Green Jobs – Main learnings and ways forward

It’s time to wrap up my green jobs journey!

First, I’m going to tell you my main learnings and takeaways from my week on the IPPR learning exchange. Second, I’m going to do a call-out for those who are interested to keep in touch or work together on the green jobs agenda. Third – I’ve told you in detail my learnings from 7 of the organisations and networks we met with. I picked the ones that I thought were most relevant to the work being done (or that needs to be done) in the UK, but at the end of this email I will list the other organisations we met with together with a brief one or two line description of the work, if you’re interested.

Main learnings

  • Funding  We were shocked at how much money these organisations had. Almost all of the organisations we met with had been funded through government, either through the Recovery Act pot, or through city government funding. In light of the current cuts in the UK, we are not looking at a similar funding scenario here. So, an urgent question to ask is how we can fund this work if we want to create a similar movement here in the UK.
  • Definition – Most of the orgs we met with defined green jobs as those that were in clean tech or energy efficiency. I felt this was too limited a definition, and too limited a way of visioning what is needed in a new green economy. That’s why it was so nice to hear about Green For All’s work looking at jobs in the food and water sector, and the Ella Baker Center helping to “green” California’s nail salons. More of that please!
  • Numbers – The numbers of jobs being created are small. “Green jobs” are not going to solve unemployment, even a little bit, any time soon. So we must be careful not to frame the movement in that way, otherwise it will come back to bite us and will be deemed a failure.
  • Frames – So why focus on green jobs at all? We did ask ourselves that during the week. My answer is that these programmes are an excellent way of creating a vision of what we want a green economy to look like – an economy which values how people do their jobs and how they contribute to the local community and larger society. An economy that puts equity and justice at its heart, and sees the transition to a low carbon world as an opportunity for underserved communities to combat environmental injustices and poverty. So perhaps we should be framing this issue as one around the new “green economy”, rather than just “green jobs”, to reflect the scope of the aim.
  • Names – we met so many organisations with ridiculously inspiring names! It was a back and forth conversation among us about whether we needed more inspirational stories and names here in the UK, or whether that’s a particular American need! Any thoughts on this appreciated!
  • Social justice – Every programme we visited had social justice at the heart of it, and that is what I found most inspiring. The numbers may have been small, but I’m pretty sure the ripple effects of the quality of the work are large. The programmes might have been billed as jobs training programmes, but it was about much more than just jobs – it was about empowerment, organizing skills, dignity and meaning, counselling, a second chance, literacy. Green jobs alone aren’t going to forge a new world, but together with these other elements, they just might be one of the important building blocks.
  • It’s not new – The majority of the work being done is not new. Great jobs training programmes existed before, and these new programmes are just building and adding to the quality and number, with added environmental literacy and hard skills components. The green jobs agenda can seem overwhelming, but it’s worth remembering that there are loads of people out there who are basically already doing the core of this work really well (I’ve just got to find them ).
  • Broadening the environmental movement – Speaking to trainees at Richmond Build really convinced me of the potential of this green jobs/green economy movement to broaden the environmental movement in general and make it more accessible to those who have felt excluded. Of course, Green For All and the Ella Baker Center are doing this really well too. Time for us to take on the mantle I think.
  • Coalitions – Californians have got it down when it comes to creating strong coalitions and partnerships. It was incredibly inspiring and motivating to see environmental organisations, labor unions, government, community networks, social justice organisations, businesses and academics all working together towards a common goal. It has been really exciting working with different groups back in the UK, and meeting more people on this trip, and I’m very excited to see this continue and see what we can build together!
  • Policy – I’ve said it before, but I was really bowled over by how successfully the organisations we met with used policy as a tool to push for and achieve their goals. Having experts in policy and grassroots organizing work for the same organisation with the same goal seemed to make all the difference in terms of their success. It’s a model I’m keen to see replicated in the UK (Capacity Global, who were also on the IPPR trip, are already doing it – yay). And IPPR reminded us at the end of the trip that there will be opportunities for us in terms of policy, as green jobs are a key part of the government’s strategy around low-carbon communities.
  • International – One point we kept coming back to time and again as a group was global justice. It’s all very well advocating for justice within our local communities in our developed countries, but how are we going to communicate our message within the reality of global poverty? Is it okay to encourage installation of solar panels that have been produced by an underpaid workforce in China? (This is partly why the Apollo Alliance are advocating for American manufacturing as their next focus). We talked a lot about growth as well – how can we balance promoting the growth of a green economy, whilst recognising that we can not grow indefinitely and that infinite growth, in whatever sector, will most certainly not be “green”.
  • The need for a national framework – It was great meeting the Apollo Alliance, Emerald Cities and Green For All – all national organisations that are pushing for policy specifically in this area and that have collectively achieved massive policy gains. It seems to me that the UK would really benefit from a strategic national body to fill this role.

Stay in touch

  • Thanks to all those who have already emailed me in response to this mail-out. I was overwhelmed by the response, so I hope you don’t mind me asking you to email me again ( with a bit more information about yourself so I know how best to move our relationship forward.
  • If you are interested in learning more about, working with, or joining the East London Green Jobs Alliance, please email me with who you are, your contact details, your organisation (if applicable), where you are in East London, your current work on green jobs (if applicable) and/or your interest in green jobs.
  • If you are interested in the broader conversation on green jobs / the green economy in the UK, please email me who you are, your contact details, your organisation (if applicable), your current work on green jobs or the green economy (or your interest in it), and what role you’d like to play/are playing in pushing the agenda forward.
  • If you are interested in both… great!

Once I’ve got your details I can work at connecting the dots.

Thanks so much again for reading, I look forward to working with you all!

And now for the other meetings we had in California (if you have any specific questions regarding any of these, let me know):

– Phil Ting – the Assessor Recorder for San Francisco. Created a solar installation programme through the city government, creating 40 jobs in last two years.

– SunPower – solar manufacturing company. Gave corporate perspective on how to move solar agenda forward.

– Tradeswomen Inc. – working to create fair and safe conditions for women working in nontraditional blue collar jobs. Very interesting stats – only 2% of women are in the trades nationally. Before Prop 209, which prohibited affirmative action in California in the late 90s, women made up 6-7% of apprenticeship programmes. It’s now 2%. A question I am asking myself is, how can green jobs make a difference for women?

– The Breakthrough Institute – think tank on energy and climate change. They were very critical of green jobs movement and thought it had been overhyped in a big way (you can read their article on it here). A few very valid points, although I questioned some of their claims and numbers, and they got really angry when we tried to question them on their assumption that you can have infinite growth on a finite planet…

– Unions – we met with San Francisco Labor Council, the Oregonand California AFL-CIO, and the Canadian B.C Federation of Labor. It was really exciting to see the labor movement take this issue on for themselves and it was interesting to note that the representatives there had pretty much all become radicalized on this issue from being a part of a delegation to either UNFCCC conferences or a developing country that was being affected by climate change.

– Ceres – VERY interesting presentation from this organisation on how investors need to be brought into green jobs alliances.

– SeedCo – fairly big organisation that works in 22 cities across the U.S., advancing economic opportunity for people, businesses and communities in need. They make loans to minority- and women-owned businesses, which I thought was pretty neat, plus they have 30 different initiatives that are promoting green industry, which are projected to create 13,000 jobs over the next 10 years. Now that would be amazing.

– UC Berkeley Labor Center – research center and “critical friend” of the Californian green jobs movement. Stressing that we can’t train for bad jobs – need to ensure quality is there and that the jobs are adding value to the economy. Also stress that reskilling and upskilling of the current workforce is essential.

– Rising Sun – they have an interesting summer programme for 15-22 year olds, but I was more impressed with their adult green jobs training programme. They include “english language for construction” classes for immigrant participants, who spend 2 hours every day improving their language skills as well as learning the hard skills. They also have developed a new social enterprise, which provides energy efficiency services to the local community and hires graduates from the training programme for between 4-6 months, to provide “bridge employment”. Thought that was a great idea.


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