In this blogpost, you can learn about eight ideas on how to get more people to work on sustainability at your institution or to increase the size of your team. Both help to increase the capacity of your institution’s sustainability efforts.
Most Green Office (GO) teams start out small, with just a couple of student employees and maybe one staff member. Sometimes they are the only ones working on sustainability. The task of embedding sustainability into education, research, operations and governance is daunting – often straining the capacity of the small team quickly. Here are some ideas on how to increase that capacity:
1. Allies: Make a stakeholder tour to visit departments and student initiatives. Learn what they are working on, how this links to sustainability and if there are any projects you could do together. If you are lucky, you find allies that bring in their own resources, money and staff to collaborate on sustainability projects.
2. Student volunteers: About 50% of GOs work with volunteers. On average, they engage 20 students. Some even go so far to establish a dedicated volunteer programme that reaches many more students. Check with your team, if working with student volunteers might be an option for you. Then reach out to GOs that are already working with volunteers, such as GO VU, Utrecht and KU Leuven.
3. Champions: You found individuals who are passionate about sustainability. Invite them to become a sustainability champion and join your (informal) network. Find ways to enlist them in the sustainability agenda. For instance they could collect data or run smaller events and projects. Those champions then become your eyes and ears throughout the institution.
4. Student research projects: Working with students who write their thesis or conduct a course project with you, can be a great way to leverage the research capacity of your institution. The research question can come from you or somebody else working on sustainability within the institution. The student researchers could analyse existing data, find good practices and give recommendations.
5. PhD: Work with a professor, identify a research topic and write a proposal to get funding for a PhD position as part of your GO. The PhD could conduct action research, analysing the impact of your GO, sustainability at the university or making recommendations to the university. Make sure that the PhD works at least one day on practical projects in your GO.
6. Interns: Having a full-time intern for 3-6 months can be very useful for GOs to leverage additional capacity for a short-term project. Just be aware that this is only advisable if you have a full-time staff member in the team to supervise the intern.
7. Project applications: Find a high-impact project you would like to run and that another party – such as Facility Services, the sustainability commission, external funders – would be willing to pay for. In case that your project application is successful, you could hire a new student employee to manage this project.
8. Post-project funding: The average funding period of a GO is two years. During your current funding period, make sure to achieve 2-3 tangible successes, document their impacts and communicate those to funders. When it comes to post-project funding, funders might be impressed by what you achieved. They might grant you a bigger team in the next year. In any case, when writing your post-project funding application be sure to get in touch with us.
Written by Felix Spira. Please email Felix if you have another idea on how to increase the capacity of your GO team. Photo by rootAbility.