Making the Connection: 3 Sustainable Projects Creating More Resilient Communities

Hubbub's purpose is to develop inspiring ways of living that are good for the environment. In this article, Sam Longworth, Project Coordinator at Hubbub, describes how they design positive campaigns that disrupt the status quo to create more sustainable communities.

Over the past 6 years, Hubbub have worked with diverse groups of people from home-savvy IKEA customers, to Forest of Dean locals concerned about littering, to the population of Leeds who we encouraged to recycle on-the-go.

We understand the importance of communities in creating lasting change and we know that when people come together around a common goal, positive change can happen fast.

The current crisis has revealed how heavily we all depend on the everyday gestures of those around us. From our friends and families, to our neighbours and people we have never met but took to our doorsteps to clap for. We have been profoundly reminded of our interdependence and need for community, and the countless new Mutual Aid Groups, ‘Furlonteers’ and NHS helpers have shown us that goodwill, generosity and ingenuity exist in abundance within communities.

Community Calling, The Community Fridge Network and Food Connect are three Hubbub projects that have helped build more resilient communities by connecting people during the COVID crisis.


Community Calling: the gift of connection


Mary is a single parent who supported herself and her son by working as a cleaner. When lockdown struck, she was unable to work and ineligible to claim benefits. Unemployed, isolated and without a working phone, Mary was disconnected from the outside world and struggling to cope. Hubbub’s Community Calling project provided her with a previously loved working phone and within a day, she had applied for a job.

Mary now proudly works as a cashier at Surrey Quays Shopping Centre and told us, “the phone was the piece of luck I was waiting for… it was a turning point in my life”.

In the UK there are a staggering 1.9M digitally excluded households without access to the internet. This is problematic at the best of times but especially when you consider that 77% of people cite internet and phone contact with loved ones as their most common coping mechanism during the Covid crisis.

Community Calling launched in May in partnership with O2, and Community Southwark as a rapid response to this digital disconnect with the aim of redistributing unused phones to people in need. We co-ordinated the campaign and have now safely provided hundreds of second-hand phones pre-loaded with data to Southwark’s most isolated residents.

We are proud that there are at least 550 more unique stories like Mary’s and we are actively working to scale this initiative to three more London boroughs.

The Community Fridge Network: sharing food is human nature


The Community Fridge Network is based on a simple idea: food brings people together. Sitting in the heart of communities from Redmond to Ryedale, and Glasgow to Aberystwyth, community fridges are spaces where anyone can exchange surplus food, meet new people and feel good about preventing food waste in a world where 1/3 of food is currently wasted globally.

After starting in 2016, there are now over 95 fridges serving more than 60,000 people, preventing 780,000 KGs of surplus food waste and providing an estimated 1.5 million meals a year. It’s no surprise that requests for new fridges are coming in thick and fast.

Hubbub provides free support to any community looking to set up a fridge, which facilitates the creative, energetic and committed volunteers do the rest of the amazing work. Since lockdown, many community fridges have temporarily evolved into vital safety nets in their communities, providing essential supplies to vulnerable households.

This is all made possible by local food heroes like Sharon at the Redmond Community Centre who has been delivering delicious hot meals to doorsteps, Clare in Dorking who has amassed a team of 80 volunteers, and Steve from the Albrighton Centre whose crack team call up locals in need to take their bespoke delivery orders.

Food Connect: taking good food further 


Getting food from places where there is surplus to those who need it is a massive challenge at the best of times. Doing so during a pandemic with a zero emissions fleet was a challenge too good to pass up.

Our Food Connect pilot scheme launched in Milton Keynes this June with two cargo bikes and an electric van to test the innovative model and see if it can be scaled. With Hubbub polling finding that 62% of Brits want the cleaner air noticed during lockdown to remain permanently, Food Connect is an idea that benefits both people and the planet.

Community fridges rely on volunteers to collect food from supermarkets, restaurants and food outlets, but this can rack up expenses for the fridges and be a thankless task for volunteers who often have to pick up food alone and late at night. Food Connect provides professional drivers and riders who are helping distribute food to vulnerable locals in the short term, and will continue to help fridges in their mission to save surplus food in the long term.

Pearl, a recipient of the weekly Food Connect delivery parcels told us, “It really was something to look forward to every week, not only the food delivery but seeing friendly faces and [having] someone to talk to, even if not for very long. I would like to thank everyone involved in the project as without them I don't know what I would have done throughout this tough time”. 

Community makes us resilient


When the dust eventually settles and a new normal begins, it is critical that we harness the power of community to build back better.

At Hubbub, we are committed to continue investing in and working with diverse communities, empowering them to take local action and make a difference.

When we opened our first community fridge back in 2016 we never imagined the pivotal role that so many more of these fridges would come to play in their communities, but when you plant the seed of a good idea and give it the space and resources to grow, it can flourish in unexpected ways.

There is so much energy, hope and drive for a brighter future: people just need the means to express it.

Written by Sam Longworth, Project Coordinator at Hubbub.

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