Our Youth Voice: Driving Sustainability Across Communities@Work

This blog post is written by Aditi Verma, a member of the Youth Advisory Board (YAB), on behalf of the whole of YAB.

Youth Advisory Board (YAB)

Photo: Communities@Work Youth Advisory Board

“Being environmentally sustainable means accepting that changes need to occur in the present. Being sustainable is taking responsibility for our actions and adopting that big or small, every decision contributes to the overall condition of the environment.”

With this belief in mind, we – the members of the Youth Advisory Board (YAB) – set out earlier this year on a project-driven towards improving sustainability in Communities@Work. In the past few months, we worked on auditing the organisation’s existing sustainability practices, talking to various members from different areas of the organisation, and drafting a sustainability action plan.

A few weeks back, fuelled with passion to bring forth real change, we completed and presented our Sustainability Action Plan (which also includes a new Paperless Policy for the organisation) to the Executive Team at the organisation. To our delight, we were successful in receiving an endorsement from our CEO Lee Maiden, and CFO/COO Andrew Chenery.

In fact, we are grateful that the Executive’s support extends beyond endorsement for proposals presented by the Youth Advisory Board. Andrew also acts as the facilitator for the YAB, helping our young minds with guidance and mentoring, and being a conduit to the Communities@Work’s Executive team.

When I asked Andrew his thoughts, he said, “YAB members have been researching issues affecting young people within our organisation and the wider community. They report their research to our Executive team who use this information to inform policy and professional development opportunities. The sustainability project was an important milestone in this initiative.”

Strategic Importance of the Sustainability Action Plan

The sustainability goals identified within the Sustainability Action Plan align with the 2019-2022 Strategic Plan for Communities@Work. Embedding these values ensures that our services are prepared to lead the community as we build our capacity for a sustainable future.

The sustainability action plan can play a significant role in the strategic focus on positive social change for our organisation with ideas and actions that are driven by everyday life issues.

As members of the Youth Advisory Board, we believe we are empowered with this opportunity to redirect some attention and resources to things that matter to the younger employees of Communities@Work and are definitely pleased to have been a part of the inaugural initiative to kickstart this through the sustainability project.

Passing the baton to the younger generation 

While sustainability is not new to Communities@Work, we are told that it has taken on a new direction with the involvement of the Youth Advisory Board.

Karen Jesson, Community Development Manager for the organisation, says “making Communities@Work more environmentally sustainable has always been on the agenda. Originally, we developed a Sustainability Action Plan back in 2011, which involved members from across different organisational areas.

“While the project could not be completed at that time, we continued to be sustainable in different parts of the organisation without it being formalised. However, now the timing is right to take a bigger step.

“I am glad that we now have an amazing group of young employees who have reactivated the project and created a powerful sustainability action plan that we will strive to implement in the organisation,” says Karen.

Thank you for your support, Karen! We couldn’t have done it without the foundational work your team did back then.

A brief trip down the memory lane

Sustainable Communities@Work

Recycling and waste management are already actively practised through many parts of Communities@Work, especially its children’s services.

2010: Communities@Work engaged to deliver the Energy Outreach Program with five other agencies

April 2011: Community Development Officer Karen Jesson initiated discussions around the development of a Sustainability Action Plan (SAP).

Over the next few months, a draft SAP was developed though a more comprehensive plan was requested.

November 2011: A SAP working group was established. The group was developed to assist in the development of a plan that had a focus on whole of organisation. All areas of organisation were represented in this working group, including some external agencies, with key members from:

  • Community Development
  • Richardson Child Care and Education Centre
  • Energy Outreach Officer
  • OzHarvest Canberra
  • Assets and Infrastructure Manager
  • Early Education and Care Director
  • Abacus Child Care and Education Centre
  • Nuskills Learning and Development
  • Program Support
  • Appletree House Childcare and Education Centre

May 2012: Final draft of the SAP submitted with priority recommendations.

This SAP from 2012 hence provided the foundation for the Youth Advisory Board to take up the project once again, go back to the drawing board while deriving key insights from the then SAP draft, and finally pushing the project towards the implementation stage.

The way forward for Environmental Sustainability

Our next steps revolve around rolling out the implementation of the Sustainability Action Plan (SAP) we have developed, with support from key members of the organisation who will act as sustainability champions. We hope to include members from diverse roles and areas who will work with the YAB to meet the goals identified in the Plan.

We will appoint a Sustainability Champion from each program area of Communities@Work to ensure consistency across the whole of organisation, and together our aim is to meet the different short-term and long-term goals identified in the SAP.

The thought behind this extensive process is simple: we must accept our generation’s role in driving change and setting up a sustainable future for younger generations. This can include being thoughtful in everyday activities, from minimising water wastage to avoiding unnecessary printing. It is the little things that matter before we can take the bigger steps, and we hope to address both such short-term and long-term goals with our Sustainability Action Plan and Paperless Policy.

Overview of our Sustainability Action Plan

Youth Advisory Board Members working on the Sustainability Action Plan

Photo: Youth Advisory Board members working on the Sustainability Action Plan

Our sustainability action plan addresses goals, processes, and rationales for the following areas:

  • Education: Educating Communities@Work’s employees to have a clear understanding of environmental sustainability and increasing awareness about best practices to promote sustainability (what is being done and what we can do better).
  • Waste Management: Implementing practices to reduce water and energy usage, resource waste (such as technological resources, bought resources, and plastic waste), as well as waste management through sustainable transport.
  • Paper Reduction: Implementing the Paperless Policy across the organisation which includes practices of recycling, reducing printing, use of digital technologies to avoid paper usage etc., both for internal and external purposes.
  • Food Waste: Avoiding food spoilage, minimising the waste of food packaging and spoiled foods, and engaging in composing to reduce the need for chemical fertilisers.

While our aim is to achieve the goals in our sustainability action plan primarily in 2020, some of the longer term goals are expected to be completed in 2021.

The Youth Advisory Board – Who Are We

I joined Communities@Work’s Youth Advisory Board in November 2019, just a few weeks after it was first established. The YAB was created as a need was identified for the younger demographic of the organisation to provide input into its strategic direction.

The Youth Advisory Board currently comprises 14 voluntary members between the ages of 18-32. We come from different areas of the organisation, bringing forth varied perspectives and knowledge.

Our purpose is to investigate issues important to the youth of the organisation, and those of the broader Canberra community, and then develop relevant business models, projects, proposals etc. while providing insights to the executive board and adding diversity to the organisational governance.

We believe that as young employees of the organisation, it is our significant responsibility to support the innovation strategy of Communities@Work.

Our Chief Financial and Operations Officer Andrew agrees, “Our Youth Advisory Board is an important part of our innovation strategy, supporting our formal training program and helping to develop our next generation of leaders.”

Find out more about the Youth Advisory Board and meet the members.

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1 Comment

  1. Dr Prachi Srivastava

    It was very informative and equipped with practical approaches.
    Some more focus is required for real wold execution at some More ground level as educational graphs varies from country to country side.

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