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How can young people have a positive impact in your organisation?

October 16th, 2018 Posted by Blogs No Comment yet

It’s Green GB week! Regardless of the debate around how well the UK seems to be doing on the ‘Green’ front (fracking, anyone?), and off the back of our latest event for the Young Leaders Development Programme, ‘Climate Change: Professional’, we thought we’d share some inspiring tales of young people making positive changes in their organisations. Both of these case studies feature individuals who have been through our Young Leaders Development Program (YLDP) which takes on 100+ young people (aged 18-35) every year and runs a series of events that aim to educate, engage and empower them into taking action on climate change. To read more about the YLDP, click here.

The recent IPCC Special Report on 1.5 degrees global warming and our previous blog post stressed that urgent action on climate change is needed on every level. These examples show how young people’s individual actions have catalysed change in their organisations. Flip this around, and they also show the benefits business can reap by making space for young people (in fact, all employees!) to have a voice on issues that go beyond their job description. Whether you are an early career professional or executive business manager, prepare to learn and be inspired…

Kim Cooper: Making changes in the workplace

Young Leader Kim Cooper works in a microbiology lab for Scientific Services at Scottish Water and was concerned by the large amount of consumables and energy her lab uses for sterility, business continuity, and regulatory requirements.

Inspired after attending her first YLDP module, and with the help of management and her colleagues, Kim put together a workshop for employees, promoting and raising awareness about her team’s energy usage and waste production. Despite having to meet various regulatory requirements, the workshop discussed methods which Scientific Services can use and how they can procure consumables more sustainably – for example using steel loops instead of plastic, disposable ones.
The workshop was well attended by staff and management, and was praised by the Chief Scientist, Kim’s lab manager and team leader. This is a great example of a young person reaching out to her colleagues and peers to achieve measurable change in her workplace.
Kim has also developed ocean-themed posters for the microbiology wing on marine debris, ocean acidification and climate change. Her next step is to give a talk to her department on waste management, which, she states, is the main reason she applied to take part in the YLDP. Kim believes that long-term behaviour change is the biggest stumbling block in influencing her lab. 2050 Climate Group therefore paired Kim with an external mentor, Alex Hillam, who has a working knowledge of behaviour-change initiatives. Kim’s action is a perfect example of an ambitious determination to influence her peers, while being open to the wisdom and experience of those at different stages in their careers.

Rebecca Harding: ‘Lunch and Learn’

“Lunch and Learns” are established lunchtime events at Scottish Water. They are a short, informal opportunities to share knowledge and experience on certain topics. Young Leader Rebecca Harding had the idea to share learning from the YLDP in these sessions, and connected with other Scottish Water employees on the programme to organise some informal sharing sessions.
At each session, two Young Leaders gave a presentation or set up an activity and took questions at the end. Rebecca and her fellow Young Leaders found interest to be high, with lots of questions around personal action that individuals can take, as well as about disruptive businesses who are going ‘all out’ to reduce their impacts on the environment.
These sessions are a great method of reaching out to less informed or engaged colleagues on climate change issues. For pitching similar sharing sessions at your place of work or study, Rebecca recommends pitching these to your boss as great opportunities for continued professional development. She recommends choosing an angle and selling point, promoting the lunches through a development network or other internal communications, and asking for catering to be provided. Young Leader Kerry Relf, who ran a Lunch and Learn with her colleague Alex, said:

“I think the ‘Lunch and Learn’ Alex and I presented made people think about the impact of their own personal carbon footprint on the Earth. We had feedback, which suggested that the audience was surprised to see how small changes could make a difference. Overall many small changes makes a big impact. The ‘Lunch and Learn’ was easy to organise and run.”

From an organisational point of view, this is a fantastic way of promoting shared learning between your teams, getting employees engaged and encouraging communication on bigger issues than the day-to-day.

On that note, what better week than #GreenGB Week to start taking steps to ensure all voices in your organisation are engaged and heard?