Our grant scheme supports community groups in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland to work with a researcher to run a project on a local climate change issue that matters to them. 

One woman wearing a woolly hat outside talking with two older women in coats

The Highlands and Islands Climate Change Community Grant scheme, funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and delivered by the British Science Association (BSA) and Science Ceilidh, supports communities in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland to work with researchers to address local climate change issues.  

The scheme enables people who have fewer opportunities to engage with research – such as those in rural locations or who are young, minoritised or socioeconomically disadvantaged – to lead partnerships with researchers to address issues that matter to them.   

Phase one: Funding community-research projects to tackle local climate change issues 

The grant launched in November 2021, coinciding with COP26 in Glasgow. 

In the first phase of the programme, we awarded grants of up to £5,000 to nine community-led climate change research projects across the Highlands and Islands, which ran between April to October 2022.  

Want to find out more about the projects? Check out our latest blog

Check out our video to hear from some of the participants about their learnings from the phase one community-researcher partnerships.

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What we’ve learnt so far 

This grant scheme is trialling a new approach to both community climate action and creating more equitable collaborative relationships between communities and researchers.   

Here’s what our evaluation of the first phase of the programme found.  

What we learnt:  

  • Community climate action can be empowering by showing local people, groups and businesses what is possible.  
  • Collaborations work best when communities and researchers jointly develop projects.  
  • Reversing the traditional power relationships between researchers and communities (whereby researchers have more power and status and are seen as holding all the expertise) is key for equitable relationships between communities and researchers.  
  • How projects are organised can help address power imbalances between researchers and communities, for example, hosting events in community spaces and running shared activities.  
  • Projects that build research capacity in communities make future research collaborations more likely. This ranges from increased understanding of what research can do, to researchers sharing their knowledge and skills with participants.   

Challenges we identified:  

  • Community climate action can also be disempowering by emphasising the limits to what can be done at a local level.   
  • Dominant research culture, including a focus on journal articles over impactful publications, and on big top-down projects over small grassroots ones, works against equitable collaborations between communities and researchers.   

Ideas for improvements:  

  • Grant schemes should support communities to build from local to societal change, to help them overcome feeling disempowered.  
  • Community organisers and researchers need individualised support from funders and a supportive community of peers.  

Download the executive summary of our phase one evaluation by Dr Heather Mendick


Explore more useful resources, including reports, case studies, videos, news and blogs.


Phase two: New Voices and Building Capacity Grants

The first phase of the programme has demonstrated the potential impact of smaller grants and a supported development process to establish new relationships between grassroots climate action groups, their communities and researchers. Building on our learnings, for phase two of the programme, we offered two different types of grants.

We wanted to widen the network we established in phase one by supporting new community-researcher partnerships, but also continue to work with the community-researcher partnerships from phase one to help drive their projects even further.


New Voices Grant: Funding of up to £5,000 supported groups based in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland to work with researchers on designing local action around climate change issues that affect their communities. These grants were open to groups that haven’t participated in phase one of the programme.

With a specific focus on communities from ethnic minority backgrounds, speakers of minoritised languages and people who face disadvantage in terms of education and income, the New Voices grants addressed barriers to inclusion in this field, whilst also amplifying voices that are often marginalised within climate change discourse.


Building Capacity Grant: working with community-researcher partnerships from phase one to provide tailored support/interventions based on their needs, specifically to build capacity and “bridge” to the next step for their partnership. This was supported by Building Capacity Grants of £2,000. These grants were open to groups that have participated in phase one of the programme.

The grants of £2,000 were intended to be spent on internal organisational development as opposed to project delivery, and sat alongside a package of hands-on tailored support and peer-learning, facilitated by Science Ceilidh, including free training, mentorship and curated networking opportunities. This support was offered to address systemic issues and barriers facing the sector, as well as responding to local needs and organisational circumstances. 

UKRI: Developing a new grant model to give communities an active role in research and innovation 

The Highlands and Islands Climate Change Community Grant is a new model of grant funded by UKRI to help diverse communities connect with researchers to inform community action and use research to respond to climate change. 

UKRI’s vision is for an outstanding research and innovation system in the UK that gives everyone the opportunity to contribute and to benefit, enriching lives locally, nationally and internationally. 

Through support and funding for community-led approaches to public engagement, UKRI wants to enable communities across the UK – particularly those who are underrepresented – to play an active role in research and innovation. 

The Royal Society of Edinburgh is also providing support. 

Find out more about UKRI’s work to facilitate community-led research through this grant

For more information 

Get in touch

If you have any questions about the grant scheme or want to find out more, please get in touch with us by emailing [email protected]. 

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Our Community Engagement work

We also run a wide range of programmes to support community leaders and organisations who work with groups underrepresented in science. 

Find out more about our Community Engagement work