Oxfordshire sustainability network goes independent

CAG Oxfordshire (Community Action Groups Oxfordshire) is to become a community benefit society from December 2019, going it alone 18 years after it was set up.

Originally formed in 2001 by Oxfordshire County Council and consultancy Resource Futures with funding from Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment, CAG Oxfordshire experienced its most impactful year on record with groups across the network holding over 4,000 events, with 80,000 attendees, and contributing 51,000 volunteer hours (equivalent to 31 full time staff).

It will now run as an independent and democratically accountable network cooperatively owned by 65 groups and social enterprises it supports, taking over responsibility for the work it carries out, which has been held by Resource Futures since 2004. The change was agreed after consultation with the staff team and two years of work to bring the management of the network to be Oxfordshire-based rather than run by a national organisation.

A repair cafe run by CAG Oxfordshire group MakespaceThe county council will continue to provide support with a new two-year contract for £90,000 per year and the new arrangement will help to unlock new funding opportunities.

The groups involved in CAG Oxfordshire have delivered hundreds of projects over the last 18 years: Bicester Green provides a repair skills workshop to prevent fixable items from being thrown away, Abingdon and Witney Community Fridges have opened to save food from waste and share with local residents, while Sustainable Wantage runs educational workshops on sustainable living and is setting up a ‘library of things’, plus many more.

CAG Oxfordshire will also continue to run the council-funded Replenish project, which aims to tackle the issue of food waste by sending a team of Food Waste Ambassadors to public-facing events in order to provide people with practical tips on how to reduce their food waste and start composting.

“There was a strong desire from the network to see key strategic decisions about the future of our network and the work we do decided by board members that are democratically elected by the groups themselves,” said Marta Lomza, Chair of CAG Oxfordshire. “We’ve already secured additional funding from Valpak to boost repair and reuse of small electrical items alongside Bicester Green and Orinoco. We will be exploring many more opportunities to partner with and expand on the positive impact the groups have across the county.”

Simon Furlong, Strategic Director of Communities at Oxfordshire County Council, explained: “The county council wants to be part of the growing green revolution in Oxfordshire by helping communities achieve their own climate action goals. We have supported a wide range of community groups for eighteen years and will continue to do so as they go from strength to strength with even more say in how they achieve their visions.”

“After 18 years seeing the network of community action groups grow in Oxfordshire, we are delighted to have been able to support them in setting up as a new entity and look forward to seeing how it develops,” said Jane Stephenson, Chair at Resource Futures. “I’ve been involved since the very beginning of this project in Oxfordshire and it has been such a pleasure to see what the dedicated members of the local community can achieve when they come together and focus on what matters to them.”

You can view all groups involved in CAG Oxfordshire on the network website.