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Green & Black Ambassadors – moving Bristol towards a more diverse environmental sustainability community

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A new report shares successes and learnings from the pioneering project that aims to achieve a more diverse city environmental sustainability community by challenging, engaging and empowering, and in particular addressing the perceived exclusion of Black and Minority Ethnic communities.

The unique ‘Green & Black Ambassadors’ concept emerged from Ujima Radio’s Green & Black conversations held as part of Bristol’s year as European Green Capital in 2015. Developed collaboratively by Ujima Radio, Bristol Green Capital Partnership, and the University of Bristol’s Cabot Institute and Public Engagement team, the pilot phase of the project responded to an identified need to constructively challenge decision-making and make the structures for Bristol’s environmental sustainability movement more inclusive.

The pilot is the first of its’s kind and involved the training and development of new leaders from Black and Minority Ethnic background. The first ‘Green & Black Ambassadors’, Zakiya McKenzie and Jasmine (Jazz) Ketibuah-Foley, helped to shape the project – receiving funding, support and training to support their leadership development and to:

  • conduct community research and projects to encourage stronger dialogue and engagement across BAME and environmental sustainability communities;
  • create media projects and monthly radio shows, share learnings, showcase best practice, and champion inclusive, diverse projects on local, national and international platforms; and
  • engage with organisations and institutions in the city to constructively challenge and influence how decisions are made, to ensure a voice for marginalised communities.

The newly published report demonstrates the advancements that this project has made towards long-term cultural and systemic change, and highlights key outcomes of its pilot phase:

  • Jazz & Zakiya in the studio

    The growth of the Ambassador’s own leadership skills, confidence and professional development;

  • Regular Green & Black radio shows broadcast on Ujima Radio and the BBC to a listenership of over 20,000 people;
  • Evidence of environmental organisations, academic researchers and decision-makers embedding diversity in their approach and adopting more inclusive practices as a direct result of their engagement in the project and the workshops run by the Ambassadors;
  • A significantly raised profile of BAME-led initiatives and issues of exclusion, including at key high-profile events such as; speaking alongside Caroline Lucas MP and Bristol’s Deputy Mayor Asher Craig at the Festival of the Future City; introducing US Senator Bernie Sanders to a packed Festival of Ideas audience, where they raised questions about the impact of environmental challenges within marginalised communities; sharing learnings at Bristol Green Capital Partnership’s tenth anniversary celebration; participating in a national Natural Environment Research Council conference; and
  • The ‘Photovoice’ community-based photography research project that situated the grassroots ideas and practices of people from BAME backgrounds within the city’s environmental agenda.

In his foreword to the report, Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, said: “The combination of leadership development work, community working and research, media projects,

and engaging the city in debate and change is a model to learn from. It shows how, working together, we can enable new leaders from BAME backgrounds to develop their skills and offer opportunities that will ensure Bristol’s environmental community is more diverse and inclusive. I am supportive of the project and its future ambitions and would urge others to get involved.”

This report is an integral part of the project, sharing insights from the Ambassadors’ experiences, their research and the successes and challenges of the Green & Black Ambassadors model. It demonstrates the positive impact of the project and recognises the praise and collective support that the project has received both from the city and nationally. It highlights the need for investment in further sustainability leaders through the scaling up of the Green & Black Ambassadors initiative and offers a model for better participation and inclusion that can be modelled throughout the UK.

Jazz Ketibuah-Foley, said: “The involvement of so many organisations and the support we have received has made clear we have tapped into a huge reservoir of potential – but the transformation to a more diverse and socially-just environmental sustainability movement will require long-term and widespread engagement. We have made massive inroads in highlighting this important issue, and the conversations we started have continued on the radio and with the organisations and individuals who have engaged with us through this pilot. What we need to do now is work together to shape our learnings so far into practical solutions for the city and incorporate them into the future vision of the Green & Black Ambassadors initiative. I am so proud of our city and the response it has given to the Green & Black initiative so far. Let’s roll with that momentum and inspire positive change together”

Zakiya Mckenzie said: “The Green & Black Ambassadorship has been a very enriching professional experience. I have learned, first-hand, about environmental sustainability, urban gardening, local effects of global climate change, conservation and so much more. What has been most fulfilling is exploring these topics through a city leadership lens to envision a more effective and accountable Bristol. There is huge potential in the African Caribbean and other ethnic minority communities to become more integrated into the wider city leadership system and the Green and Black Initiative has proven that to be true. This is a model that works; inclusion works when community members act as a bridge between corporate structures and the grassroots happenings. I would encourage other organisations in Bristol and beyond to truly nurture and invest in local communities in the way the Green and Black Ambassadors project partners have.”

Project Partners

The Green & Black Ambassadors pilot project was enabled by seed funding from Bristol Green Capital Partnership CIC and The University of Bristol Cabot Institute Innovation Fund, with support from Up Our Street who hosted the Ambassadors for two months. The project received additional funding from the UK National Environment Research Council (NERC) and the European Research Council (ERC) as well as receiving significant in-kind support from all project partners, contributors and other supporters

Mohammed Saddiq, Chair of Bristol Green Capital Partnership, said: “The Green & Black Ambassadors Initiative has been deliberately bold and mission-orientated and has supported our core value of being inclusive in everything we do. I am deeply proud and inspired by the outcomes of the project and the way in which they were delivered in a collaborative manner within the diverse community of Bristol. We will continue to  invest in developing future sustainability leaders from BAME communities. This will help us to achieve the inclusive environmental sustainability movement in Bristol that we all need to help address the environmental challenges the city faces.”

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