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Megan’s story — Working towards a people-centred sustainable transition

A woman with dark hair and glasses standing outside, surrounded by green plants and trees, smiling and looking at the camera.

Megan shares her experiences of working with communities to take action on climate change and fuel poverty.

Megan Blyth is a project manager in CSE’s Local and Community Empowerment (LACE) team. She and her colleagues support the efforts of community groups and local authorities to tackle the climate emergency and end the suffering caused by cold homes.

We asked her what she finds inspiring about her work, and what gets her up in the morning …

How long have you been at CSE and what were you doing before?

I’ve been here since September 2017, so six and a half years. 

I came here straight from university. I joined as an intern in the LACE team, only intending to stay for a year. But I loved the work and the people here, so I was excited when CSE offered me a permanent role and I’ve been here ever since!  

What’s your role? 

I’m a Project Manager, working across a range of projects. 

In LACE, we work with community organisations to help them learn skills and take action to tackle climate change and fuel poverty. ‘Community’ is a broad term – it could mean the people who live in one postcode, a whole demographic, like young people, or people with a shared characteristic or goal, like addressing climate change. LACE’s work is just as broad. It varies from projects located in just one street, all the way to our future generations programmes

My role is kind of behind the scenes. I manage the finances of different projects, coordinate staff, liaise with funders and generally just make the project happen! I do some on-the-ground community engagement work too. And I deliver lots of training and workshops on fuel poverty and community energy.  

What made you want to work at CSE?

I knew I wanted a job to do with energy and climate change. One of the first things I learned about CSE was the Future Energy Landscapes approach. I was really excited about this method of giving people ownership over what happens in their local area.  

People have to be at the centre of any change we make to tackle climate change for it to be lasting or effective. Climate change isn’t this external problem, it’s affecting everyone’s lives in a personal and emotional way. I think bringing more perspectives to the table means that we can come up with solutions that work for more people and avoid negative consequences to people’s lives and wellbeing. So, I wanted to be part of an organisation that was working towards a people-centred sustainable transition.  

Can you describe a typical day at work?

Lots of meetings! The projects I work on have lots of moving parts and many different people working on them. So, it’s important to have regular check-ins to see how things are going.  

I also aim to have some quiet time everyday where I can look at my budgets, see how they’re going and try to forecast into the future. Community projects shift and change all the time. So, as a project manager, I need to be flexible and edit our plans and budgets as we go. I personally really enjoy this – I could spend hours looking at a spreadsheet. It’s not for everyone, but I find it really satisfying! 

What’s the most interesting project you’ve been involved with?

Can I have two?

One would be Merton Energy Matters, where we got to develop educational resources about climate and energy.

I think it’s empowering for children to learn about these topics from a young age. But it’s lacking in the curriculum at the moment. So, it was really rewarding to be able to address that and I’m proud of the materials we produced. As a result of the project, more than 1,000 children and 200 school staff have learned the skills to reduce energy use at home and school. It was amazing to hear back from teachers who told us the project made it easier to discuss the topics of the climate crisis and sustainability more widely, too.

A woman and two children learn over a desk, looking at colourful post it notes. A whiteboard above them reads
What have you learnt about energy? Delivering an energy cafe event at Lonesome Primary as part of the Merton Energy Matters project.

The other project is Next Generation, where we worked with different groups to support them with funding and advice to help them bring previously commercially owned solar PV farms into community ownership. The groups were also able to develop new types of community energy businesses, including a cargo bike delivery service in the Isle of Wight and a community-owned heat network and wind turbine in Shropshire and Telford. The project helped four community groups buy large solar farms that were previously commercially owned, meaning local people can directly benefit from the energy produced in their area. I learned so much about community energy over the five years I worked on the project. And it was really rewarding to see the different schemes develop from ideas to full-scale businesses.

Two very different projects, but that’s what it’s like to work in LACE!

Why do you think community climate action is important?

We don’t have time to wait around for governments to create the change we need. There’s so much that can be done straight away when you work at a smaller scale. By working with community groups, we create these little pockets of positive action, that are fast-moving and making a tangible difference. And if others see a group of people like them taking action it inspires them to do something themselves – so it quickly spreads and adds up.

What’s your favourite thing about your job?

I love managing a team of people with different expertise and skills and creating a space where they feel confident to come to me with their ideas. I think that’s how we develop affective and unique projects in LACE – there’s a lot of brainstorming to come up with the best possible strategies.

The people I work with are also amazing. I moved to Bristol without knowing anyone and have made such close friends at CSE – the people here are like my family.

What would you say to someone thinking about applying to work in the LACE team?

It’s an amazing team to be a part of – everyone is so passionate about the work and we’re open to growing and trying new things. So, bring your ideas and energy, we’re always looking for new perspectives!

Interested in working with Megan?

If you’re interested in working in CSE’s Local and Community Empowerment team, or any of our other amazing teams, check out our latest job opportunities.

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