Catalyse Change CIC is a Bristol-based social enterprise working to inspire, empower and skill young women for sustainable futures. We heard about it earlier in the year when they were organising Catalyst Bootcamp 2017 – more on that in a minute – we loved the idea and so, as usual, wanted to find out what it was all about.

The best person to talk was Traci Lewis, the woman who got it all started in the first place and who is now their Green Project Manager. Here’s what she told us …

Background in sustainability

Before Catalyse Change, I was working on environmental and sustainability change programmes for the Soil Association developing regional sustainable food programmes as well as working with a wide-range of public, private and third sector partners.

When I set up Catalyse Change, it wasn’t long before I was joined by three others: Jenna Holliday, UN Women consultant, Julie Ellison, Social Entrepreneur & Educator and Rhian Sherrington, Career Coach & Women in Sustainability Network founder.

Why focus our work on women?

I have always felt strongly about gender equality issues and support women’s causes and charities. However, in recent years have increasingly felt an urgency to do something about it myself.

I have my own teenage girl, so am aware of the challenges they face from; cyber bullying, body image, anxiety and other mental health issues.

We also still don’t have gender equality in the UK, with women still earning on average around 18% less than men!

Initially I joined Integrate UK as a Trustee in order to support their youth-led work to help end-FGM. It was then that I decided to set something up within my own field, to help young women be more confident and resilient, whilst providing practical support for them to pursue Green Careers.

The Catalyst Bootcamp

We ran our first-ever Catalyst Bootcamp in August 2017 with the aim of inspiring young women to be confident and resilient changemakers.

This was made possible through the generous support of many fantastic volunteer contributors, and funding from the Bristol Green Capital Partnership (BGCP), their ‘Better Bristol’ crowd funder, and bursaries from Bristol University, Pukka Teas, Skanska and Triodos Bank.

It ran over three days during which time twenty young women were taken through a guided change process of: Envisioning Change, Information & Exploration, to Becoming Change-Makers. It felt throughout like something pretty special and transformative was taking place, however we needed the evidence to back this up.

Catalyst Bootcamp headline outcomes

Our primary aim for the programme was to inspire and empower young women to pursue careers in sustainability, and all who participated stated at the end that they either agreed or strongly agreed that ‘they were aware of the potential careers in sustainability’ and that ‘they felt confident to engage with others on the topic of sustainability.’

Our evaluation revealed other significant outcomes:

  • Careers: 72% increase (to 100%) in the number of participants who agreed they were aware of potential careers in sustainability
  • Change maker: 54.6% increase (to 100%) in participants who agreed they had the potential to make a positive difference in the world
  • Team working: 36.4% increase (to 100%) in participants who agreed they felt confident working in a team and making decisions in a group
  • Wellbeing: 32.1% increase (to 86.7%) in participants who agreed they had the tools that to manage their happiness and wellbeing

For full details see our Catalyst Bootcamp 2017 Evaluation Report

The Bootcamp Programme

The programme was supported by a range of sustainability practitioners from local organisations such as Sustrans, Avon Wildlife Trust and The Sofa Project who all worked with the young women to solve a practical problem around a particular sustainability challenge.

In addition, a range of women working in sustainability came in to speak about their own education & career paths. It was both informative and inspiring for the young women to get an insight into the range of opportunities available and diverse pathways to achieving this. Whilst to help build their own self-knowledge and personal resilience there were also sessions on: personality profiling, confidence building and mindfulness.

Catalyse Change would like to thank all the amazing sponsors, speakers, mentors and volunteers without whom the Catalyst Bootcamp 2017 would not have been possible! And special thanks to Heloise Balme, UWE MSc student in Sustainable Development in Practice, for developing the programme as part of her work placement.

The Pledge

The event culminated in the participants developing a personal “Catalyst Pledge” setting out the change they wanted to see in the world and the role they would play in that change.

Each young woman created her own sustainability pledge, designing a “T-Shirt” and presenting it back to the group. Some of the examples included: ‘To research how I could start to create my eco-gym chain.’ ‘To make my school greener.’ ‘To do my dissertation on wellbeing issues in Reading and make a difference to the area.’

Words of advice to the next generation?

I would say to follow your passions and to enjoy life. Always be open to new opportunities and experiences. Each one makes you who you are and are an invaluable part of your life journey.

I have taken an unconventional career path. I went on a five-year gap year – living and working in Australia and Asia – rather than go to University. I then decided it would be better to learn on the job, going in at an entry-level role within an environmental organisation, rather than study for another five years. So, I think it is important to be open to different options and not feel as if doors are closed to you if you don’t have a certain degree or haven’t worked in a particular field before. There are so many different learning opportunities now, online and through volunteering and apprenticeships too.

And finally … The Future

We are in the process of planning a Catalyst Bootcamp for 2018 designed largely on feedback from the first year’s participants and we will develop a mentoring programme, regional boot camps and online training resources.

In order to appeal to those from diverse backgrounds, we also aim to offer at least 50% of Bootcamp places on a bursary basis.

And we are now offering workshops to schools and community groups to allow us to deliver elements of the Catalyst Bootcamp in a shorter, more accessible format. This will enable us to raise the profile of the programme and to engage with young women, their parents and others who work directly with them.

Meanwhile, we are looking for partners and sponsors to join us as part of the future of Catalyse Change.

The next Catalyst Bootcamp will be held from 1-3rd August 2018 in Bristol. For more info on this and to reserve your Early Bird place email [email protected]. This is also the email to address to contact Traci about any of the other initiatives she has mentioned.

Thank you, Traci and Catalyse Change. It’s Your Future – Let’s Get It Started!

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