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Calling all eco warriors

Posted on April 16, 2013

The Clore Social Leadership Programme is looking for aspiring leaders working in the UK environment sector. Here’s why I think the programme is relevant to all eco-warriors.

Leadership on the environment has never been more urgently needed. Earlier this month, it was announced that levels of CO2 in the atmosphere reached record levels and a joint report released today by UK conservation charities shows the disturbing decline in UK species. Yet political and media engagement in these issues is declining: the G8 group of the world’s most powerful political leaders will meet in Northern Ireland in early June, but the UK has refused to put climate change on the agenda. 

One of the reasons given for this is that environmental issues are a ‘nice to have’, when people are struggling to deal with the impact of the recession: rising costs of living, job losses and welfare cuts. Yet many in the environmental movement know that environmental and social issues are inextricably linked: we know for example that poorer communities are most likely to feel the negative impacts of climate change, as Hurricane Katrina clearly demonstrated.

“But I’m too busy saving the world - I haven’t got time for a leadership programme”.

Preventing environmental disaster can be all-consuming, whether it’s responding to the latest attempt to sell off precious forests or drumming up enthusiasm for a local food growing project. Working on trade justice issues, I share the sense of urgency and of needing to focus all available time on achieving change: the issues are vast and complex, resources are tight and the odds are stacked against you. But in the process of considering applying for the Clore Social Fellowship, I realised that if I never took the time to look at my own development needs, it was going to be all the more difficult to get change.

“....and anyway I’ve never thought of myself as a leader”.

Environmental activists seem to operate on 20 hour, caffeine-fuelled days. They are passionate and incredibly knowledgeable about their cause, usually with bucket-loads of determination and energy. Very often they spend endless hours building networks or persuading others to take an interest in the things they believe in. Starting to sound like leadership?

But maintaining this level of energy can leave them burnt out, or disillusioned as participation in campaigning or community activities fluctuates, or political agendas change too slowly or in the wrong direction. Alongside passion, energy and determination, Clore also think that leadership is about resilience, helping to develop other leaders and the art of persuasion.

If you think your project or organisation would benefit from making links between the social and environmental sectors; that you would be a happier, more effective champion if you had time to hone some of the skills and qualities mentioned above; if you want to be even better at getting political change, rallying communities around environmental issues, or ensuring your organisation maintains momentum in the face of a really challenging agenda, then the Clore Social Fellowship might be for you.

Ruth Bergan, 2013 Clore Social Fellow 

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Ruth Bergan

Ruth Bergan

Social justice pioneer

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