We exist because climate change doesn’t communicate itself, even with the increasing number of climate impacts. We help people understand this complex issue in ways that resonate with their sense of identity, values and worldview. Informed consent and support from people across society and around the world creates what we call a social mandate for climate action – and we believe it’s how real change happens.
We’re proud of our team’s impact in driving public engagement with climate change, working with clients and partners around the world: international bodies, governments, charities, community organisations, academic institutions, businesses and media. Here’s the story of how we got here, always placing people at the heart of tackling climate change.
It all started with a question over 15 years ago: how can we effectively engage people with climate change? Decades of scientific consensus, international summits and traditional environmental campaigns clearly weren’t mobilising society to take action. Simply pointing to the science wasn’t enough – something was missing.
And so in 2004, George Marshall and Richard Sexton co-founded in Oxford the first British charity to focus exclusively on public engagement with climate change, COIN (Climate Outreach Information Network). They were soon joined by a dedicated group of trustees, staff and volunteers, and our organisation’s early projects contributed to making Oxfordshire the hub of climate change action groups it is today.
Our thinking on how to address climate change matured over the years. One of our earliest seminars was called ‘How to win the climate change argument’. We now know that it’s not about winning the argument or shouting the facts louder, but about listening and having two-way conversations that resonate with people’s values and what they care about.
There is now a large body of social science research, including our own, that reveals how to – and how not to – communicate effectively about climate change. We make sure that this valuable research doesn’t just stay in dusty journals by guiding practitioners on how to apply these evidence-based insights to their work. We bridge the gap between research and practice.
Over the years, and especially since 2015 when we refreshed our name to Climate Outreach, we’ve expanded into an organisation that plays an integral role in helping people of all ages, faiths, nationalities and sides of the political spectrum to understand climate change in ways that are relevant for them. Our core team now includes over twenty people working together in three departments: Research and Programmes; External Relations; and Operations.
We carefully consider any project we take on to ensure we make the biggest difference we can. Our three key aims, as further detailed in our theory of change, are to:
- significantly build and sustain cross-societal support for climate action in nations critical for global decarbonisation
- overcome political polarisation in countries where it is impeding action on climate change
- turn concern into action on key behaviours, policies and corporate responsibility
Focusing on six key programme areas, we’re proud of the impact we’re having. Highlights of our work include: driving climate conversations across society; finding ways to talk about climate change across the political spectrum; changing the way millions of people see climate change; accelerating understanding of how to mainstream low-carbon lifestyles; working with local partners in countries around the world; and working to ensure a just transition is at the heart of our path to net zero.
Find out more about our range of programmes
Working with partners and clients around the world, our growing team of social scientists and communications specialists produce evidence-based practical guidance for driving public engagement with climate change. We work with a number of organisations ranging from international bodies such as the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) and the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) to charities such as The National Trust and WWF, media groups such as The Guardian, and governments around the world including Canada and Colombia.
In 2019 we celebrated our 15th anniversary by putting on our inaugural and first-of-its-kind Climate Communications Awards. We couldn’t think of a better way to mark the occasion than by celebrating not just our own achievements but also some of the amazing work by others around the world to drive public engagement with climate change.
With polarisation and inequality on the rise, vested interests mobilising against climate action and the impacts of Covid-19, it is a challenging time to address climate change in a way that is impactful and fair. But with continued support from our partners and donors, our team is working hard on a key part of the puzzle: creating a broad-based social mandate for climate action.
In 2019, our entire team went through an enriching process of identifying our values as an organisation – the guiding principles for our work.
We are credible, collaborative, people-centred, integrated and focused. We went further than simply picking five key concepts: we also articulated what they mean to us and to the way we work. Our values are a rudder to guide us in the decisions we make, especially the tough ones.
We are currently working with a graphic recorder to communicate our values in a visually engaging way and look forward to uploading the result here as soon as it’s ready.
● We co-design work with partners and seek to equip others with expertise and knowledge. We act in service to others and the wider movement.
● We empower each other by working closely together in a supportive manner, sharing ideas and knowledge. We actively seek to work without silos and with flexibility.
● We put people at the centre of the climate story, rather than science, technology, finance or policies.
● We treat each other with respect – as equals with concerns, hopes and aspirations.
● We are evidence-based and research-led. Evidence is our starting point, not an add on.
● We seek to live by our values, including by reducing our carbon footprint. We know this isn’t easy but we do our best. Where we struggle, we are open and honest about that.
● We act as a bridge between different sectors, disciplines and communities.
● We recognise that public engagement and the work we do is a part of the puzzle, along with the work by other actors in the climate sector.
● We focus on doing meaningful work that makes a difference to our mission. We seek leverage points in order to create systemic change.
● We recognise the tension between committing to our work and maintaining our wellbeing. We do not sacrifice the wellbeing of staff to this value, because we recognise that happy staff allow an organisation to be dynamic and creative.
Diversity, equity and inclusion
Climate change affects everyone. We recognise that a diverse and inclusive movement is critical to tackling this issue, and that there is much work to be done.
We are committed to making climate change conversations equitable, inclusive and representative of all communities. We want to see new climate conversations being led by the communities most impacted by climate change and we will work to ensure those voices are a central part of the climate movement.
Our diversity, equity and inclusion steering committee focuses on making a positive contribution to increasing inclusivity and tackling unconscious bias within our organisation and across the environmental sector. We design and carry out our recruitment, programmes, collaborations and partnerships with this at the front of our mind.
We want to hear from and work with organisations committed to bringing diverse voices from all races, colours, national origins, ethnicities, ages, disabilities, assigned genders, gender expressions or identities, sexual orientations or identities, religions or beliefs, marital or parental statuses and classes or backgrounds to the table – we believe diversity in voices is key to success.
The organisations we’ll work with – and won’t work with
We’re building a broad social mandate for climate change, and one of our key guiding values is being collaborative, so we work with a range of organisations including international bodies, governments, NGOs, businesses, media and academic institutions.
However, we will not work with or accept support from:
- any organisation or individual working to undermine the science of climate change
- any fossil fuel or high-carbon organisation that attempts to influence the outcome of our work
- any organisation that is working on interventions that do not significantly contribute to emissions reduction or adaptation as set out in the IPCC reports
- any organisation that refuses to communicate about climate change
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