Global Climate Parent Fellowship: What I’ve learned so far
(This article is written by Natalie Caine and copied from For our Kids, please find the original here: https://www.forourkids.ca/global_fellowship)
Last year I had the immense privilege of being awarded an international fellowship from Our Kids’ Climate and Parents for Future Global. I wanted to make sure other parent climate organizers can benefit from this opportunity, and encourage you to apply this year.
The Climate Parent Fellowship was a new program – the first ever! Aiming to support, connect, and amplify climate parent organizers as they grow their creative ideas, campaigns, and projects and contribute to the emerging climate-parent movement. Fellows receive training, mentorship, and a part-time stipend, which aims to make their climate organizing work more sustainable. The Fellowship also acts as a peer-to-peer learning network and at the end of the fellowship we’ll submit a report about our work and our key learnings.
The recipients in this first cohort are 12 women from 11 countries: Brazil, Canada, Ghana, India, New Zealand, Nigeria, Poland, South Africa, Vietnam, the UK, and the US. These twelve women are now people I gratefully call friends and mentors. We have group and individual communication channels now, and we call on each other when we need advice or feel stuck. This community of leaders has also widened my networks, improving my work by connecting me with collaborators in different regions and sectors. We’ve shared our personal stories, our love for our kids and the planet, and our successes and challenges as change makers. Our fellowship truly has been a gift!
We’ve met together on monthly community calls and prioritize conversations and skill-sharing on the following topics:
- community building
- volunteer management
- media and communications
We’re halfway through our fellowship, so I wanted to share what I’ve learned so far.
- Young people around the world have been the catalyst for a parent climate movement
My climate fellowship cohort has confirmed for me that parents around the world have been awakened (some for the first time) because of the incredible youth who are now leading the climate movement. So many parent groups have been formed to directly support young people leading in their communities and we’re all figuring out the best ways to support young people without superseding their leadership.
- Our way through the crisis is through relationships, connection and community building
Many people look at the world’s problems and shut off or shut down. I’ve learned that our connection to other families is our most important tool for staying hopeful and committed to the work that needs to be done. Instead of turning off, we’re plugged in.
If I didn’t have relationships and connection to other families concerned about the climate crisis, I wouldn’t have known where to start and I wouldn’t have felt powerful enough to act. (I also wouldn’t have survived COVID-19 lockdowns and isolation). Having a community of like minds is integral in advocating for a different world, having a bigger impact, finding our individual and collective power, and staying involved.
Working in groups isn’t always easy work, but it’s necessary for the scale of change we need.
If you’re looking for that community, join a local For Our Kids team, or start your own. Or check out Parents for Future Global and Our Kids’ Climate to find or start a group in your country.
- Mothers taking leadership is changing the world
The trend around the world is that mothers are leading the global parent climate movement. It is mothers who find the time to do the community building that needs to happen for larger-scale change – like making time for meetings or strategy, dropping everything to testify at a hearing, moderate an online discussion, meet with a politician or do a last minute media request. Mothers acting on climate is about life and love itself; that kind of power isn’t destructible and it can’t run out.
Our leadership style is different from the status-quo; it’s not ego-driven or power-seeking. It’s leaderful and based on relationship, mutual aid and a respect for our roles as parents and community members. There’s no false dichotomy between achieving goals and nurturing community well being. We definitely need to ensure that men step into this work, and that there are diverse voices and identities in leadership; and at the same time, we can celebrate and learn from the leadership of mothers. It’s crucial for shifting the balance of power and for building the new world we want for our kids.
- Our organizing challenges are universal (and I still think we’re on the right track)
It’s both validating and unfortunate that the same organizing challenges are facing parent organizers around the world. We’re trying to juggle it all – climate justice work, parenting, employment, enjoying one’s life. Most are unpaid for their work and are making huge impacts despite working from the sides of their desks and dinner tables. It’s challenging to decide what action to prioritize, how to work efficiently in volunteer-driven community groups, balance the flood of communications and information, or how to involve others who can’t manage to be at the core of our organizing groups.
Yet the fact that parent networks around the world are grappling with these challenges gives me hope. It indicates that we’re at an important stage of growth. There are certainly best practices we can learn and adopt, but the fact that many parents in our movement don’t feel like experts in social change tells me that we’re moving in the right direction. We’re made up of ordinary people, many new to social change organizing. And we know what we don’t know and/or why we can’t do things more optimally. We’re ordinary people working with constraints, and we’re actually doing a pretty good job.
While we learn to be better at this, we also have to stop underestimating ourselves. We actually know a heck of a lot. Social change doesn’t happen because one or two iconic people who have all the answers speak up and things change; those types of leaders and spokespeople are important but they’re not what actually makes social change. Change happens because ordinary people work at it. We work on different parts of the problem at the same time and make up a popular movement. Our parent organizing work is a part of a popular movement for climate justice. Knowing our place in it, recognizing our strengths and weaknesses – this all tells me we’re on the right track.
Any questions? I’m happy to answer, email me!
I hope for those of you involved that this helps affirm that you’re in a pretty big and powerful movement of parents. And you’ll consider applying for this fellowship opportunity.
For those not sure how to start, get in touch! I’d be happy to help connect you to a team near you or to an organization in your region. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our love for our kids is a renewable, superpowerful force that I think will tip the scales and curb the climate crisis. I hope you’ll be a part of it. A community of support has so many benefits for our families and our goals; and many hands make lighter work.
Natalie Caine is a parent climate fellow, organizer with the For Our Kids network and a co-founder and volunteer in Pour Nos Enfants / For Our Kids Montréal.