Looking back, looking forward

December 21, 2021

Race for Nature’s Recovery was born as a result of acollaboration between Action for Conservation, Generation Success, StudentsOrganising for Sustainability UK (SOS-UK) and Voyage Youth. We came together topromote the shared aim of creating a more inclusive and diverse environmentalsector. Why? Because studies have shown the environmental sector to be the secondleast diverse workforce in the UK and with so much climate injusticehappening around the world, the lack of representation in the sector mustchange.


The fight against climate change and ecological destructionaffects everyone and homogenous workplaces can’t generate the thrivingcultures, creative ideas and passion needed to tackle a problem as big, complexand all-consuming as the climate emergency. The sector must feel relevant toall those it strives to represent. So we set out to change the status quo.


We decided to use the Government’s Kickstart scheme tocreate over a hundred 6-month, work placements for young people. By workingwith the Kickstart scheme, we are able to remove financial barriers tocharities that wanted to get involved and ensure we were reaching the peoplemost in need of employment opportunities. The initial feedback from the sectorwas hugely encouraging and we quickly saw 35 organisations, including RSPB,Friends of the Earth, ClientEarth, and ZSL London Zoo sign-up to offer rolesthrough the scheme.


Crucially, we didn’t want these to be token internships or‘shadowing’ experiences for the young people. Our target is to see at least 50%of these placements, which all pay at least the UK Living Wage, turn intopermanent roles. We therefore encouraged the participating organisations tocreate fulfilling, interesting jobs in which these young people could shine.Where a permanent role beyond the initial 6-month placement isn’t possible,participants are encouraged to help create work experiences and pathways forthe young people to help them access other roles and opportunities in thesector when their placements end.


And we were not disappointed. Roles in fundraising, socialmedia, research, marketing, administration, and frontline conservation cameflooding in. The sector could not have been more supportive and excited to backthe scheme.


Our next step was to advertise the roles and get candidateslined up to interview. Each job has so far attracted a huge amount of interestand we’re delighted that 60 young people are now in their placements, withanother 60 roles in the process of being filled.

Importantly, we want both the young person and the employerto get the most out of the experience. At Race for Nature we are providing eachyoung person with over an additional 25 hours of training and career supportduring their 6-month placement. This includes mentoring, interview training,and support with CVs.


By doing this, we can ensure we’re not creating transientroles which fail to embed lasting change. Instead, we’re investing in theindividuals and their future careers in the environmental sector, as well ashelping the organisations involved to evolve their cultures and policies tohelp foster a more diverse workplace. Schemes such as this must strive to avoidgesture campaigns or tokenism; we must push for long-term, lasting change.


As Gill Perkins, CEO of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust,who are taking part in the scheme puts it:

We were nervous about taking on a Kickstarter in thebeginning, but the process was very simple, and we got a lot of interest in ourrole, so much so that we decided to take on four young people instead of one.We are absolutely delighted in the quality and enthusiasm the young people haveshown, they have brought an energy and creativity that previously wasn’t there,they settled in brilliantly and are making so many good things happen”.


And the feedback from the young people speaks for itself.


Sam Priyadharshan, said:

To be given the opportunity to work with the BumblebeeConservation Trust, through Race For Nature’s initiative, has been a completeblessing. In a world facing considerable injustice and challenge, bothorganisations pledge to pioneer new ways for the future. I feel honoured to beassociated with them.


Sinead Munro, who is also a Kickstarter at the BumblebeeConservation Trust, added:

"Being a part of the Race for Nature Kickstartplacement scheme has been extremely rewarding. I have had the opportunity tolearn from some brilliant speakers and mentors who have done lots of inspiringwork to break down barriers for young people like me starting their journeyinto the environmental charity sector. Race for Nature has also given me thechance to network with other young people, exchanging our experiences andpassions for nature alike. As I continue to develop within my role, I hope tocarry on building my confidence as I develop my skills and understanding of thesector so I can go on to inspire others to continue the positive strivestowards environmental conservation and inclusivity."


As the Government’s Kickstart scheme winds down, we are now focusedon filling the last 40 of our 130 placements, as well as supporting all the youngpeople coming to the end of their Race for Nature placements to find new paidroles in the sector. The more young people we can retain in environmental work,the more impact we will be able to create, and the closer we will be to deliveringclimate and ecological justice.


Race for Nature has certainly helped some of our nature and sustainabilityorganisations to become more diverse, and we know it has helped some organisationstackle long-standing barriers to being more diverse and inclusive organisations.However, 130 placements can only be the starting point. We are determined to buildon what we have collectively achieved to keep the sector moving forward in tackingits lack of racial diversity.

We are now actively looking for funding so we can continue to deliver paid placementsfor young people of colour in the environmental sector after the Kickstarterscheme closes in September 2022, as well as providing further support forpeople of colour in the sector. If you can help us with this, please do get intouch.


James Adeleke, Founder& Director, Generation Success

Adapted from James’ blog onthe Countryside Jobs website in August 2021

Website created by Joe Brindle, branding by Bo Brindle