4 lessons from an incredible two years working for Global Action Plan

Today, it is officially 2 years since I first started working for Global Action Plan.

I had no idea when I began my internship that I’d still be there two years later. Over the past two years I’ve been lucky to work on a huge variety of environmental behaviour change programmes with retailers, businesses, schools, hospitals and young people – and I’ve learnt an awful lot. As with any job there have been highs and lows, but two years on (and three promotions later!) I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else. These are just a handful of the lessons I’ve learnt over the past two years.

People don’t care about polar bears

This was, and probably still is, the hardest lesson I’ve learnt during my time at Global Action Plan. The fact is, that sadly not everyone cares about polar bears or melting ice caps or climate change (how can they not?!). And if people don’t care about it, then they’re not going to act. In my two years at GAP, I’ve not once mentioned climate change or polar bears when trying to convince someone to turn off a light or shower for less time. If you want someone to change their behaviour you have to frame the messaging around what that person cares about – it could be saving money, or their own comfort, or the comfort of their patients – and not that many people care about polar bears!

Negativity doesn’t get results

There is nothing less empowering than someone telling you that ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising and the world is going to end. There is equally nothing less empowering than someone telling you you’re doing a bad job or you’ve not done enough. Negativity never gets the results you want – people don’t react well to it, and if anything it makes people want to do less. Positivity is the key – some of our best programmes at GAP are a success because they focus on celebration, rewards and praise.

The NHS is incredible

I’ve worked a lot with the NHS during my time at GAP – on our programme, Operation TLC, and on other sustainability programmes with Barts Health NHS Trust. During this work, I’ve seen how amazing the NHS and it’s staff can be. Not just the incredible clinical staff on the wards, but those in the labs, or the mortuaries, and those in offices making sure the hospitals run smoothly.

Most NHS trusts, alongside saving lives, are working incredibly hard to create a more sustainable NHS. Whether they’re upgrading their lighting, reducing waste, cutting their energy bills or improving their procurement processes – there are a huge number of trusts working hard to save money and be better for the environment. I wrote a blog about this a while ago, inspired by my work at NHS Sustainability Day roadshows.

Behaviour change is tough

I’ve been working in behaviour change for two years now, and would class myself as a ‘behaviour change practitioner’ but that should never be mistaken for an expert. Every week, I learn a new behaviour change technique or tool, or face a new challenge in changing someone’s behaviours. I’m not sure I’ll ever be an expert, nor that I ever want to be. One thing I know for sure is that behaviour change is never easy – which in many respects is a relief, as if it was easy I probably wouldn’t have a job!

It’s been an incredible two years, and I can’t wait to see what the next two years bring. Thank you to all of my incredible colleagues who have made the past 2 years so wonderful. A special thanks to Rowan, Clair, Anna and Bex for coaching me and helping me to develop, learn and grow – my career so far wouldn’t have been the same without you.

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