Reach is a national charity which connects people who want to volunteer their expertise with social purpose groups, as trustees, or for operational roles and projects. This September, Reach is running a campaign to encourage people to volunteer for charities and groups which are tackling the climate crisis. In this blog, CEO Janet Thorne talks about the climate crisis and how every organisation has a role to play.
Why we decided to run this campaign
Many people are worried about climate change but feel at a loss about what they can do. They are unaware of the many options that are available between litter picking and direct action. This campaign shines a spotlight on the vast array of volunteering opportunities that exist with climate action groups, and aims to inspire people from outside the ‘environment sector’ to join in.
Reach is a small infrastructure charity which means that our potential scope for action is extensive but our resources are most definitely not. We have to prioritise ruthlessly. We decided on this campaign because a sustainable, livable planet is core to our vision, and volunteering has such an important role to play in climate action. We have noticed a growing number of organisations using our service which are focused on climate action. Interestingly, many of them are newly established and driven largely, or solely, by volunteers. At the same time, we have been enjoying a surge in the number of people signing up to volunteer. We noted that climate roles were particularly successful in attracting interest and realised that this was something we could build on.
A couple of years ago I signed the ACEVO Climate and environmental leadership principles, acknowledging the scale and urgency of the climate and biodiversity crises, and committing to take action. Reach’s trustees agreed that these crises are the biggest threat to the missions of civil society organisations, and put the climate at the heart of our strategic framework, in our vision of a thriving fair and sustainable society, and as one of our four ‘underpinning beliefs’. As obvious as the campaign seems, with hindsight, it took some time for us to find a way to put our commitment into action in a substantive way.
What we want to achieve
Our primary goal is to help climate action groups and organisations find the (volunteer) expertise that they need. These groups are doing important, urgent, and (usually) underfunded work, and an injection of the right expertise at the right time can make all the difference. But our campaign has wider objectives too. In the words of the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres ‘Every fraction of a degree matters. Every voice can make a difference. And every second counts’. We need to get many more people from outside the environmental movement involved in climate action, now. Volunteering is a great way in. Research shows that people are deterred from acting when they think that no one else cares about the climate, and when they feel like it’s just too big a problem for an individual to make a difference. The wonderful array of groups taking action in so many different ways throughout the UK are a very hopeful thing. They show that many people do care, and are already doing something about it. This ‘normalises’ action. And volunteering roles available with these groups are tangible and immediate invitations to join them.
Doing nothing is no longer an option
The climate crisis is scary. The lack of political leadership is dispiriting. As individuals, we may feel like there is little we can do to effect change. But there is real power in collective action and what’s more, it inspires others to step up too. Happily, collective action is the origin story of much of civil society: groups of passionate people getting together to make a difference. We are living in turbulent times and climate change will impact every institution, every bit of infrastructure, every supply chain. It will impact hardest on those with the least power and privilege, in ways that the Everyone’s Environment programme is helping to map out. Everyone’s Environment , coordinated by NPC, is a collaboration of over 50 partners, including Reach, exploring how different social groups in the UK are affected by the climate and nature crises, talking to those likely to be hit hardest to gather their views, and supporting shared policy action between social and environmental charities.
There is still a choice at this point: do we seize on this time of change to build a fairer, kinder and more sustainable society, or do we wait to act until it is too late? There is so much at stake. Civil society has a huge role to play. Why wouldn’t we do everything we can, within our day jobs and also outside, through volunteering?
View opportunities to volunteer your expertise for climate action here on our website.
Please share this campaign widely.
Learn more: read about how the climate and nature crises will affect your charity’s mission , how to join the Everyone’s Environment programme and tips on how your organisation can take positive action on climate from one of the Everyone’s Environment funders.