When I began the role of Vice Chair of of the 2050 Climate Group, I was 24 years old. I had 2 years working experience in entry level positions. I had never spoken publicly before. I had no leadership experience. I had no management experience. I just had a vision. There was an opportunity in front of me and I had a desire to go for it. Let me be crystal clear here: It takes nothing more than that to be a leader.
Fast forward three years, 2050 is now a multi-award winning, internationally recognised official NGO, and here I am stepping down from this position of leadership.
In those early days, I found myself leading an organisation through its founding days, and some days I had no idea whether we were doing the right thing. I had never done this before, no one I was working with had ever done this before… But also this was partly because we were creating something that didn’t exist.
On the surface, we’re (now) an environmental NGO. We work on climate change. But what we really do is disrupt. We work on change. There’s no model for creating an organisation that’s main goal is to disrupt the status quo, the high emissions, high carbon, unsustainable, business as usual, status quo. When almost every aspect of what you do and how you run is different from organisations that could be your peers, there’s no handbook on how to run this. And when you are trying to do this while simultaneously working on an issue that is an existential threat, that is not taken seriously enough, there is absolutely no guide for how to be a leader in these circumstances.
I have immense gratitude for my peers, mentors, colleagues, friends, co-conspirators, who supported me over the past three years through the challenges of this journey. Particularly, there is something unique in the 2050 team, the way it functions, the sense of commitment balanced with sense of humour, or maybe it’s those 9am weekend mornings, that hooks you in and holds you up at the same time.
What we have become is an organisation that lives our mission, values and purpose. In every aspect of what we do in our operations we try to have a ‘handprint’ (a positive impact) and as small of an environmental footprint as possible. As we find our way through our first year as an official charity, we aspire to find innovative ways of working that demonstrate best practice for how an organisation can function. And I look forward to continuing to be involved in this process.
For me personally, this living our mission is also why the time had come to step down as Chair. If we stand by one of our core values, that leaders can come from anywhere and anyone can be a leader, then our organisation is made up of exceptional leaders, all of which could act as Chair. The experience of being Chair has been the best personal and professional development opportunity that I have had and it was time for someone else to have the same opportunity I feel that I did.
In addition to this, somewhere along the process to become a SCIO we decided to commit ourselves to this value by running with as flat as an operational structure as possible. Our team should be recognised internally and externally for the leadership role that they now play in the low carbon transition and this was the best way to do that.
Note, I said ‘now’. This transition, we are in it, and we, 2050, are a part of leading it, I am confident of that and that we will continue to do so in the future, in Scotland, and further afield.
So, What’s next…
Richard, as our new Chair, and Kerry-Anne, as our new Vice-Chair, bring the knowledge and experience that are exactly what’s needed for the next chapter of 2050’s book. As we are just in the first months of our first year of being an official SCIO, they will guide the organisation through this transition and the second year of our “world first” Young Leaders Development Programme.
As for me, I’ll be getting stuck into delivering the second year of the YLDP – I believe this programme has more transformational capacity than anything else I have ever come across, and I am committed to delivering this to the best of its potential. Not to mention, scheming in the background about how, when and where 2050 takes its first steps towards internationalisation of our model and work.
Elizabeth Dirth, Board Trustee