Co-designing energy advice services with underrepresented communities

by Blog

A new Carbon Co-op report shares findings from a research project undertaken in Oldham. The work seeks to better understand culturally specific issues relevant to Westwood’s predominately Bangladeshi community, and what an effective energy advice service could look like.

This community, like many others in the UK, are often considered ‘hard to reach’. There is a growing understanding that these communities, rather than being hard to reach, are often not reached out to. This research seeks to better understand and connect with the community in Westwood, and to look at what the design of energy advice services with (rather than for) the community could look like.

With the onset of the energy crisis, this work is of utmost importance in contributing to the improvement of living conditions and lives of people in Westwood, a community that faces significant economic, housing and social inequalities.

This work is relevant not only to Westwood but to many similar communities across the UK.

The research found that the critical issues faced in Westwood are damp and mould, and paying for energy bills.

“We really need to get to grips with the mould and the damp issue because it is a life-threatening issue”

Staff Member, Westwood Hub

Several factors shape this community’s experience of the UK energy crisis. Without understanding these culturally specific factors, it is a challenge for energy advice services to meet the needs of this community. These factors were identified as:

  • Informal Private Rental Sector (PRS)
  • Newer ‘European Bangladeshi’ migrants
  • An attitude of ‘suffering in silence’
  • Gender dimension
  • Newness of energy issues

This research explores the accessibility of existing energy advice services, focusing on support offered by Citizens Advice. An ideal Westwood Energy Advice Service is envisioned, with a key finding around advisors being ‘alongside’ those seeking support and the need for more in-person services.

“A lot of people don’t have the capacity to call up and actually talk to customer service and get their problems resolved.”

Staff Member, Westwood Hub.

Opportunities for collaboration are explored between the OBA Millenium Centre (the local community hub), local branches of Citizens Advice and Carbon Co-op. Complementary strengths and weaknesses between these organisations are explored and there is realisation that through working together much more can be achieved. These collaboration opportunities are currently being explored.

To find out more about this work contact

This work has been funded by Electricity North West Limited.