From Bristol Green Capital Partnership (BGCP) blog 11 July 2017

Catalyse Change, an innovative new project to encourage and enable young women to pursue careers in sustainability, has recently received support from Bristol Green Capital Partnership through the Better Bristol campaign. One of its founders Traci Lewis has written the post below, outlining their journey so far and how you can help.

A sustainability summer camp for young women

Teenage girls face a multitude of challenges from body image issues, cyber bullying, anxiety and other mental health issues. According the the Dept of Education, one in three are suffering from anxiety or depression.

I set up Catalyse Change CIC last year – along with three other women, Jenna Holliday, Julie Ellison and Rhian Sherrington – with the aim of supporting young women during this difficult time in their lives – whilst also helping to inspire and empower them with the confidence and tools to make a difference in their own lives, communities and careers.

The first year was spent developing the governance, vision and strategy whilst also researching the experiences and needs of teenage girls.

During this time I did a ‘Campaigning for Gender Equality’ training course with the Sheila Mckechnie Foundation. This was also to support my role, at the time, as trustee of Integrate UK – a Bristol-based youth charity (in pic on left) which campaigns for gender equality and integration. Working with both of these inspiring organisations helped deepen my commitment to develop a programme which could provide life-changing experiences for young women.

We wanted to create something useful and practical for teenage girls around our core passions of sustainable development and gender equality. I have worked in sustainability roles all my career, and the other directors have a complementary skill-set in developing and delivering environmental, educational and gender-specific programmes. Our initial research showed us that many young women really care about gender and environmental issues – with many interested in green careers – but aren’t really sure how to go about it.

Esmee Fairbairn provided us with a seed grant to develop our branding and website which led to our launch event at Bristol Green Capital Partnership (BCGP) Green Mingle in April. It was really exciting to find that lots of the brilliant people working in sustainability in Bristol were inspired about what we are doing and offered their support. This included;

  • Bristol University offered venue and staff support;
  • Skills Bridge provided a team of Bristol Uni students to develop a business plan for us;
  • Heloise Balme, a UWE MsC student is helping us to develop the programme as part of her work placement;
  • Lots of fantastic offers from women working in sustainability to provide inspirational career talks and mentoring.

We next jumped at the chance to be part of BGCP Better Bristol crowdfunding campaign in June, which has also been a great success for us! We raised a total of £6,524 with 64 supporters, including the £3,000 match-fund provided by BGCP. This is a great achievement as we didn’t already have an established supporter base. It has also been a real boost to know that others are excited about our vision and want to support it. The whole crowdfunding process is quite intense and really makes you dig deep to clarify key messages and ways to engage different target audiences. So in addition to the funding, it has also been an incredibly useful process for marketing and developing the programme.

So now we need to get lots of teenage girls signed up to our first Catalyst Bootcamp this summer! Do you know any who might be interested? If so, please send them our way.

Also if you are in touch with any teachers or youth networks, please could you connect us? We aim for this to develop into a wider school programme and mentoring network, so we are looking to speak to schools interested in taking part. Thanks for your support and please do join our journey on social media. Also if you have any comments or suggestions please get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.

The Catalyst Bootcamp combines powerful personal development with growing a deeper understanding, knowledge and skills on how to be a change maker.  Open to young women between 14 to 19 years old, it will take place from 22-24th August at Clifton Hill House, Bristol University. There is a competition to win a FREE place and a limited number of bursaries are available.

Traci Lewis is a director at Catalyse Change @CatalyseCh  M 07870 268 654