‘We are all leaders in this movement’

Reflections from the 2022 cohort of the Green New Deal Rising Leadership Programme

As we come to the end of this year’s GNDR leadership programme, here are some reflections on the experience from Pooja, Iman and Daniela – three of the incredible organisers on the Programme.

Pooja’s reflections

The second residential training weekend took place in September, and brought our incredible Green New Deal Rising Leadership programme cohort together in Cheshunt (just outside London).

We celebrated our reunion by sharing stories and lessons from a busy summer – over the last three months, we reached out to our communities, challenged our MPs, canvassed in our constituencies, showed up at picket lines, organised local events, and welcomed new members to our movement.

We have to show up and care for each other over and over again – that’s the heart of organising.

We celebrated every small win, reminding ourselves that only through persistent collective action can we transform unjust systems.

On Saturday morning, we headed to London to show our solidarity at a Black Lives Matter demonstration following the police killing of Chris Kaba.

It’s difficult to find the right words to capture this experience since each of us had different emotional responses during and after the demonstration, three thoughts stayed with me – climate justice is meaningless without racial justice; it is absolutely essential to sit with uncomfortable emotions, acknowledge our privileges, and do something about it; and we have to show up and care for each other over and over again – that’s the heart of organising.

We spent the rest of the weekend learning about the impact of canvassing and practising different canvassing tactics (much to the horror of introverts…). Having identified our strengths and skills, we also sketched concrete plans for canvassing within our local communities. Developing a more detailed plan of action helped us connect our strategy with our main goal – making the Green New Deal an era-defining issue.

If the Green New Deal Rising Programme has taught me anything, it’s that there is no substitute for deep, meaningful friendships in social movements. One of my fondest memories of the weekend is the moment we stood in a circle, singing and celebrating together:

“Solid as a rock, Rooted as a tree, I am here, Standing tall, In my rightful place.”

Our movement for climate justice will always be rooted in community – and I’m incredibly lucky and grateful to have found mine.

Iman’s reflections

As part of the leadership program with Green New Deal Rising, we travelled to Cheshunt for the second residential weekend. It was my first time travelling to London as well so it was a new experience in more ways than one.

On the first day, we essentially caught up with one another and watched Made In Dagenham. A brilliant movie, showing us the intersectionality of worker strikes and the impact the standstill can bring.

On Saturday, we headed to the Justice For Chris Kaba demo in London, outside New Scotland Yard. This was a powerful experience. For me, it was the first I had attended such a demonstration, I found it to be thoroughly engaging and deeply inspiring.

When we left, I came out of it wanting to do better, to be better. Racial justice, as many things, is deeply intertwined with the Climate Justice movement too. We attended that demo in Solidarity for Chris, his family and black lives everywhere.

When we came back, we talked about what the experience meant to us individually and while it didn’t phase me much at the time, it’s had a slow burn effect on me since. I’m thankful and ever so grateful that this movement gave us such a space.

Which comes to my next point, the POC Huddle, where people of colour in the movement can talk and share their various experiences and culture. It’s necessary to have such a group, not only do you feel included, but it’s more personal, it encourages you, as a person of colour, to be yourself unabashedly. You can’t put a value on that, it’s priceless.

The Leadership Programme might be over, but the friendships we’ve made will last. We are in the fight for a Green New Deal together and we are all leaders in this movement.

The rest of the day involved canvassing practise, I have canvassed months ago in Coventry, during the GND Rising weekend there. So, I have a bit of experience, regardless, it was very helpful to train after a couple of months and it really brought me out of my shell.

One of the most important parts about canvassing is the energy you bring. As someone who is an introvert, particularly when it comes to meeting new people, it can be intimidating to bridge that gap. As with many things, it takes practice. Once you spark that conversation, find that common ground, the rest is a reflex.

It was a heavy day, and we had a lot of steam to blow off that evening. We spent a lot of the time bonding over different types of games, I wished that evening could last forever, it was so much fun. On Sunday, the final day, it became more personal. We made plans about canvassing, what roles we would have, how many people would attend together, but most importantly where we would go from here.

It can be a lot, slightly existential, taking that step forward can seem scary. Which is why we all support each other, we’re not alone in this, we take advice, learn from each other and grow. The Leadership Programme might be over, but the friendships we’ve made will last. We are in the fight for a Green New Deal together and we are all leaders in this movement.

Daniela’s reflections

I had the opportunity to be part of the Green New Deal Rising Leadership Programme 2022 – and it was amazing. From learning more about the Green New Deal from some of the UKs leading campaigners to having opportunities to make plans and take action with other young people in our areas and around the country – this was a programme that I will never forget and would recommend everyone to apply for next year.

We took part in two intensive training weekends, which were happening in York (in June) and Cheshunt (in September) that built our leadership skills. I am now confident that I can campaign and organise to become a leader in the fight for a Green New Deal.

When I think back to York, I remember feeling anxious about meeting everyone, but also excited. We started off by an opening session to break the ice and then ended the evening by watching the movie “Pride” together. It was a brilliant movie reminding me just how important solidarity is between different social movements.

Saturday was more about learning the basics about the Green New Deal and who Green New Deal Rising are. We also learnt about different movements and talked about people’s power. We also prepared for a fake MP challenge happening the next day (this was honestly so fun but also nerve wracking at the same time).

And then Sunday came. We did the fake MP challenges, watched them together and talked about the things we would want to change if we were to do a real MP challenge next time. And then came the hardest part – saying goodbyes.

Fast forward two months and we’re in Cheshunt now. This time I valued the time spent together with everyone more.

Eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner together. Having walks throughout the day when possible. Talking about books we like. Travelling on London Underground together (which wasn’t that fun because it was hot and packed, but was definitely made better with the company). And of course being together with our local teams and planning put future canvassing sessions in our areas.

There’s no climate justice without racial justice, therefore it was important that we go and show solidarity.

We also went to the Chris Kaba demo in Central London. This wasn’t initially in our agenda, but considering that our second training weekend collided with it and that we were so close to the location, it was important that we went. There’s no climate justice without racial justice, therefore it was important that we go and show solidarity.

Then came a time for another round of goodbyes. I think this time it was harder because it was technically the end of this programme. It’s going to be hard to get all of us together as a group again so it felt hard to leave that space. But the connections have been made and we’ll definitely see each other again.

Want to get involved in Green New Deal Rising? Sign up here to join a Welcome Call and find your place in the movement.