Setting the Z-NET Vision and Mission
The very first step was to agree on a Vision and Mission for Z-NET Uralla.
Vision: A sustainable Uralla Shire in a sustainable world.
Mission: To assist the people of the Uralla Shire transition to energy self-sufficiency, based on renewable sources, and to allow our community to confidently participate in the unfolding revolution in energy technologies.
• The first step is to work towards the goal of 100% renewable energy for in-home and business use (excluding transport). This will be achieved by reducing energy use, though improvements in efficiency, and by installation of cost effective renewable energy generation.
• Z-NET Uralla has adopted the Zeronet Energy Town Uralla Case Study (also known as the Z-NET Blueprint) as its foundation document for direction and scope of projects to be undertaken. The Blueprint will be applied to Uralla and Region even for Action Plans that identified only the Uralla Township in the Blueprint.
• Z-NET activities are designed in consultation with the Uralla community, to give equal access across socio-economic groups.
• Z-NET is providing leadership and education, assessment of innovations and their applicability for our community.
• Z-NET is giving Uralla the opportunity, not only of being part of the solution to renewable energy supply, but also the opportunity to build futurist, vibrant local businesses based on renewable energy.
This helped set the scope and priorities for Z-NET Uralla and forms a valuable resource that we constantly refer back to, both in determining what activities Z-NET Uralla will undertake and to check that they fit with our core purpose.
Once Z-NET Uralla moved past the Blueprint stage we needed to become an entity in our own right to applying for grants. As a new group we were not convinced the best path was to immediately set up an independent incorporated association as then we would have had to take out insurance, plus go through the complexities of becoming incorporated. So a small working group was formed to research an appropriate organisational structure and governance model for Z-NET Uralla. The group talked to other like-minded organisations and the working group’s recommendation was to approach an existing organisation to be “auspiced”. [Z-NET Uralla Governance Report]. This was the path that Z-NET Uralla took and we operated as a sub-group under the umbrella of the Uralla Neighbourhood Centre for the first 12 months. To do this we set up a simple written agreement so both parties were clear on how the relationship would function. Over time we have reviewed this arrangement and in February 2017 Members voted to move to an independent incorporated association.
The structure Z-NET has set up is to have an Executive Committee whose role is to set direction and provide oversight. Members of the Executive were elected at a public meeting and positions will be filled each year by election at the Annual General Meeting. Z-NET Uralla activities are undertaken by Working Groups – initially these are Household, Business, and Communications [What we do]. And soon we will add one on Firewood. This allows our Members to choose an area that is of particular interest to them.
Z-NET Uralla runs largely on the time and energy of volunteers but we recognise we would need extra resources to be able to roll out programs across our community. To help find these resources we developed a Funding Plan and started applying for grants. We quickly realised that it was important not to over-reach the ability of our Executive Members to manage and supervise funded projects. Having external grants also means an extra layer of responsibility for reporting and governance. More money is good but it comes with lots more jobs!
Getting the Message Out
Developing a Communications Plan has been a valuable tool for guiding the way Z-NET Uralla interacts with our community and the rest of the world. [Communications Plan]. A well designed website is crucial for engaging with other communities in New South Wales that want to learn about Z-NET while our Facebook page has been the backbone of our local community digital engagement. Another fantastic communication tool has come via a regular spot in the monthly Uralla Shire Council Newsletter – providing hard copy news about Z-NET Uralla on every kitchen table in the Shire.
Equally, if not of greater impact, the face to face events that Z-NET Uralla has run have been essential for real action on the ground to improve energy efficiency and uptake of renewable energy. A regular street presence, with the Z-NET Uralla Office and events like the Street Stall, has been key to engaging in a community where there is still 30% of households without internet access. Stalls at local events have also been important. Not only has this built awareness within the community, but it has put a face to Z-NET Uralla and begun the import process of building the trust of our community.
A key tool to getting real engagement and action in homes has been our Home Energy Reviews. Most existing on line tools like NABERS did not work for us as they don’t cover energy from firewood and they are not detailed enough to operate at the scale required for individual households. So we designed our own tool which means we can undertake reviews that are specific for our residents and give highly relevant feedback. The Home Energy Review Tool has been well tested in our community and is available for other communities to use. Please contact Z-NET Uralla if you would like to try it in your community by emailing projects(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)zneturalla.org.au.
Tracking Our Progress
A key element of all the Z-NET Uralla activities in monitoring and evaluation so that we know what is working, what isn’t and what can be better designed. To do that we have developed a Monitoring and Evaluation Framework that allow us to regular capture metrics on project performance and stakeholder feedback. Other communities may find this Framework a good starting point for designing their own M&E Framework, and it is available by emailing projects(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)zneturalla.org.au.