From Issue 3
When I was sixteen-years-old, I carried out one of my first community projects. It was a school talk where I enlightened my schoolmates during our morning assembly about the need to conserve water. I recall the stage fright, adrenaline rush and exciting passion I felt when reciting the witty poem I had composed for that presentation. Ever since then, my life has been a rollercoaster ride—collaborating with teams to carry out over thirty environmental projects engaging thousands of youths across Africa over the last four years.
Through all of this work I have come to understand this quote by Greta Thunberg to be true: “No one is too small to make a difference”. When starting, you might feel intimidated by the problem, comparing how huge it is to the impact of your project. Here’s what to remember when that happens—little actions can build up to big impact. The stories of various successful young environmentalists, climate activists, and innovators all started at first with a little action, which gradually built up over time to big impact (remember the story of Greta Thunberg).
Little actions are powerful and every action counts in the environmental movement. So here’s how you can create impactful campaigns to address an environmental issue in your school or community. No matter how small you start, I believe young people have so much potential to help protect the planet when we all work together.
1. Identify: The first step in developing an effective community project is to identify the specific environmental problem you wish to address. Marine Pollution, climate change, coral bleaching—the environment and ocean face a plethora of problems. After identifying the specific environmental issue, you can utilize techniques such as the “problem-tree” or “ice-berg” to discover the root-causes of the main problem and have a deeper understanding of it.
2. Learn: Next, take a step further to learn more about the problem. You can start by researching facts online, watching documentaries to understand the science and concepts on the specific problem. Additionally, you can also consult with individuals affected by the issue to learn firsthand how it impacts their lives. This can be accomplished through simple surveys, phone calls, or in-person interviews
3. Brainstorm: After deeply reflecting on all you’ve learnt so far, set aside some time to brainstorm and write out possible solutions to the root causes you have specified. For instance, if you have identified “lack of awareness” as a root cause of marine plastic pollution, your next question would be: what solution or project can I develop to raise awareness about this issue? How can I tailor it to the community or location in question? While brainstorming you should also consider your talent, skills, interests and potentials. For instance, if you enjoy drawing or playing the guitar, you can use artivism to raise awareness. If you enjoy speaking and creating new things, you can consider being an activist, educator, or innovator.
4. Collaboration: Helen Keller once said “alone we can do so little and together we can do so much”. The truth is collaboration is so crucial to this movement. To foster collaboration, you can consider reaching out to your friends, family, and classmates to support you in carrying out your project. You can also use social media to announce calls for volunteers to support the project’s goal through various roles.
5. Create a plan: Now is the time to create a detailed strategy outlining how you want to accomplish your project. That’s exciting! Begin by establishing SMART goals (S=Specific, M=Measurable, A=Achievable, R=Realistic, T=Timebound). Give your campaign a name and then describe its aim and vision. Then, within a set timeframe, define specific short- and long-term objectives for your project, outlining or detailing WHAT needs to be done, WHEN it needs to be done, HOW it will be done, WHO will be engaged, and WHERE the project will be done, while emphasizing WHY the project should be done. Discovering the “why” is important as it will help you stay grounded as you evolve.
6. What do you need?: Create a list of all the items needed for the project and then Write out a simple budget outlining how much money you will need to raise in order to purchase items or hire services. For instance, if you would like to organize a beach cleanup project in your community, you will need things like gloves, bin bags, masks and more.
7. Fundraising: To purchase the items listed you will need to raise funds. There are several ways to do this. You can start by crowdfunding (soliciting donations from your family and friends) or applying for grants (certain organizations provide grants to youths who are passionate about effecting positive change). You may also wish to explore generating funds via sponsorship, sending out proposals and pitching your ideas to environmentally-friendly companies or organizations who align with the values of your project.
8. Execute: After raising the funds needed, it is time to carry out the project following the plans you’ve made. Show up profoundly as you do this (remembering your WHY) and do not forget to have fun as you create change. Also it is great to document your experience through photos and videos.
9. Reflect and Report: Now that you’ve done a swell job in effecting change, it is important to reflect on the outcome of your project and write a simple report of how it all went. You can then share this report to other organizations that may be interested in supporting you further in creating more impact.
10. Tell your Story: It is time to share about the outcome of your work. Tell your story, start a blog or share on social media, make a vlog of the experience and more. By telling your story you can access more opportunities, build more credibility and inspire more people to take action too. In the end, this can help you attract more support in creating more change as you advance further.