Founded in 2007, the Bristol Green Capital Partnership emerged thanks to the inspiring efforts of pioneers and leaders throughout the city who recognised that through collective and collaborative working, they could affect long-term change and make the city a more sustainable place to live. Today, Bristol Green Capital Partnership is widely recognised as the largest partnership of its kind in the world, bringing together over 800 member organisations who have committed to working towards Bristol becoming a sustainable city with a high-quality of life for all.
This article was written by Emmelie Brownlee (Author of Bristol’s Green Roots), to trace the history of how the partnership was formed.
“In its Community Strategy 2003, The Bristol Partnership set out a vision of Bristol becoming ‘a green capital in Europe – creating sustainable communities and improving the quality of life.’ Intrigued by this notion, Dr Jo Gipps, the Director of Bristol Zoo Gardens, organised a debate at the zoo about Bristol as a ‘green capital’ in October 2006.
At the time, Bristol was seeing ever- increasing demand for change with organisations across sectors demonstrating an interest in sustainability and creating frameworks for transformation. It was unsurprising, therefore, that this initial discussion revealed that the idea of a ‘green capital’ was compelling.
Baroness Janke, as the leader of Bristol City Council, initiated the idea of creating a partnership of organisations who wanted to work towards this goal. The Council organised a launch event on the 2nd of March 2007. This brought together organisations from all sectors to pledge their dedication to making Bristol a ‘low-carbon city with a high quality of life’ – thus forming the foundations for the Bristol Green Capital Partnership (BGCP).
Over 120 people met at @t Bristol to mark the beginning of this new initiative. The first organisations to make the commitment were Bristol City Council, Knowle West Media Centre, Environment Agency, Cater Business Park, Bristol Primary Care Trust, Luckwell Primary School, University of Bristol, Bart Spices, DAS, Safer Bristol and The Care Forum. The Soil Association, Sustrans, Project Agora, Colliers CRE and Bordeaux Quay signed up at the launch.
After the launch, Bristol City Council funded a Green Capital Co-ordinator within its Sustainable City Team. The 12 pledgees quickly became 90. The Partnership has always been dedicated to cross-sector expertise, and regular meetings of all pledgees were held to discuss relevant issues and deliver change through this network of committed organisations, initiatives and businesses. A Steering Group was formed with the Chair and Vice-Chair Elected by pledgees, and co-opting members to bring a range of different skills and perspectives to the initiative.
The Partnership was created to help make Bristol a more sustainable city, and this remains its focus. However in August 2007 the European Commission launched the European Green Capital Award giving Bristol a way to assess its progress, alongside the greenest cities in Europe, and to engage a wider range of interests in the city. The initiative has benefited from cross party political support across the years and Helen Holland the Leader of the Council led the bid for Bristol to become European Green Capital.
During this time, BGCP also continued to boost the city’s sustainability through several initiatives and projects. The development of the Community Challenge Fund (CCF) helped deliver much-needed funding to local communities to help create sustainable change. With over £200,000 provided by Bristol City Council, the CCF has supported over 40 projects in the city. This has enabled action as diverse as Bristol Pound, Sims Hill Shared Harvest, Somali Resource Centre, Bristol Energy Network and many others.
BGCP also supported the development of the Peak Oil report (2009) and Who Feeds Bristol? A Resilient Food Plan for Bristol (2011). These raised awareness of key issues the city faces, as well providing critical research and possible solutions. The development of the Future City Conversations report in 2012 saw the partnership present a series of ideas based on city-wide expertise drawn out through a series of world café sessions.
Projects such as Bristol Pound, Prepare for Change, Community Farm and many more have also found invaluable support – financial and otherwise – from the partnership. In an underfunded sector, BGCP has been able to connect varied city-wide activities under one umbrella and provide space for conversations and vital collaboration.
This work enabled the partnership to be a key player in working towards becoming a European Green Capital in 2015, contributing to the applications submitted by the council. In 2008, Bristol reached the final in the first year of the Award. It entered again in 2012 coming a close second to Copenhagen, before becoming the first UK city secure the title for 2015 in June 2013.
[Post-script] Today, Bristol Green Capital Partnership is widely recognised as the largest partnership of its kind in the world, bringing together over 800 member organisations who have committed to working towards Bristol becoming a sustainable city with a high-quality of life for all. In 2014, Bristol Green Capital Partnership Community Interest Company (CIC) was established to enable the aims of the Partnership – receiving support from Bristol 2015 Ltd to help accelerate and focus this transformation.
The Bristol Green Capital Partnership CIC entered a new phase in its development in January 2016 with a new business model and core funding from an initial set of strategic partners that form the Board of Directors, with two additional Directors elected from the wider membership of over 800 pledge organisations. The Community Interest Company continues to support Partnership members and promote environmental sustainability throughout Bristol and the West of England, providing a leadership voice and enabling collaboration and collective action across sectors towards the shared vision.