My name is Ignace De Ridder and I am one of the volunteers at Act4change. My current employer Greenfish asked me to write an article about Act4Change in the 3rd edition of their magazine "The Greenfisher". This is the result:
Act4Change is an organisation that brings young people together to inspire and encourage them to participate in the transition towards an ecologically, socially and economically sustainable society. By creating a safe, inspiring and innovative learning environment, we want to provide them with the skills to become pioneers of tomorrow.
By now I have told this story maybe a hundred times already, but two years ago I had no clue what Act4Change was. Sustainability was growing on me, but I was still a social worrier; someone that wanted to have a positive impact on this planet but had not yet figured out how to do it. By chance, I ended up on the cooking team at one of their master classes. The professional, inspiring and open atmosphere they managed to create during that weekend impressed me. It was not long before I decided that I wanted to become a volunteer there. I could organise events, do things, and at the same time contribute to a more sustainable future.
At first I became part of the community unit for Generation T, a network of around three hundred young Belgian pioneers for a sustainable transition. The project is in partnership with The Shift, a network of companies, NGOs and other organisations that care about sustainability. As the community unit, we organise events that offer networking and learning opportunities for the Generation T network. An example is the Generation T Talks, an evening where young innovators get the opportunity to pitch their projects. A professional coach shares tips for improvement on the story telling part and a subject matter expert gives feedback on the content. After the pitches, there is a roundtable discussion with the audience to provide the speakers with fresh insights on the challenges they face.
Once I got to know the organisation better I became Coordinator of Volunteers and joined the Act4Change core team. I got involved in activities that support the organisation itself like the weekend for volunteers, our new years drink, or some of the Work4Changes. These are monthly gatherings where we meet to work on our projects or on tasks that are often forgotten. It isn’t a secret that social pressure boosts efficiency, but it is also a moment to share ideas, to introduce new volunteers and to reconnect with the organisation. A Work4Change always ends with a vegan dinner followed by some drinks at a bar where we discuss how on earth we will be saving the world.
Act4Change wants to turn Social Worriers into Social Warriors. A Social Warrior understands how an individual can make a difference and is doing that by being a leader for change. It was clear I was going through that process myself. I grew as a volunteer, but of course it did not stop there. I started living more and more sustainably and tried to inspire other people as well. I introduced a sustainability program at my previous company and eventually I started looking for a job with a bigger positive impact. That is how I ended up working at Greenfish. My story is not rare among other my co-volunteers. I guess this is what happens when you become part of a group of like minded people who care about our planet and share a strong desire to do things better.
Act4Change was founded in 2011. At this moment there are around 25 active volunteers who form the beating heart of the organisation. There are also quite some people circling around the organisation who contribute sporadically. Recently we were able to hire a full time employee, which is a great step forward for us. It brings more continuity and helps to increase our impact.
The organisation wants to empower and inspire young pioneers by offering all kinds of learning opportunities, like extensive training programs, master classes, thematic evenings, or workshops.
Some of the activities we organise on our own, but we are always looking for interesting partnerships. A few examples of what is currently going on:
The Circular School is a six month program where four young novices are being coached to further develop their circular business idea. The program also reaches out to circular newbies, who are looking for more information about circular economy. It allows us to crowdsource the challenges from the four novices. We hope to create an inspiring and safe learning environment for all participants.
Via a partnership with Ulex Project we are offering bursary places for several high quality trainings in the Spanish Pyrenees that support people working environmental protection, migrant integration and social cohesion.
Later this year there will be a Masterclass on energy. At the end of the weekend participants can expect a better understanding and a more nuanced insight into the complexity of the current energy issues.
What we have to offer depends of course on the drive and knowledge of our volunteers. However some things are deeply embedded in the DNA of the organisation. We are good at facilitating using innovative methods and techniques, in connecting people and starting valuable partnerships, in organising events and setting up actions that create social awareness. Our focus is always on empowering young individuals interested in creating a sustainable society. These can be participants of our activities, people in our network, our own volunteers, or anyone else affected by what we do.
Are you between 18 and 35 years old and interested in becoming a volunteer at Act4Change? More info on www.act4change.be or contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org.