Framework sections highlighted: Action, Connect, Listening, Organise

Creating an Appetite for Action – Community Organising Across The Wildlife Trusts

Community Organisers is working with the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts on their Nextdoor Nature Programme, which aims to connect people with nature at a local level and achieve their vision of a thriving natural world where everyone is inspired and empowered to take meaningful action for nature and combat challenges around climate change.

Through their research the WildLife Trusts have found that many people feel unwelcome and unsafe in green spaces or are unable to access wild places close to where they live resulting in them having no connection to nature.

We need to understand the different motivations of different sections of society and respect their personal relationship with nature, using empathy and understanding for how they value nature, using this to inform our approaches
The Wildlife Trusts

To do this and reconnect them with nature they have recruited 92 Community Organisers across 46 Wildlife Trusts who are working on the ground within communities all of whom are undertaking Community Organisers Level 2/3 Award in Community Organising equipping them with the right skills and knowledge of community organising.

By using the Community Organising Framework they can reach out and listen to a wider range of people giving everyone an opportunity to learn about nature, connecting them to others who share the same passion and interest and inspiring them to act and build a power base to effect real change.

People must want something. If they don’t want it then you induce the appetite more. You can’t very well want strawberry shortcake if you’ve never eaten strawberry shortcake you know.
Saul Alinsky

Techniques learnt on the award has given them access to sectors of the community that they would not normally reach out to, such as Sami in Montgomeryshire who was initially worried about using door knocking to reach out and listen.

It was amazing how people did talk, and even those that closed their doors, I bumped into later at a community event, and they recognised me and began talking to me. It has given me real insight and I have started to build up a picture of the community. There are a lot of lonely people out there and door knocking enabled me to reach out to those people.
Sami, Community Organising Officer, Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust

Sami has since gone on to carry out a public living room outside of a local Tesco, in partnership with RSPB Lake Vyrnwy Efyrnwy where she was able to listen to many more Welshpool residents.

It has also shown them how to find leaders within the community who are passionate to take action on issues that they care, which Bryony in Somerset found when reaching out to people about wildlife mapping

We can’t always get to know everyone in the community in depth so we have to get to know someone in the community who can get to know others, which has been a real success. One of the things we do is community mapping and training the community to map wildlife. One person loved it so much they are now training the community and other communities in how to carry out this mapping so they can map wildlife together.
Bryony, Somerset Wildlife Trust

Getting enough people together to take action around something they love or an issue they care about can be real challenge if the listening work has not been done in the first instant. Sarah in Yorkshire found that her project with young people and green spaces had come to a halt until she began listening to them about their concerns and asking them why they were not using their local green spaces.

“I asked them what they love, and what were the issues that concerned them. I took them to the Dales to show them what it was like to be in a safe, open green space. They said they were concerned about dogs, car pollution and intimidation from big groups especially at night-time. We spoke about what could be done to combat this and they suggested writing a letter to the residents about the importance of keeping their dogs under control.”
Sarah, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust

So far, 120 Community Organisers and Staff Members have undertaken or are undertaking the award.

Stories of action are already starting to emerge from the Wildlife Trusts and would not have been possible without these organisers reaching out and listening to those who are not normally listened to and connecting them to others with the same interests. If you feel unsafe to use green spaces or do not live near any then you may feel no connection to nature at all, until you are inspired to connect when you are listened to and nature is made relevant to you
Nick Gardham, CEO Community Organisers

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