#PowerToCommunities – Our 2019 Highlights

2019 was the year when more people than ever marched for climate justice, when many countries, including Ireland, declared a climate emergency. It was the year when the EU unveiled its most ambitious plan yet to become climate neutral before 2050, and a 16-year-old was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, inspiring millions of people to take to the streets.

Not surprisingly, climate issues also dominated here at ChangeX. Sustainability ideas, like growing your own food with GIY, turning the tide against plastic pollution with Plastic Free 4 Schools, or supporting pollinators with Pollinator Partnership were the most popular.

Here are some of the highlights from the ChangeX community

Street Feast celebrated its 10th anniversary

On its 10th anniversary, 1,115 Street Feasts took place across Ireland. This year, Street Feast was part of the “Big Hello”, Ireland’s first National Community Weekend run by the Department of Rural and Community Development. The goal was to support communities to host events in their local area in order to strengthen community ties and help tackle the problem of social isolation. What better way to achieve that than a Street Feast!

In a survey, carried out by Street Feast among hosts after the event, people overwhelmingly confirmed the positive impact the community gathering had on their lives:

A new community funding partnership with Microsoft

Pollinator Garden in Chicago. Photo: Jessica Cipicchio

 

In June, we launched the first Microsoft Community Challenge supported by the Microsoft Datacenter Community Development team where we supported 51 teams in Arizona and Chicago with the ideas and resources to take action in their local area.

“This has been hands-down the most accessible approach for every day people to get funding for community work.” – Pearl Ramsey, GIY starter in Chicago

While technology is fundamental to the process, personal connection and engagement with local community groups is still very much at the heart of what we do. We got to discover and speak with some amazing changemakers in Arizona and Chicago. Here are just a few of their stories:

How kids in schools across Arizona are learning to love greens with Sow It Forward.

Jessica Cipicchio who found “the best thing she ever did as a teacher” in a pollinator garden.

10 years after graduating, Dorian Torres Casillas went back to her high school to plant trees.

Vera Dorzhinova, who, coming from Russia, overcame language challenges to advocate for reducing plastic in her community. 

 

New education initiatives for schools in Tipperary, Ireland

Funded by the Tony Ryan fund at the Community Foundation for Ireland, we supported two new initiatives in schools across County Tipperary.

In close partnership with Change by Degrees, 49 schools had the opportunity to turn the tide against plastic pollution by implementing Plastic Free 4 Schools. Ann Foulds facilitated workshops across the county helping children of all ages, through inspections of their lunch boxes and of marine animal toys that carry plastic in their bellies, to understand how plastic has taken over our lives, why that’s a problem and what role they can play to fix this. Schools changed their school policies on plastics as a result and also took their lessons into the community, working with local sports clubs and shop owners.

“The children are much more aware of the overuse of plastics in their environment. For example we had a class that refused to use glitter for their Christmas are as a result of its negative impact on the environment. I was thrilled!”

Read more from Ann in the Irish Independent

From a Playworks Training with trainer Sean Keelan in the front

 

Another 23 teachers from schools across the County wanted to turn their schools into more playful, healthy and inclusive places with Playworks and took part in a week-long Playworks training in July. “WOW, what a wild two weeks!” is how Sean Keelan, Playworks Trainer summed up the experience.

Playworks originates in the U.S. and has been part of ChangeX since the very beginning, with schools in Galway, Dublin, Kerry and now Tipperary leading its Irish implementation.

Community Fridges spreading to the U.S.

 

In the UK and Ireland, there are 90 communities that share food through Community Fridges, making good use of food waste and bringing people together. That all happened thanks to the team at Hubbub, who have been building the Community Fridge Network in the UK and Ireland over recent years.

This year they joined our Microsoft Community Challenges to see how the idea would resonate in the U.S.. Now there are 4 Community Fridges across Arizona and Chicago, with hopefully more to come.

“We always knew it would be hard to do this in other countries, because we’d usually really want someone on the ground. But we are very curious and like experimenting, so we joined to see how Community Fridge would work in the U.S.. When we first told our team we had fridges in Arizona and Chicago, everyone was very excited. It was nice to see everyone’s faces light up!”

The U.S. Community Fridges have been going strong so far and continuing as they’ve started, will divert 25,200kg of food waste per year.

Meet Annie Ansell who started the Community Fridge in El Mirage, AZ

See the Community Fridge in Downtown Mesa, AZ 

16 new GIY groups in the U.S.

This year, GIY had significant traction in the U.S.. Already well known in Ireland for spreading food empathy across the country, Michael Kelly reflects on what it means to see groups across the US start to grow some of their own food.

“We’re so excited to see that there are GIY Groups starting all over the US thanks to the Microsoft Community Challenge and ChangeX. In line with the UN Decade of Change, GIY has a goal to support 100 million people to make more sustainable food choices in the next 10 years. We couldn’t do that without equally ambitious partners like ChangeX to give us the geographical reach we need. It’s exciting to see the local champions in the challenge areas share motivations with our champions in the UK and Ireland and are just as passionate about sustainable food and community change.”

Read about Pearl Ramsey, who took on an abandoned community garden and turned it into a space for growing, storytelling, and healing. 

Thank You to everyone …

 

None of this impact would have been possible without a fantastic team of partners, advisors, investors, starters, and believers who have supported us throughout the year.

Thanks to our pro-bono partners A&L Goodbody, 150Bond, Andersen Tax, bigO and this year especially to Morrison & Foerster who helped us incorporate our US charitable entity, as well the team at Attic Salt who worked with us on our branding. 

We’re very much looking forward to 2020, to working together on giving more power to communities in Ireland, the U.S. and beyond. 

If you want to be a part of the ChangeX vision, whether you want to start an idea in your community, spread your idea to new communities, or fund the activation of projects in communities, please get in touch: [email protected]

Read our 2018 report here

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