Leadership in Action with make_sense: re_action for climate

Reflection on my 4-week leadership training experience with the team at make_sense as I prepare to launch my own 2-week long “re_action for climate” project.

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Make_sense is a non-profit organisation which started in France ten years ago but has since developed into a global organisation. It’s project is to develop specific engagement programmes that allow everyone to take action on environmental and social issues. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, make_sense launched a new set of programmes called re_action for climate. For the past 4 weeks, I have been training with the make_sense team in Mexico alongside eight other Laidlaw scholars from around the world. This training programme has aimed to prepare us for researching and building our own 2-week long “re_action for climate” project that each of us will lead with our own team of 10 recruited volunteers alongside an NGO in our local area.   

 Our training included hearing from climate activists from across the world, whose experiences helped inform our ideas about what kind of project could be achievable in 2 weeks. The main caveat of this is that every aspect of our projects have to be done remotely: from coordinating and leading a group of volunteers, to taking concrete actions towards a climate-related cause. This proved quite challenging when it came to actually proposing actions that could be achieved virtually with an NGO supporting climate awareness in my local area, because everything I associated with volunteering for environmental causes involved doing things in person! On top of this, we were encouraged to work with or support a disadvantaged community.

After a lot of thinking, I got in contact with a charity I am already familiar with, to see if I could support their cause whilst promoting sustainability. ‘Mencap’ is a UK-wide charity that supports people with cognitive disabilities. Every summer I volunteer with their Oxford branch that runs week-long residential holidays for people with severe learning difficulties in and around the local area. As a smaller branch off the larger charity, Oxford Mencap’s events are run solely off donations. Corresponding with my contacts at Mencap and my team of volunteers, we came up with an idea for a project aiming to make Mencap’s 5 yearly residential holidays more sustainable. Since make_sense challenged me to focus on food-related climate issues, my team and I will be developing digital strategies to attract donors to Mencap in order to support providing fresh local produce to the community each summer.

The fundraising tactic I am most excited about is reinvigorating the little-known online fundraising charity EasyFundraising. This is a brilliant site associated with thousands of retailers. At absolutely no cost to you, you can raise money for a charity of your choice. Just by doing your online shopping through EasyFundraising, retailers promise to donate part of your shop to that charity. All you have to do is download the free app and create a free account, set your charity to Oxford and District Mencap, and continue your shopping as usual. Over time this could create a lot of income to this charity that does a lot of meaningful work. Whatever charity you choose to select (go for Oxford and District Mencap), I really encourage taking that extra step as you online shop to make sure retailers get donating!

Finally, I’d like to thank the team at make_sense for their time and inspiring work, the Laidlaw team at St Andrews for giving me this opportunity, and special thanks to Lord Laidlaw himself for all his support.