25 Jan 2021
As financial journalist Rupert Jones says “arguably the most powerful environmental changes you can make as an individual involve your finances, whether it’s the cash in your current account or the money you are saving for retirement”. Guardian Money, January 9 2021.
Friends of the Earth’s project OwnIt was inspired by just such an insight a couple of years ago. Our analysis suggested that women are more likely to make values-based investments but many lack confidence when thinking about their finances. Would women be more prepared to make ethical choices with peer support, we wondered?
Back in 2019, we launched the pilot of OwnIt in collaboration with Enrol Yourself. The concept is simple. Volunteer hosts are trained to facilitate small groups of women to share their experiences around money in a safe space. Together they think about their saving and spending decisions and explore how they could put their money to good use in the climate crisis – by moving bank accounts or pension providers, by making investments in green businesses or spending more money locally.
The figures are a fantastic demonstration of the power of this model, and the power of peer learning and peer support more broadly. Zahra Davidson, Enrol Yourself
The project has now completed its 3rd phase. And the results show that the project has succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. Nearly 150 women have taken financial actions valued at £1,169,022, at least; a further £2,037,625 is estimated if all the planned actions take place.
Achieving behaviour change is tricky at the best of times, especially in areas that are complex and inter-connected – or seen as ‘boring’, like personal finance. But OwnIt seems to have cracked this challenge with a winning combination of peer-accountability (no one wants to let down their friends by not doing the thing they promised) and a clear and specific mission to reduce the carbon footprint of women’s financial lives and build a better future.
Empowerment and upskilling
And the benefits are not just for the environment. We think this approach works because women feel genuinely empowered – often beyond financial decision-making, with a much stronger belief in their ability to make change. The model is robust but flexible. Although it aims for informality and was set up for face-to-face discussions to build trust, it has also worked on-line. The pandemic has enabled us to test and flex the concept. Encouraging results from the 3rd phase have mirrored those from earlier sessions.
Perhaps the most enduring impact is on the hosts’ abilities and confidence in facilitation: leadership skills that are transferrable to many other areas, including in the workplace. A small number of groups have already taken place in workplace settings with clear benefits for both employees and ethically-minded employers.
So what next?
We are thinking big
We have an ambitious target – to move £1billion to greener investment by 2030 – and are developing a plan to get there. Our vision involves training 100 hosts in the next 18 months and to road-test different income models. But we need to invest to bring in the capital to drive the next stage. A small number of individuals or organisations pledging £1000 is all it takes. Will you come on board?
We need financial support
Could you offer financial backing for the next phase of OwnIt? Will you talk to colleagues in your own organisations who hold the purse strings about the potential of this scheme to deliver tangible benefits for employees - both in feel-good environmental action and in upskilling and confidence?
We need insight
If you have fundraising or business development background, could you give us some of your time and expertise for free, share your insights or put us in touch with helpful contacts?
We need to get the story out
Tell your friends about OwnIt. Share this and other blogs with your networks.
2021 is a momentous year for climate change. Let’s make the year of the climate COP in the UK a great year for OwnIt and climate action. Please do get in touch if you can help or to find out more.