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As one of the largest grant-makers in Kent and Medway, Kent Community Foundation brought together members of the voluntary sector at our first ever Green Impact Forum.

The Forum opened the floor for speeches from community groups who have taken steps towards eco sustainability, followed by discussion in the room of 90 people on the environment, what it means to local communities, what we can learn from one another and the steps we can each take next.

Our natural environment offers boundless possibilities for driving social change, including fostering mental wellbeing, offering spaces for communal activities, providing children and young people with opportunities for engagement and self-development, and creating avenues for employment and involvement for those most vulnerable.

Through our Environmental Strategy, we are helping to facilitate change through positive steps at a local level. Why? Because a better outcome for the environment is a better outcome for local communities in a multitude of ways; green spaces which provide opportunities for everyone, including those most vulnerable, cleaner air quality, greater local food production and security, flood defences and prevention. The list of benefits and better social gains goes on. 

The environment is one of Kent Community Foundation’s five areas of priority in our grant-making strategy.

Here are key and emerging themes raised during the event:

  • We need to take accountability but should not be afraid to take imperfect action.
    If it’s a step in the right direction, then it’s progress that we should celebrate.

    There was lots of discussion about practical steps and tools available but there was a keen appreciation that enthusiasm and passion trumps deep expertise, and we should embrace small change as well as big.

  • Climate Anxiety and the Need for a Shift to a More Positive Mindset
    There was common acknowledgment of climate anxiety as a barrier to progress. Along with discussions on various motivations for taking action, there was a clear consensus on the need to reframe the narrative surrounding climate change to be more positive and actionable, instilling a sense that change is not only feasible but also closer at hand than often perceived.

    “Positivity is an upward spiral, the more you do the more you achieve.”

  • Taking Care of Our Local Environment Brings Self-Growth and Purpose
    Volunteering and engaging with environmental initiatives are opportunities for personal development, self-discovery, and finding a sense of purpose. This is a particularly important point when considering the benefits to the younger generation who are crucial to the future work of looking after our environment and therefore the lives of local communities.

    There was often a strong emphasis on the emotional connection to the environment and the sense of fulfilment gained from being outside and active engagement, not just passive learning.

    This was especially true when it came to volunteering and being recognised for volunteer work, thanking those who help in a ‘currency’ that is valued by the individual.

The Green Impact Forum ended with a resounding call to take just one positive step and see the optimism in a healthy environment for a healthy society. There were calls to consider the value of your actions as an individual, and then growing this by joining with others; engaging people in your passion, especially younger people, showcasing the tangible rewards they can reap through active engagement. The event highlighted success stories from groups that exemplified how a single individual can catalyse group efforts, reflecting Kent Community Foundation’s belief in thinking globally, acting locally.

The open and honest discussion around terminology confusion, feelings of overwhelm, and the perception of inadequacy in expertise or efforts demonstrated the significance of turning communications around to what can be achieved and what the future will look like.

Importantly, there was great emphasis on actionable, localised initiatives that can deliver significant impact.

What’s next?

Here are some useful suggestions and tools raised during the forum:

  • The first step is talking, the second is to set a target and get going.
  • Find and thank “your people” – find others within your community who can share your passion and help you build a movement. Don’t forget to thank your volunteers, especially in a way that means the most to them.
  • Get your team on-board with what you want to do and why.
  • Thinking of conducting a carbon audit (and what is a carbon audit?)?

Speakers at our Green Impact Forum

Watch presentations from six charitable groups who have found different ways to become more environmental sustainable in their service delivery.

Kayleigh Ward – Rainham Eco Hub

Peter Hasted – Sunken Garden Society

Dr Brian White - Allington Millennium Green

Kate Belmonte - Mutual Aid Road Reps CIC

Kassia Estrada-Castillon – Sevenoaks Public Realm

Yvonne Freeman– Canterbury Climate Action Partnership

MASSIVE 'thank you ' to everyone at Kent Community Foundation. Your funding support is HUGELY appreciated and has enabled us to get into the heart of local communities with REAL, affordable, healthy and tasty food that does so much more than feed people.

Community chef Mike Spackman, Sheppey Matters

KCF's enthusiasm for what we are doing and hoping to do, coupled with helpful advice, gave us the confidence to take this daunting step which has paid off.

Liz Turner, Octopus Foundation

It's great having a foundation that empowers organisations and charities in our community to make real positive differences and changes!

Tom, MMK Mind