Rachel Brain: Revelling in feeling rooted in community energy

Photo: J Petersen

For our Social Impact & South Area Manager, her travels have taken her from Canada to London’s community energy family

“Good things are happening here, I don’t want to be anywhere else,” says Rachel Brain, Repowering London’s Social Impact & South Area Manager. It’s a big statement from someone for whom being in London for an extended period wasn’t part of “the plan”.

Rachel (pictured above) grew up in Sault Ste. Marie in Ontario, Canada and first came to London when she opted to take a masters degree in city design and social science in 2016. At that time, she says: “I thought it was going to be a one-year thing.”

Why did that change? Shortly after completing her masters degree, with a dissertation on local food policy that focused on the way that physical infrastructure shapes people’s social space, Rachel was looking around for next steps. She found a job in London working in the community-led housing sector, which appealed to her interest in how places can be made both socially resilient and resilient in the face of the climate crisis. That role also fuelled her excitement about the way that collective and community ownership structures help to make neighbourhoods more resilient.

Having been “looking for work related to place-making and urbanism that had social purpose as well,” Rachel arrived at Repowering London in the summer of 2022. “What I liked in particular about Repowering is that its work Creating Local Energy builds community through collective ownership, which is an idea that I’ve really become attached to, and at the same time it’s doing something hopeful and practical to tackle climate change.”

She started out as Social Impact Manager, helping us to capture and report our organisational know-how and our impact on London’s communities. It’s an important task that makes sure that the details and benefits of all of the activity we are doing don’t simply sit within our immediate network but can be communicated out to those who fund us now or might do in the future.

I wanted to work at Repowering London for a lot of reasons, but the fact that it lets me work on projects in the neighbourhood I’m living in really makes the role special.”

Since then, Repowering London has grown its team and also Rachel’s role. In recognition that many of our activities are interlinked and have the potential to intersect in a geographical area, Rachel is now our go-to contact for South London in addition to her social impact responsibilities. She’ll have some oversight for all projects happening south of the river, including our existing Community Energy co-ops and innovation projects.

Says Rachel: “All of these projects fall within different areas of expertise but there are opportunities to connect different stakeholder relationships. I’m really excited about the potential to pull together so many good threads in one place, across the many types of work we are doing.”

As someone who has always wanted to work on projects that “contribute in some tiny way towards the way that I’d like the world to look,” Rachels feels she is very lucky to have been able to do that over the past few years. And, as a Lambeth resident, she is also excited to “do stuff that happens in the place I live in. I wanted to work at Repowering London for a lot of reasons, but the fact that it lets me work on projects in the neighbourhood I’m living in really makes the role special.”

After a journey that has taken her across an ocean and into a new culture, brought personal changes and professional challenges, Rachel says: “It is nice to be rooted in a place. That is something that I value and care about ­– and I feel that I am right now.”

Repowering London’s Social Impact Report 2022 is available to download now.

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