Your browser is no longer supported. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience.

Changing ourselves and changing the world – reflections on our work in the last year

By Rachael Orr on April 5, 2023

Now that our new CEO Rachael Orr has been in post for a couple of months, she’s recorded a short video introducing herself – watch it below – and written her first blog for Climate Outreach. One of the first things she did when she joined the team was ask everyone what they were most proud of in the past year. Rachael reflects on what she heard in terms of our proudest achievements, both internally and externally, and is looking forward to helping us maximise our impact at this decisive time for climate action.

The Climate Outreach team

We hit two important milestones at the end of March. Firstly, it’s the end of the financial year, and the time to finalise our budget and business plan for the coming year. And, for me, it will be two months since I joined the brilliant team at Climate Outreach as CEO. 

I think it’s a crucial job of any member of a successful organisation – but especially a leader –  to be able to summarise and talk proudly about the impacts and achievements of your team. And we are not short of them at Climate Outreach. So here’s some of the things we are proudest of from the last 12 months.

Changing ourselves

I was really struck that when I asked my team to tell me the impacts and achievements they were proudest of, many talked first and foremost about the changes we are making to how we work. There is a really deep, shared view amongst staff that how we plan and deliver our work, how we work together and how our culture has to change is absolutely vital if we are to achieve the changes we want to see in the world. 

In the last year we are most proud of two key areas. The first was our approach to partnerships. We believe we have some insight, knowledge and resources that can help other people, institutions and organisations to better communicate and engage with people on climate change. We want to be as generous with these as we can. Wherever we have funding, or wherever we can work on a consultancy basis, we seek to be open, collaborative and movement generous. Internationally we have delivered work this year in Germany, Australia and Egypt and we have been really careful to try and work with existing partners in these countries and support their work, rather than taking space. We know we won’t always get this right, but aspire to deliver the best more generous partnerships we can wherever we work in the world. 

Secondly, we have been doing a lot of work on our internal culture. Our commitment to being a feminist, anti-racist, anti-colonialist organisation is shared across our team and our Board. Our challenge this year (and in future years) is building a shared vision of how we get there. We have introduced diversity training run by the excellent Other Box and hold sessions for staff to talk about what being an anti- racist organisation means to us. We’ve talked about the challenges there are, in our organisation and in our wider sector, but this year felt like the year we moved from determination to taking action to really change ourselves.

Changing the world

The way we work matters hugely. It allows us to deliver the most impactful public facing work we possibly can. And that is our mission: to build a strong social mandate for climate action, so all those with power to tackle the climate emergency do. 

So how have we done that in the last 12 months? Well, I may be biased, but I think we’ve done some amazing work. 

We influenced international negotiations on public engagement on climate change at the COP27 conference. Governments have an international duty to engage citizens on climate via the Action for Climate Empowerment or ACE (definitely the best acronym I’ve ever worked with). Building on work committed to at Glasgow COP26, our team ensured a number of our core ‘asks’ on public engagement and capacity building were reflected in the final agreement that came out of COP27. 

Our Climate Visuals work continued to grow. We run a sector leading library containing diverse images on climate change. Many of the major media players in the industry use this library, we exhibited some of the photos at COP27 and are currently hosting an exhibition working with Australian partners at the Sydney Opera House.

Our flagship Britain Talks Climate research is creating a ripple effect. This year we have developed a programme of work in Germany – Übers Klima reden (Germany Talks Climate) – working with German partners to use the research methodology and apply it in Germany. In the UK we are understanding how local authorities and community groups use our insights on a daily basis and working with many on bespoke local programmes to engage key target audiences. 

We have continued our work to train climate experts as Climate Ambassadors via a one day tailored training course. Our programme delves into the rich social science evidence base to support climate experts to engage with uniquely different audiences on meaningful climate action. In the last year we have trained over 40 climate experts who delivered almost 70 public engagement activities between August – December 2022.

We’ve also explored how young people across Europe understand and respond to messaging around climate justice. In response to an article about how young people are terrified for their future, we sent a letter published in the Guardian today which provides relevant insights from this work.

Our Climate Engagement Lab has worked in partnership with Hope for the Future (HFTF), Pledgeball and the Campaign for National Parks, all of which have generated new insights and best practice. I love this quote about the impact of this work:

The Campaign for National Parks overhauled its use of visual images and is now more consistent in what it seeks from images, with more thought given to who is behind the camera as well as what is in front of it. It is also being more nuanced in its communication through social media channels.

We have also worked with around 20 grassroots groups funded through the National Lottery’s Climate Action Fund and taken them through training first on the basics of climate communications, then delivering in-depth workshops on topics from audience segmentation to having climate conversations. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

If you have supported our work in any way this year: thank you. We couldn’t do any of this work without a huge network of partners, funders and supporters. As the IPCC report last week showed, we don’t have a moment to lose in bringing even more people with us to create a partway to a more livable planet. I’m excited about what we can do together in the coming year.

In the video below, Rachael introduces herself and tells the interesting story of how she came to be Climate Outreach’s new CEO.


May 2023 update: Rachael has kicked off a big strategy review process to be completed by the end of the year. We’ll be launching a survey in the next few months so that your views can help inform our strategy review. In the meantime we have a few quick questions to get the ball rolling. They shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes to complete, and we’d be very grateful for your responses!

By Rachael Orr

Rachael is the CEO of Climate Outreach. She works closely with the board to ensure effective governance and growth of the organisation and with our senior leaders in defining and delivering the organisation’s overall strategy, goals and impact.

Rachael has spent her career in the voluntary sector in leadership roles combining a deep commitment to social justice and to public engagement. She has run campaigns for Shelter, led programme and campaigning work at Oxfam and currently serves as Chair of Trustees at the Refugee Council.

It was in her last role, leading a network of housing associations, that Rachael really appreciated the huge gap in public awareness and engagement on climate change – and the huge opportunity to fill this gap. Housing, like many sectors, is in a race to decarbonise, and the sector is still really developing its approach to community, resident and public engagement. Rachael firmly believes that Climate Outreach is uniquely placed to help many sectors fill this gap.

Rachael is a mum to two young children so most of her spare time is spent playing schools or superheroes – and tidying up. She spends any time she gets to herself running, cycling and going to the theatre.

Sign up to our newsletter