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The Alternative? Skills sharing and the Greeniversity

Greeniversity was originally set up in 2010 by Peterborough Environment City Trust. In 2012 Greeniversity received a grant from the Cabinet Office which is managed by National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) to roll the scheme out nationally.  Greeniversity helps people get together and learn practical skills and information for sustainable communities of the future.  Whether it’s cooking, growing, making or mending – the emphasis is on activities that contribute to building community spirit.

The idea is that people can register to find classes or can set up their own classes to share their own skills and passions for more sustainable lifestyles. Classes have ranged from growing food, riding a bike, knitting, massage, yoga or dance.  Over 2,000 people have already signed up and over 100 new areas around the UK are setting up new local Greeniversity groups. 

Through sharing more knowledge and skills with one another and consuming less, we can enrich our lives and build communities without creating large amounts of waste.

Manchester-based co-operative, Envirolution, was approached by the national scheme to act as co-ordinator in the North. Dawn Kendall, Greeniversity’s North project coordinator said:

“For far too long we have lived in a disposable society; we buy, we use, we chuck things away. We’ve got to face up to the fact that the planet has limited resources which consumer culture is eating up at a rapid pace. Through sharing more knowledge and skills with one another and consuming less, we can enrich our lives and build communities without creating large amounts of waste. Skill sharing used to be an important element in people’s life’s that seems to have been lost over the years, it is now on the rise again and seems to be at the forefront of peoples thoughts. Greeniversity responds to a real need. There are lots of small pockets of individuals and community groups doing things, but it’s not always easy to find out about what’s going on."

Some examples of classes that have already been run include Christmas-related workshops in Chorlton in December. Participants were able to learn to make their own wrapping paper and after the festive period, unrecyclable waste was used for a community art project.  Classes are as free as possible, with only small donations required in some cases for materials. Residents of all communities in Greater Manchester and the North can get involved by registering on the website, attending classes or offering their own skills.


An Alternative?

Greeniversity is a skill-share initiative that goes to the heart of the question of what knowledge is needed to create a more sustainable city-region.  The creation of technological widgets to measure, monitor and reduce carbon emissions, complex multi-modal transport systems or knowledge exchange between universities and public policy partners are all part of the puzzle.

But the search for ‘new’ knowledge and technological fixes can result in overlooking the value of existing everyday skills. Greeniversity starts with the knowledge which already exists within communities. Rather than assuming that people need to be ‘taught’ about climate change or preached to about carbon reduction, this approach values the cultural activities that make up the fabric of peoples’ lives.  A sharing city is one in which people learn from each other, through volunteering their time to share life skills across a range of areas, contributing to a wider cultural shift.

The challenge is not only financial, as Greeniversity relies on the goodwill of volunteers. It is also about enrolling enough partners to create the momentum for change. How then does Greeniversity relate to our other institutions of learning, universities? Dawn hopes that universities and other public organisations can play a role through the spaces and buildings they occupy, as well as the students and staff they employ. Learning is a life-long endeavour, not only in institutional settings and universities can have a role to play in supporting skills-sharing initiatives, such as Greeniversity, both off and on campus.

Find out more:

Contact : Dawn Kendall, North Project Coordinator :

Sources:  Publicly available information online ; telephone discussion with Dawn Kendall and press release.

What’s ‘The Alternative?’

This article is published here as part of the Greater Manchester Local Interaction Platform’s aspiration to raise the visibility of different community innovations, grassroots projects and activities in the city-region.

Find out here about the background, purpose and content of ‘The Alternative?’ series of articles on Platform.


Disclaimer: The article has been put together using publicly available information and online sources as part of a larger ongoing research project. The author has no responsibility for the content or accuracy of those sites.

Headline image via flickr, under Creative Commons licence, ‘Knitting’ by Elittat.
Inline image provided by Greeniversity.