kinds of community groups and buildings are best suited to this programme?
The programme is designed for not-for-profit groups that have buildings used by their local communities for a range of activities, some of which might happen every week, and some of which might be one-off hires. HeatHack has the most past experience with Victorian era church buildings and church halls, but the buildings can be any age, as long as there is a reason for the community group to be reviewing their practices and wanting to think about whether infrastructural changes or changes in the way they use their spaces make sense for them. Churches tend to control many of the UK’s community buildings, but this programme is for any groups that operate these buildings – there are bowling clubs, temples, secular charities, and lots of other groups that provide amazing support for people around them and that we’d be happy to support. Part of the materials help groups think about whether their buildings should be used more, but the programme is still suitable for buildings with high occupancy rates. If groups find parts of what we provide less useful for them we will encourage them to tell us this and move on.
The programme may be less suitable for buildings under professional management, as these groups may already have access to good energy management skills. If this is the case for your group, please ask for a conversation. We also wouldn’t expect new builds to be interested in the programme. It’s also difficult for us to provide good support to buildings that are split into lots of little rooms (for instance, office spaces or residences) rather than providing a few large spaces for groups to meet.
Do I need to meet my group in person?
We are very well aware of the pandemic and that we will need to work around whatever it throws at us! Everyone involved should live close enough to the group’s venue that they are able to attend in person when conditions permit.
The group activities – a part of every session – will be much easier to do if you are in your buildings, and some aspects of them really do require boots on the ground. They can be done with social distancing and plenty of ventilation, masked, or with fewer people. What your space and your group requires will be something that you’ll need to work out.
We are also aware that people are now accustomed to remote meetings. If necessary, we can use this approach, especially for the parts of the sessions that are not activities. Hybrid sessions, with some people in the same room and some “virtual”, would probably be less successful. If any group members try to take part in a face-to-face session from home, they will end up with a second class experience – or no experience at all, if your premises don’t have good WiFi.
What is facilitation? What does the facilitator need to do?
A facilitator sets up the room for the group to use, makes sure everyone knows what to do when during a session, and keeps an eye on the group to make sure quieter people get a chance to contribute. We’ll provide you with training and all the materials you need. You don’t need to be an expert in anything to do with what the group is discussing – in fact, it can be better not to be! You’ll be working with a volunteer engineer who will be there to help whenever there are technical concepts involved. They will lead some of the activities, for instance, when you look through the building to find out how the heating and ventilation work.
How many hours do I need to dedicate to the programme?
The group sessions will take two hours each and there are four of them – so that part is 8 hours in total. There is also a community engagement event that we would expect all group members to attend. The length of that is up to you, but 4 hours is an average estimate if we include things like setting up tables and making coffee. And there might be a little bit of reading ahead of some of the sessions. This makes the minimum commitment for ordinary group members 12 hours. The group will have some tasks they’ll want to do outside the sessions, like taking meter readings, asking the building management for documentation of the heating system, creating the photo archive to pass to professionals, inviting people to the community engagement event, and documenting it in a way that is useful for getting grants. They might also want to compare notes with other groups taking part in the programme, and we’ll be very grateful if some of them talk to us about how it’s been for them. For this reason, we estimate that ordinary group members will need to spend something in the region of 20 hours on the programme, all included. This can be over a period of six months up to a year.
On top of this, facilitators and engineers can expect to attend a three-hour training session and spend an extra 6 hours preparing for group sessions. The engineer is also likely to want to spend some more time thinking about the building, and probably talking to us about anything they’ve found that puzzles them. This makes the facilitator’s commitment around 30 hours, and the engineer’s, around 40.
What about Health and Safety?
We won’t be present during your group sessions, so you will need to be responsible for Health and Safety within your own group. This is something the facilitator and engineer will talk about during your first session. Our activity instructions explicitly tell you to not to go up ladders, use worn steps or ones without handrails, and so on and will introduce the concept of risk assessment.
What are the group sessions like?
Everyone participates – sometimes the engineer will explain something briefly, but otherwise you’ll be working for 5-10 minutes each on things that will help you achieve the programme goals. Sometimes that will mean splitting up into pairs to talk to each other and sometimes the whole group needs to have a conversation. There’s always at least one major activity – for at least a quarter of the session and often more like half – that involves something more active. It might be photography, a worksheet that requires you to look around the building, a game, or working out what you think as a group by doing something that isn’t sitting and talking.
That may sound vague, but we do have a reasonable idea what to include! We just want to make sure the sessions suit the people who sign up. We’ll be asking our groups what they want to see and changing what the sessions are like in response. And of course, COVID means we have to be open-minded about how the sessions will work.
What training is available?
We will be providing training for the engineers before the first session to let them experience some of what the sessions will involve and make sure they are comfortable with their role. We expect this training to take the form of a three hour online workshop. We also expect to provide briefer training to the group leads who will be helping to facilitate the sessions. We will ask these volunteers what they would like to see, but it could, for instance, involve them in an hour of the engineer’s training session. Throughout, we will be guided by what you tell us about your needs.
When does the programme start and how long does it take?
We intend to start groups 10 at a time, first running the training for all the groups together. After that groups will be able to schedule their own sessions and community engagement event. We recommend that the four sessions be at least monthly so that not too much time elapses between them. We know there could be more of a time lag before the community engagement event. We expect the first ten groups to start in September. We’d like groups to start every six weeks after that until we have reached 40 groups, but the exact schedule will depend on what groups we recruit. All activities must be completed by July 2023.
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