We tried to engage people in unexpected ways, making use of various local events. It was bizarre to see, people singing on stage whilst volunteers cajoled people to fill out home energy check forms. - Simon Robinson, M:KC

This is an excerpt from the project story The Energy Academy - Manchester Knowledge Capital working with the Make Energy Change Happen Toolkit. For Manchester Knowledge Capital it was important to think about why the Energy Academy was a project whose time had arrived. The M:KC team, led by Simon Robinson, developed insights systematically about the ways in which internal organizational aims could be aligned with external opportunities.

This required turning the issue of timing to one based on the opportunities and possibilities provided by M:KC’s external environment. Four insights from the MECHanisms Toolkit were particularly important:

1. Brainstorming – internal and external organizational discussions were critical to thinking about what sort of project was required and what M:KC’s role would be in that. In particular this involved thinking imaginatively about how top-down (national) priorities could be aligned with bottom up (local) projects.

2. Partnering with existing projects and campaigns – This was based on making use of existing projects and campaigns, such as GM ESTAC and AfSL. To build collective capacity that was greater than any of the existing projects MK:C’s challenge according to Simon Robinson “has been basically trying to stitch together two very different organisations with the practicalities of what that means”.

3. Windows of opportunity – This was based on acting on windows of opportunity in terms of existing projects, sources of funding and existing relationships. This is important, particularly, in difficult financial times where, in Simon Robinson’s experience a “low-cost, high-gearing model is exactly where we should be looking in terms of the ‘writing on the wall’ with public finance”.'

4. Reconsider project aims – working effectively with different project partners meant constantly keeping what the project’s aims should be at the forefront of project thinking.