17 Nov 2023
What is a local action group?
Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland has hundreds of local action groups around the country. We're the largest grassroots environmental campaigning community in the UK.
These groups are run by thousands of volunteers from all backgrounds, including teachers, nurses, lawyers, students, farmers, grandparents and more.
Local action groups must have at least 5 members in England, or 3 members in Wales and Northern Ireland.
What do local action groups do?
Local action groups bring people together to improve their local surroundings, and challenge unjust proposals.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever hasMargaret Mead
Local action groups campaign on one or more issues, putting pressure on decision-makers to create change for a safer climate and fair and just world. These can be local issues like getting a composting scheme set up in their community, national ones, like joining Friends of the Earth's United for Warm Homes campaign, or even global issues, like demanding protection for climate refugees.
Members meet regularly to plan tactics and activities that will help them reach their goal. Examples include:
- holding stalls at local markets
- organising film screenings
- getting people together for a beach clean
- meeting with their local politician
- doing a stunt
Local action groups also often work with other groups in their community. We have more strength to win change when we work together. Building alliances with groups who share our values is an important part of this.
Local action groups have a lot of fun. Joining a group is a great way to meet like-minded people who want to make things happen while having a good time.
What are the benefits of a local action group?
Being a Friends of the Earth local action group has numerous benefits. Some of these are:
- support, training, events, materials and resources
- a legal structure
- public liability insurance
- access to funding
- being a part of our governance and helping shape the direction of our movement
- connected to a well-known brand name
- part of a powerful grassroots network and international movement
Who can join a local action group and what is the time commitment?
Anyone over the age of 18 is welcome to join a Friends of the Earth local action group. Under 18s need to be accompanied by an adult.
The time you commit is entirely up to you. Turn up to every meeting or pitch in sometimes.
You don’t need to be an expert in everything from policies to environmental science – a passion for justice, any skills or knowledge is always appreciated
What is a local action group coordinator?
Each group has at least one coordinator who is the point of contact for Friends of the Earth staff. They will receive updates on campaigns and keep us updated on the group. They'll also pass on information to the rest of the group.
Local action groups are welcome to and encouraged to have more than one coordinators. Some very successful local action groups have one person in charge of internal communication and another for any outward-facing communication, including with Friends of the Earth staff.
How big are local action groups and how are they structured?
Local action groups range considerably in size. Some groups have hundreds of members and their own offices, such as Birmingham Friends of the Earth. Others are much smaller but just as active.
Some groups have higher turnover than others, with people joining and leaving as time goes on. There are likely to be different levels of involvement within a group, including:
- a stronger core of highly committed people
- those engaged only in certain activities
- and others who might just be on the mailing list
That's a perfectly healthy group, and you'll need all these people.
There needs to be at least one coordinator. But the rest is really up to the group. Some will have a treasurer, and some will also have a media contact. You might also want to allocate more roles depending on peoples' skills, such as a social media coordinator, a photographer, an event planner, etc.
What does Friends of the Earth expect from its local action groups?
Friends of the Earth groups determine their own activities and work on campaigns that embrace our goal.
They should support the work and vision of Friends of the Earth by working on national campaigns and are free to also choose to work on a local or otherwise relevant issue.
Any work carried out by groups must adhere to the terms set out in the local action group charter which governs the relationship between groups and Friends of the Earth.
How much experience do I need to be part of a group or start one?
It helps if you've already been part of another community, faith-based, or university group because you'll know a bit more about what makes it successful.
But you can also learn "on the job." Groups need people with a whole range of skills.
How much does it cost?
This depends on what the group would like to get up to. The group will need some regular income to pay for expenses, whether it's to pay for food at meetings or organise a big event. Some groups have membership fees to ensure a steady source of money comes in, others rely on donations. It's always helpful to run fundraising events too. If needed, groups can also apply for a grant of up to £800 from Friends of the Earth.