Top five tips to start your NGO career as a climate change campaigner


With the climate change issue making the headlines thanks to campaigners such as Greta Thunberg, this is an exciting time to move into a career in campaigning.  There will be plenty of competition for jobs so getting campaigning experience will help you to stand out from the crowd.  Here are five top tips to get you started.

Get involved in University campaigns

Universities spend a lot of money of procurement so campaigning for change within your university can be a good way to start making a difference.  As a student or employee your voice can make a difference.  Find out if your university routinely buys recycled paper or does it use single use plastic where other materials could be substituted?  Could university vehicles be switched to electric?  Could the university switch to a renewable energy provider?  With their large buildings universities also have potential for running solar panels systems or rainwater harvesting.  Campaigning for any of these will give you a strong foundation for a career with a climate NGO and gives you lots to talk about at interview too.

Volunteer for a charity

Many charities are looking for volunteer campaigners to help spread the word about their campaigns and increase support.  Find a charity that aligns with your interests:  protecting marine wildlife, reducing plastic, reducing emissions, renewable energy, planting trees, or dietary changes such as reducing food air miles or consumption of meat.

You might find yourself joining a march, signing a petition, writing to your MP or sharing campaign posts on social media.  All these activities will be a boost to your CV and help your applications stand out from the crowd

Get to know your MP

Effective campaigning involves engaging with those making policy decisions on climate change.  If you have never met or contacted your MP, this is a good place to start and employers will be interested to hear that you have been proactive.  You don’t have to do this on your own.  Look out for local campaigns that you can get involved with where an MP may be invited to an event or a small group is going to meet the MP at their surgery.  The idea is to help your MP understand that people in his/her constituency care about climate change and want to see it discussed in parliament.

Join campaigns run by voluntary groups

This can be a great way to start your career in campaigning, having a support group to work with.  For example:

Faith groups

If you are involved with a faith group you might be able to join or start a campaign for your place of worship to install solar panels, switch to a greener energy supplier or send out the weekly newsletter by email to save paper.  If your faith group has an area of land you might be able to campaign to plant trees or start a shared vegetable garden so that more people can eat local produce

Sports groups

If you are involved in a sports club where everyone has a shared interest in one sport this can be a great way to get campaigning.  For example, walking and cycling clubs can be very active in encouraging communities to reduce emissions by leaving the car at home.  These clubs often campaign to keep footpaths open or to install safer cycle paths to make it easier and safer for people to choose the more environmentally friendly travel option.

Introvert or Extravert

Campaigning takes places in lots of different ways and finding the most comfortable approach for you will help you to keep motivated and avoid burnout.  Campaigning is usually a long-haul activity rather than a quick win.  Demonstrating knowledge of the different types of campaigning will also help you in job interviews.  Campaign strategies might involve “quiet” protest activities such as writing a letter, signing a petition, sharing a post on social media or doing a “Craftivist” activity such as sewing a protest banner or knitting a climate change message for a decision maker.  Other more direct and outward facing activities that appeal to some people include public speaking, joining mass lobbies at parliament or appearing on radio or TV.

Even if you don’t have much time to spare it is possible to take some of these small actions to build campaigning experience and begin your NGO career as a climate change campaigner.  Good Luck!

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