Tuesday 14 July 2015

How To Get A Start-Up Charity Off The Ground

In the current, less-than-supportive atmosphere surrounding charities (more on that later in the week) it seems strange if not downright bloody-minded to be kicking off a start-up focussing on environmental issues. But then Trewin Restorick, head of Hubbub UK, has never been one to take the easy route. He recently posted the story of the start-up on his LinkedIn page, and has very kindly given us permission to quote from it. Stories are always better straight from the source, don't you think? 

Trewin describes the launch of Hubbub as "a mid-life crisis". Up to then he had been the CEO of Global Action Plan–a comfortable, safe place to ride out the last ten years of his working life. But he was worried about the low profile of environmental issues, and he saw a gap in the market... and the narrative.

Hubbub grew out of a growing sense of frustration. The science on climate change is increasingly robust and bleak, yet the level of disengagement and scepticism within the UK remains high.  We are sleeping walking to a future which will give children less opportunities and greater hardship. 
Closer examination revealed there are virtually no charities – a sector which still has a relatively high level of public trust – communicating environmental issues to a mainstream audience in a way that is compelling and accessible.  It is this group that Hubbub is aiming to reach – people who have a nagging doubt that society is not heading in a great direction but who would never describe themselves as environmentalists.
The trick is, rather than talking in scientific or darkly gloomy terms, Hubbub UK try to engage people by applying the message to the things they care about–fashion, food, sport, homes and neighbourhoods. They set simple goals like 'ending food waste' or 'making clothes last longer' (we're with you on that one, Trewin) and, working in conjunction with the appropriate government department and think-tanks, build campaigns around those issues.

The first campaign #PumpkinRescue (we like a good hashtag) was inspired by the fact that 18,000 tonnes of pumpkin are landfilled every Halloween.  We brought together a myriad of local food groups in Oxford to create a Pumpkin Festival https://www.hubbub.org.uk/oxford-pumpkin-festival-2014. Over 2,000 people attended festival events and 800 turned up for a Disco Soup in the town centre feeding on warm soup created from food that would have been wasted.  National polling to get the public’s reaction to food waste combined with a wealth of celebrity pumpkin recipes resulted in extensive media coverage in the Sun, the Daily Mail, Vice Magazine and even a TV appearance on Moscow Today.  
We discovered that seasonal campaigns, run at times of year when more food waste is generated, are a great way to create a national debate.  Our Festive Freeze run with Marks and Spencer encouraged people after the excesses of Christmas to freeze food that would have been wasted.  The campaign was stimulated by research from Hallam University Sheffield showing that this simple act would save households £250 a year and could cut domestic food waste by half. 
It's a populist approach, but it has impact and more importantly, gets the average person thinking more carefully about issues like waste management that would turn them off if you called it ... well, "waste management", for example. These are the things that everyone needs to consider more carefully if we're to stop climate change having the catastrophic effect about which many scientists worry. The message needs to get out in the most effective way possible, and Hubbub UK might just have the approach that's going to work.

Trewin has a clear idea of how he sees Hubbub Uk develop, and he's baked them right into the founding principles of the charity.

The first is a desire to ‘open source’ everything we create making it freely available to organisations capable of using the resources to run their own version of the campaigns. Embedding this giveaway and share mentality runs counter to natural instincts but it is the only way change can be delivered at the speed and scale required. 
Secondly collaboration is core to achieving success.  We want to build relationships between unusual bedfellows involving multi-national companies, social enterprises, civil society and education establishments.  It is only by bringing these partnerships together that truly innovative and fresh campaigns will develop that have the authenticity and capacity to engage the mainstream.
Thirdly we want to create a new positive social movement.  We are encouraging people to register for free on our website and over time we will give them access to a growing range of sociable, fun and engaging activities that do good.  This network will be available to all organisations who share our ambitions giving them a place to test new approaches and fast-track development.
We're very happy to be associated with Hubbub UK here at The Pier, and wish Trewin every success with the onward development of the charity. We're here if you need us, sir.

Here's an earlier piece on a Hubbub campaign in central London:

For more on the charity, off to the website with you!

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