Community programme grows the next generation of green leaders

Stacey Aplin, Groundwork
Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Young people learn leadership skills by running projects to improve local green spaces.

Young people get hands-on support to help them design and deliver campaigns to improve their environment. Picture: Loreanto/Adobe Stock
Young people get hands-on support to help them design and deliver campaigns to improve their environment. Picture: Loreanto/Adobe Stock
  • Name Green Leaders

  • Provider Groundwork

As a community charity, Groundwork's ethos is built on the knowledge that people and places go hand in hand. When there is active community involvement and social action in local places, people are more likely to form an attachment to where they live. This allows local places to thrive and young people to gain skills that will set them up for their futures.

Groundwork's Green Leaders programme is now in its second year and is being run in four areas in England – Greater Manchester, London, Northamptonshire and the West Midlands – with the latest 2021 cohort recently signing up. Given the Covid-19 restrictions, the programme is currently being run online.

Funded by the Co-op Foundation #iwill Fund, the free programme has been designed to empower young people aged 16-18 to be the catalyst for change in their communities by offering hands-on support to help them design and deliver campaigns, events and action groups that improve the local environment, including green space projects.

Those who are selected to be part of the programme are given a mentor, preparing them to become advocates for change while building the confidence, knowledge, and skills they need to create positive social action.

Projects have included litter picks, painting community murals, planting wildflower meadows, talking to school pupils about climate change and awareness campaigns about local woodlands and habitats.

“By getting involved in Green Leaders, young people have the opportunity to show their community that they have thoughts and aspirations for their local area,” says youth worker Stacey Willis who leads the programme in Northamptonshire.

“Young people learn various skills throughout the project. We give advice around the importance of effective communication with their peers and with external organisations. As young people start to see their projects take shape and they receive positive feedback, you see their confidence improve. It's important that as youth workers we teach the importance of resilience should their project not go to plan as can be the case with community projects.”

Green Leaders also plays an active part in supporting the future employment and education prospects of those enrolled.

“It shows employers that young people have the skills and commitment to be dedicated and see a project through to the end,” says Willis.

Ultimately, Green Leaders has been designed to support the next generation of environmental and community leaders. By giving young people a platform to create something special, they can see the difference they can make at a local level.

“Their opinions can often be sidelined in an adult world. They are the future and they should have the opportunity to be listened to,” concludes Willis.

My View: Nicole Berger, 17, Greater Manchester

I was motivated to become a Green Leader with Groundwork because I had observed littering and mistreatment of wildlife and felt a responsibility to take part in a positive change movement.

We created a list of activities which we could incorporate into our lives during the pandemic. This included constructing habitats for local wildlife, signing petitions for positive environmental policies, and planting flowers and trees.

The programme helped me to develop the skills to create a successful media campaign which would engage the public and create support for an environmental cause. My Groundwork youth worker provided knowledge on their personal experiences of environmental campaigning which was beneficial as they have first-hand experience of how to create a successful campaign that produces real change.

In order to make a difference, I pick up litter in the alleyway next to where I live and try to keep my local environment as clean and litter-free as possible. In the future, I want to inspire a larger scale change in my community to keep our environment healthy and clean.

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