Our global network of Greenpeace volunteers is feeling closer and closer as technology draws us in, giving us news ways to connect and communicate. Things move and change fast in this new world, and our potential is exhilarating. More and more, environmentalists are thinking deeply about how we can work together internationally to win big and solve these borderless, international problems which are affecting all of us. Many believe we are now at a crossroads. For those who choose - it’s an opportunity to join the movement in creating a community of global leaders who are working collectively, using regional expertise, to create visions and plans to solve the environmental crisis around the world. Community or “grassroots” campaigners have been popping up all over the world for years now, but today, these passionate people are connecting live and direct, more than ever before.

Last week was the first session of Greenpeace’s Group Leadership 101 ... the International Volunteer Lab's online, weekly training course spanning over 8 weeks. As part of the core curriculum team, I am proud to tell you all about it.

We connected for the first time last Wednesday morning (Tuesday night for some participants) and bonded over our passions, and our drive to work or volunteer with Greenpeace campaigns. There was an awesome combination of almost 30 volunteers and staff activists who joined the course from Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and the US.

From here in Aotearoa we have activists who are involved in both Greenpeace climate and oceans campaigns, and from some of the ‘Oil Free’ groups, calling in from Auckland, Nelson, Christchurch & Dunedin, to participate in the course! WOW! This is a first for us.

It was a fun start to what I know is going to be a really great learning experience, and experiment in online volunteer training and improved collaboration between Greenpeace offices around the globe.

We are using COURSEsites, which is a free and interactive platform for online learning, and it comes highly recommended. The course consists of weekly video workshops; break out group discussions, and practical assignments for people to apply what they are learning to their own activism. Trainers range from Greenpeace professionals, volunteers, and training specialists from other organizations around the world.

Sharing ideas about what it means to be a strong leader, contemplating course norms, and diving deeper into cross-culture communications were some of the highlights from the first session. There were many well-articulated comments which people shared on what “good leadership” means - among them being one that really resonated with many of us:

“Leadership is making people feel comfortable sharing ideas and to feel supported, to be the tireless voice of a shared vision and to work hard to help bring that vision to life.”

~ Helen Barron
(Local Group Organizer in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada).

During our second workshop we discussed our team purposes and identities. We discussed our responsibilities as group leaders, and what that means for the people in our groups, and for ourselves. We started exploring some big issues around inclusivity and diversity within our groups, and why diversity is important. Again there were a lot of thoughtful and strong discussions, many of them that echoed Sarah’s sentiment here:

Everyone has a story to tell, so bringing a range of people in means there are more ideas, and different ways of thinking. Diverse backgrounds, opinions and visions make us stronger.”

~ Sarah Yates
(Volunteer Oceans Campaign Assistant, Greenpeace, Auckland, New Zealand).

The next six weeks are going to be really special for us all. It’s not often that we have to opportunity to skill share (for an hour and half) with other likeminded activists around the world. It’s these unique opportunities that make Greenpeace a driver of social and environmental change, and I really hope to share what I learn with my team here at home, as well as continue to organise more of these experiences for others.

To learn more about volunteering or to get more involved with the campaign work that Greenpeace does in Aotearoa New Zealand, be sure to read more here.

Jo McVeagh

Volunteer Coordinator at Greenpeace New Zealand