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Peer-powered climate action: How 140 women moved £1.2 million for the planet.

A crisis that feels big, urgent, and overwhelming

The IPCC report came out last week and it said what we were expecting: the clock is ticking and time is running out. We knew this already, but there’s still something big about seeing every major news outlet featuring what we’ve known for a while:

That the climate crisis thing is real, it’s big, it’s urgent, it’s here, and it’s now.

We know something has to change. We want to do something. But what can I do? My plastic straws and recycling attempts feel feeble when this problem is so global and systemic.

We know that the forces we need to influence are so much bigger than our own little bubbles.

Cartoon with four boxes: 1. 80s dad explaining littering to son. 2. 90s dad explaining recycling to son. 3. 00s Dad explaining carbon footprint to son. 4. ’10s Dad saying ‘completely restructure global economic systems and you may be able to save a remnant of humanity!.
@TommySiegel

People-powered change

At Enrol Yourself, we’ve had a hunch for a while that the power of people supporting other people can help us tackle challenges together that feel too big and too complex and too tough for any of us to begin to tackle alone.

So when Friends of the Earth’s Experiments Team came to us in 2019 with the idea of an experiment about money, the climate crisis, and peer-support, we leapt to action to apply what we’ve learned over the past four years about the power of peer-learning.

Moving our money for the planet 🌍

The idea for the experiment was this: what if we created a way for women to support each other to move their money for the planet?

💸Why Money?

If you want to influence power, follow the money. With mainstream banks still funding climate destruction, with £2 trillion invested in the fossil fuel industry’s growth since 2016, and $50 trillion invested by pension funds globally, there is huge power in “voting with our pounds”. We need to influence corporations and governments to invest in the future we actually value — and we need to show them that we mean it. Most people, in the UK at least, are connected to at least one financial institution; whether that’s through their current account, and/or if they are employed, through their workplace pension.

“Put your money where you want the world to go. It’s as simple and as powerful as that”Christiana Figueres, Former Executive Secretary UNFCCC

🙋🏽‍♀️Why Women?

Friends of the Earth’s analysis suggested that women are more likely to want to make values-based investments but many lack confidence when thinking about their long-term finances. Over 62% of women in the UK admit to defering decisions about long-term finances to their spouse, with a whopping 82% of these women citing the belief that “men know more about investing and planning” as their key reason. Would women be more prepared to make ethical choices with peer support, we wondered?

👯‍♀️Why Peer-support?

When it comes to actually changing our bank accounts, figuring out our pension pots, and choosing the best ‘green’ energy supplier (and figuring out if it really is that green anyway), there’s no shortage of information out there. But we know that the old adage of ‘know better, do better’ really isn’t enough when it comes to taking real-life action. Sometimes we need a little help from our friends to go from wanting to take climate action to actually taking the leap.

Designing an experiment in peer-powered support 🧪

Photo of 8 women smiling, some holding up cards, some waving at camera. In a cafe, standing up behind table.

Together with system innovators at Friends of the Earth, we co-designed and launched OwnIt; a peer-support programme to help women take climate action with their personal finances.

  • We created a micro-learning programme of 3 sessions, training women as Hosts to guide a group of fellow women — friends, family, colleagues — through OwnIt.
  • In the sessions, women came together and talked about an often taboo subject; money. Some found themselves exploring their relationship to money for the first time, in a space that was supportive and where there’d be no stupid questions. Together they mapped out what actions they could take to move their money to work for the climate, and then groups supported each other to take action.
  • Women supported each other to take action. Actions such as switching bank accounts, moving pension schemes, changing energy suppliers, making greener spending decisions, and for those who were able to, investing money in climate-positive ways.

And it worked!

In our three pilots, in person in London and Bristol, and online during the pandemic, 140 women took part in OwnIt, and together, we moved £1.2million for climate action. Every women who took part found that they felt more confident, more informed, and more able to actually feel in control of their long-term finances.

“It felt empowering and radical to discuss money, finances and actions with a group of women — the impact of this resonated with me on a much deeper level than I was expecting.” — OwnIt Participant

“I’m now far less fearful of tackling my finances, and also feel a healthy amount of responsibility to the group to get something done!” — OwnIt Participant

With the success of the pilots, we’ve been looking to scale up OwnIt to ask a big question: What if we can use peer-power to move £1billion for the planet by 2030?

Let’s imagine that things work out 💭

Pull out your time-machine for a second, and set the clock to 2030. Imagine if by 2030…

Photo of glass ball, reflecting nature scene upside down, with sun streaming in from top left with golden glow on everything.
Photo by Brad Switzer on Unsplash
  • We have grown a movement of 1000s of women around the world who are a powerful force for climate action. Collectively this movement has shifted over £1billion for the good of the planet.
  • In every major city and region around the world, we’ve visibly seen that women en masse are committed to moving their money for the planet.
  • There have been 1000s of peer-support groups of women around the world, gathering around dinner tables and zoom rooms, to build knowledge, skills and confidence about their family’s and our planet’s collective long-term financial futures. Women have talked to their partners, their colleagues, their families about the power we’re all quietly sitting on; that’s far greater than the power of recycling any cardboard box.
  • Through taking part in OwnIt, mothers (and grown-ups in young people’s lives), regardless of wealth or circumstance, are teaching their children — including their girls — about money. Not just how to get it and save it, but what a healthy, resilient long-term financial — and planetary — future looks like.
  • We’ve seen banks receiving 100s of break-up letters, and losing £10000s of money from customers, and they are worried. The conversation in every boardroom of every banks is about how tangible meaningful climate action is business-critical, so that they retain customers, and become a bank that this new generation of climate-conscious consumer genuinely trusts.
  • Employers have seen their staff demanding to know where their pensions are being invested, and corporations everywhere have realised that unless they stop pouring money into fossil fuels, they’ll lose valuable talent. Firms across the world have made green pensions a selling point of their employee benefits offers.

Imagine if.

One step at a time

So how do we get to this much needed vision for 2030?

Our ambition is to scale the impact of OwnIt by a factor of 10X every 3 years between now and 2030.

Graphic saying ‘10X every 3 years’ with grey bubbles with different amounts and numbers, with bubbles increasing in size, timeline along the bottow saying ‘now, 2024, 2027, 2030’

All eyes on 2024

The next three years are focussed on scaling the impact of OwnIt, so that by 2024, we’ve moved £10million.

Our aim is to engage 2500+ women in OwnIt, through training 500 women to host a peer-support group in their community or workplace. OwnIt will train women to support women to learn, disrupting the status-quo of financial advice being tailored for men and taught by men. And we’ll connect these 2500+ women together, to strengthen our personal actions through a powerful collective voice.

We’ll focus this next 3 years in scaling the model in the UK, but we’ve proven OwnIt can work both in person and online, so we’ll also be launching small-scale pilots in other countries to see what we can learn about how this works elsewhere, ahead of the next phase of scaling, from 2024–2027.

Scaling sustainably

In this phase of OwnIt, we’ll also test out a sustainability model, so that we can ensure the initiative has enough investment to scale to reach our £1billion goal. We believe in order to scale our impact by 10x and move £12million by 2024, we need £360,000 of investment; a return on investment of 333%.

If you know a funder who wants in on this, let us know.

We’re also looking for values-aligned Corporate Partners who want to support employees to develop the important 21st-Century capabilities involved in hosting peer-support communities, whilst demonstrating their commitment to taking action on the climate crisis. For every employee a Corporate Partner trains to become a Host, we’ll be able to train a woman in the community to create a peer-network of women taking climate action with their personal finances — and get one step closer to the £1billion goal.

“I now have better relationships with my colleagues; clear actions I want to take; I am going to do some lobbying for the first time in my life; improved coaching skills; improved confidence facilitating and hosting similar things.”OwnIt Host

How can you get involved?

  • Sign up to our OwnIt mailing list here. We’ll keep you updated with the latest at OwnIt, including when we’re open for sign-ups in Spring 2022.
  • Do you know a senior leader who would be excited to bring OwnIt to their company? Share this with them, and invite them to get in touch with anneka@enrolyourself.com
  • And — of course — start talking to your own friends and family about taking climate action with your finances, and create your own network of peer-support around you.

“What we do in the next ten years will profoundly impact the next few thousand.” — David Attenborough

🤔💥🐝 Interested in how to bring peer-power to an ambitious challenge you’re tackling? Applications are open now for Enrol Yourself’s 3-day immersive training: Huddlecraft101.

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Enrol Yourself is now Huddlecraft: an ecosystem of support for peer-to-peer learning and action. This is where we share our insights and reflections.

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Anneka Deva

Anneka Deva

The world, people, systems change, social justice, learning. Brummie. Partnerships & Comms Director @EnrolYourself . Lead OwnIt. Founder @TEDxBrum . She/her.