Local groups FAQ

Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about local groups.
  Published:  03 Jan 2018    |      3 minute read

What is a local group?

Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland has around 120 local 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.

What do local groups do?

Local groups bring people together to improve their local environment, and see off unjust proposals.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has

Margaret Mead

They campaign on one or more issues, putting pressure on decision-makers to create change for a healthier environment. These can be local issues like getting a composting scheme set up – national ones, like joining Friends of the Earth's fight against air pollution – 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 groups also often work with other community groups. 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 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 group?

Being a Friends of the Earth local group has numerous benefits. Some of these are:

  • support, training, events, materials and resources
  • a legal structure
  • public liability insurance
  • access to funding (through our local group fund)
  • being a part of our governance and helping shape the direction of our movement
  • a well-known brand name
  • the connection to a powerful grassroots network and international movement.

Who can join a local group and what is the time commitment?

Anyone over the age of 18 is welcome to join a Friends of the Earth local 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.

Any skill or expertise you can offer is always appreciated.

What is a local 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 groups are welcome to have joint coordinators. Some very successful local 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 groups and how are they structured?

Local 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. Most 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 groups?

Friends of the Earth groups should work on campaigns that embrace our goal. We don't require groups to work on our priority campaigns and are happy for groups to work on local campaigns or other environmental and social justice issues.

Any work carried out by groups must adhere to the terms set out in the Trademark Licence Agreement and local 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?

None.

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 £500 from Friends of the Earth.