As the project apprentice I was lucky enough to attend some wonderful training set up for the Beach Rangers to help develop our “Blue Voice” and to learn about campaigning. “Blue voice” is a term used to describe speaking out about environmental issues, especially marine ones. These online sessions were designed to encourage the young people attending to use that voice, giving them tips, skills, and confidence to make a difference to the marine environment.
The first session was about engaging people outside the ‘bubble’ of environmentalism. The first speaker was Manda Brookman, from Permanently Brilliant. Manda spoke about building a network and reminded us that we all create change already just by engaging those around us in our values and leading by example. We then heard from Pete Smith (Saltwater Safari’s), an adventure sports coach in North Cornwall, who spoke about linking outdoor sport with the environment as a way of engaging and educatin. CWT’s Matt Slater gave us practical tips for interacting with the public, how to create entertaining and educational talks and how to grab their attention, for example having an animal at the talk to interest people. Plastic Free Falmouth’s Kirstie Edwards then moved the discussion toward engaging with businesses, again giving some amazing and practical tips about how to involve them in your campaigns and movements, but also exploring the importance of respecting their priorities and how they may differ from your environmental agenda.
I found all these speakers very informative and loved how they kept the advice they were giving us grounded in real examples and practicalities. It meant that what they were talking about was realistic and achievable, and really inspired me. I was especially interested in Kirstie’s work as she spoke about the importance of holistic planning and working toward a circular economy, which was not a concept that I was hugely familiar with, and her explanation of what it has meant to their work was really exciting.
The second day of the training was focused more on campaigning and we heard from multiple ‘change makers’ about the experiences they have had implementing change. The first speaker was co-founder of Surfers Against Sewage Chris Hines, who is a hugely charismatic and inspirational activist. Everybody was very excited to hear his talk which was packed with information, examples, and stories from the original Surfers Against Sewage campaigns. I found his advice regarding the press and images really interesting, as I am more familiar with social media campaigns. He also spoke about his experience organising ‘in person’ protests, how to manage them and how they can be a really useful tool.
We then moved to a panel of some amazing people: Steve Bowens (Surfers Helping Surfers / H2o Training), Lauren Turner (Shelterbox), Dom Ferris (Trash Free Trails) and Sophie Hellyer (Rise Fierce). Led by YSBR’s Jenn and Brender, the panel discussed the importance of storytelling in campaigning, both as an important part of engaging people but also as a driving force behind the campaign itself. Organising social media campaigns is a key part of any activism now, and this panel changed the way that I will think about formulating future campaigns to make them more engaging. Through the use of storytelling, the individual reasoning and voice becomes clearer and more relatable.
The final session of the week was about inclusivity and engaging with schools. The first speaker was Karl Fice-Thompson, an educator who focuses on learning outdoors and tying the natural world and local environment into all aspects of education. Again, what was really exciting about Karl’s talk was the practical examples of how to work around schools, get support from teachers and use the curriculum. He focused on linking it to the activities you want to do so schools can clearly see the benefit learning outdoors will have for both students and teachers. We had a really positive and interesting discussion about the use of outdoor learning in schools, and how it should be made available to all abilities. The discussion highlighted the impact that school had clearly made on all of the Beach Rangers there, and this further inspired us to think about how our time at school could have been improved by learning outdoors and different approaches to education.
We then heard from Jasmine Tribe from City to Sea’s Plastic Free Periods about how they work with schools to educate students and teachers about what is a relatively ‘taboo’ subject. Her talk was very interesting, and it was great to hear about their national training network, enabling educators to give accurate and inclusive lessons about plastic free periods. She also had a lot of advice for starting the discussion with schools, for example small things like calling instead of sending an email and taking the time to find the right person in the faculty to contact. Again, this sparked an interesting and important debate about the impact of education on young people’s lives, from the experience of the attendees.
The session finished with Karl talking about professional marketing and representing yourself. I found this really interesting as Karl represents himself in a very specific and quite unusual way. Rather than having a company or brand his marketing is focused on himself as a person and as an educator. He spoke about his experience using social media, and how he has found that using his own voice and personality is the most effective way for him to utilize these marketing platforms. This use of social media linked back to the session on storytelling and using emotion and truth to engage and drive, which again really intrigued me and has changed the way I think I would approach setting up a campaign in the future.
I came away from all these sessions feeling empowered and inspired. The speakers encouraged me not only to use my “Blue Voice” with more confidence, but also have changed the way that I will approach environmental campaigning. I think what was the most exciting about the sessions was that we were given practical advice and tools to further how we speak up for the natural world going forward. And it was not just me; before signing off all of the Beach Rangers attending also expressed how much they had enjoyed the sessions and how valuable what they had learnt was, as young people wanting to make a positive difference to protect their local marine environment!
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