“What if I told you I was playing with earthworm poop?' Danny Daniels stares into the camera, his hands rummaging through a jar of compost.
With this attention-grabbing start. Daniels' presentation on vermiculture, more commonly known as worm farming, was a highlight among the finalists at the Famelab Climate Change Communication competition; part of a series of activities organised by the British Council in the leadup to the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26). held in Glasgow last November.
Each of the 10 competitors - young scientists from Bangladesh, Brazil, India. Mexico, Nepal, the Philippines, and Vietnam - presented three-minute online talks around the theme of "Trust in Climate Science". Their chosen topics tackled everything from nuclear power and deforestation to engagement with local communities.
Presentations were judged according to 3Cs: content, clarity, and charisma. Originally devised by Cheltenham Festivals, these criteria put extra emphasis on speakers' ability to communicate their ideas in a way that is compelling.
Danny certainly met the grade. During his presentation he extolled the virtues of earthworms and the important ecosystem services they provide. demonstrating their importance and insisting they should be part of the climate change discussion. The panel of international judges agreed and handed him first prize.
The Famelab Climate Change Communicators is part of the British Council's Climate Connection programme, an initiative that focuses on bringing new ideas, innovations, and voices to the climate change conversation. Many young leaders have honed their skills with the British Council. building up professional networks and developing the se1f confidence they need to follow their passion and take innovations to the next level.
Roy is one of many graduates from the Future Leaders Connect programme, a global network of emerging policy leaders supported by the British Council. She first came into contact with the British Council in 2007, when she took part in a Climate Champion competition - what was then. as she describes it "a bunch of nerdy schoolkids making PowerPoint presentations on polar bears and melting ice caps." In those days, youth environmentalists were virtually unheard of. The British Council took the lead, first by encouraging young people that they could make a difference, and then by giving them the tools to do so. This involved a combination of training, support, and even small-scale grants funding for their pilot projects.
"That's where I think the British Council was way ahead of its time" says Roy. "The confidence that the organisation instils in you, to be able to create impact irrespective of your age [or] lack of experience... In that way, it's really opened so many doors”. Since then, and with support from the British Council, Roy and many of her peers have gone on to be the drivers of positive development. leveraging global solutions and networks to achieve local impact. Their so-called "nerdy" PowerPoint presentations are now lighting up the world stage.
Another British Council programme that helped young leaders to implement sustainable projects in their communities was Active Citizens. The programme wrapped up last year, after a decade working alongside civil society organisations and educational institutions to address urgent issues such as poverty, literacy, democracy, and climate change.
"I learnt a lot from my experience on the Active Citizens programme." says Abdelfattah Nada, founder of the Button Up social enterprise and an employee of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO). He was also one of many speakers who took to the stage at COP26. For him. the summit was the end of a long road; a journey made possible by the support and guidance he received from the Active Citizens programme.
Nada is one of many to have benefited from the programme and its globally connected. locally engaged ethos. Over the course of its 10-year stint, the programme reached 114,658 community beneficiaries in his home nation of Egypt. At the same time, Active Citizens encouraged beneficiaries to look beyond their borders and social boundaries, to connect with people of various nationalities and backgrounds.
When reflecting on this experience. Nada says "I became a more global citizen and made a lot of friends from all over the world". Looking to the future. he is encouraged by his experience on the programme and inspired by those he met along the way. He is adamant that, with the support they have received from the British Council. this generation will be "more responsible for [the] environment and more supportive of social justice and gender equality."
British Council programmes are helping shape the conversation around climate change and bringing together the next wave of leaders. innovators and communicators. From Danny Daniels to Rishika Das Roy and Abdelfattah Nada, young talents are nurtured, trained and empowered. The British Council is connecting the dots between global thinkers to create a network of big ideas.
Just as vermiculture takes place beneath the surface, the cumulative power of individual leadership can help shape the world around us. With the help of pathways opened to them by the British Council, the next wave of leaders holds the future - and perhaps a healthy dose of worm poop - in their hands.