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Climate Action Programme case study: Watershed


Since reopening post lockdown, Watershed has been working on cross-organisational climate action. A major aspect of this has been designing their own accredited Carbon Literacy training programme. In this case study, Zoe Rasbash, Environmental Emergencies Action Researcher at Pervasive Media Studio and Watershed, shares their learnings.

zoe rasbashWhen Watershed declared a climate emergency in 2019, we did a staff survey. We learnt that people were on board, but they wanted to know more about the climate emergency, as well as the impact of Watershed’s activities and what it would mean to go on this journey to carbon neutrality by 2030. Then Covid put everything on pause. When I joined the team in 2021, myself and the rest of the Environmental Action Group started working on prioritising staff training to underpin the foundations of our organisational climate action.

Transforming our organisation

At Watershed we’ve been working on the development of our inclusion and wellbeing policies and actions, as well as our climate action. These are not separate streams of work; they are all complementary and working on all three together has been transformative for our organisation. A big part of this has been offering training to everyone.

We’ve been thinking about sustainability for a long time but previously most of the action had been quite informal and came from the good intentions of our staff. We wanted to up the ante, learn how to track our actions and their impact, and understand some of the barriers to action too. The Carbon Literacy Project offered us support and resources to start developing training that could meet these needs.

Building Carbon Literacy

Carbon Literacy is a way of training everyone, to educate people and spring up action across the organisation. AllIcon of a heart with a leaf growing from it staff are offered one day’s training, they then dedicate themselves to two actions which are accredited and go towards Watershed’s overall accreditation.

It took approximately three months to design the training, but it was important to make it relevant for everyone from across our programmes, operations, exec, and front of house teams. It really helped to have representatives from across the organisation in our Environmental Action Group who took the lead on rolling out the training. Plus, we gathered feedback and made improvements as we went along. Be warned though, it is a commitment. I’m grateful there were three of us rolling out and delivering the training.

Going for gold

Now that we’ve trained the majority of our staff, we’re working on embedding knowledge and action across all departments by including Carbon Literacy training as part of onboarding for new starters, as well as linking actions to organisational development and key performance indicators. Part of this process is figuring out how to build capacity, and considering what an annual check in for each team might look like whilst continuing with our supportive ethos.

We’re also going for our Gold Carbon Literacy accreditation which involves supporting other organisations to design and deliver their own trainings. So do talk to me if you’re interested and keep an eye out for our training for external organisations in May.

Connection can be electrifying!

Working on climate online during the lockdowns felt hopeless at times so I really enjoyed being in a room with other people. I was nervous at first but being in the midst of an exciting conversation with people who care, who have opinions, was electrifying! There was a positive feeling of change in the room.

Looking ahead as a cultural organisation, we want to explore how to use arts and culture to engage a wider audience in climate and nature action in a hopeful way.

Top tips for developing and delivering Carbon Literacy training

  • The smaller the group the better. Under 10 people worked best. Small groups generate richer conversation, people are more engaged, and feel more confident that they don’t have to be an expert.
  • Make space for conversation. So much of climate change communication is one way expert to individuals but it’s a huge subject and everyone brings different thoughts, experience, and knowledge. We learnt to follow the thread with the group, a particular benefit of this was hearing people share local or sector specific knowledge.
  • Use games. They get people talking and are fun and interactive. It took a lot of trial and error to figure out the best games to use so we’ve saved you that headache and made our resources available for you to use: Carbon Literacy Training at Watershed.
  • Capacity is still the major barrier to action. For true transformational change environmental responsibility needs to be reflected in job descriptions with related capacity and budget.
  • Be aware of power. Initially people felt the actions generation section put a lot of emphasis on individual actions. Of course individual action is important but we also needed to recognise that, however hard we work on it, there are some power imbalances across the organisation. So we added a question in this section, ‘What might you need from Watershed to help those actions happen?’ to map how the executive leadership team and the Environment Group can support increased capacity of staff.
  • Use the opportunity to talk about climate justice. A just transition is less widely understood than climate action but when you connect it to the energy crisis and the cost-of-living crisis, everyone can understand how climate action is good for people too.
  • Be aware of climate doomism. A whole day of talking about climate is heavy. Be considerate of how you facilitate and hold the space and build in talk of actions and solutions that are already happening to ensure people retain hope.

Watershed is a member of our Climate Leader’s Group. Learn more about their wider sustainability efforts on their website where you can also access their climate action plan. For support with your organisation’s efforts to become carbon neutral and climate resilient, take a look at the Climate Action Programme resources.


Business, Arts Heritage and Culture, Case Studies, Climate Action
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