This paper discusses based-placed engagement strategies in a Citizens’ Observatory (CO). COs are a recent innovation connecting people, science and technologies to create collaborative data, knowledge and action around environmental challenges, offering a much needed link between local and global efforts. The GROW Observatory’s ambition is to demonstrate that soil datasets generated through citizen science and collaborations between food growers and scientific communities with different types of knowledge can play a vital role in transforming environmental monitoring and climate action. GROW leverages the power of open data and low cost sensing technologies to empower citizens to become active agents of transformation through local observations in a network of interconnected communities across Europe. These communities, called GROW Places, are spearheaded by local Community Champions (CC). We argue CCs are a key figure in understanding and facilitating the balance between participants’ motivations, priorities, values and needs that trigger their participation in the observatory’s activities. Furthermore, GROW is facilitating the development of a Community of Practice to foster peer to peer support and synergies amongst the CCs themselves. Different countries and communities experience climate change and engage in environmental stewardship in different ways. We explore the role of COs in bringing together citizens, scientists and policy makers to facilitate the transformations need to respond to a changing climate and the way we think and care for soils that underpin life on earth.