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Reflecting on a strange (but wonderful) year at A Focus on Nature

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Logo: A Focus on Nature

2020 will go down in history as one of the most strange and uncertain years. It certainly wasn’t what I was expecting when I accepted the role of Creative Director at A Focus on Nature (AFON) in January last year. Associate Director Emily and I, had visions of reaching new people through events and outreach, whilst topping off our time at AFON with a conference. Of course, we quickly realised that we’d need to head back to the drawing board if we wanted to achieve our vision of a more inclusive and diverse AFON.

Two puffins (Emily Burton)
(Emily Burton)

About us

Before jumping headfirst into what we’ve been doing at AFON since the world turned upside down, let me first tell you a little about us, our people and what we do.

A Focus on Nature is a youth conservation network aimed at connecting young aspiring conservationists, supporting them through their education and early careers and inspiring them to reach for their goals. We are an entirely voluntary organisation led by young people who have a passion for nature. Despite the voluntary nature of every role at AFON, the commitment and determination of every committee member and regional representative is unwavering. If you want to find out more head on over to the A Focus on Nature website where you can watch a short video which explains a little more about what we do.

2020, what a year! With Emily and I fresh faced in our roles as Directors, we could never...have imagined (like the rest of the population) what the year would have in store for us. When we joined, we had a small but mighty committee of five. We had big dreams but it became quickly apparent that we needed to increase capacity – and so recruitment started! In the space of only a year we’ve grown to a powerhouse committee of 13 (and we’re still growing). With a shift from physical events, we’ve had to think on our feet about how we can continue to connect and reach out to young people.

duckling (Ben Marsh)
(Ben Marsh)

We have done so much in the last 12 months, but to save you from an eternal essay here’s a quick summary of what we did and how we did it:

STEP ONE – digital is everything

As a marketer myself, I always knew how essential digital communications was. But the pandemic really shone a light on just how important it is. So many organisations have invested in their digital marketing, so it only made sense that we did the same. We’ve upped our digital marketing game by hiring not one, but two committee members with fresh new ideas and social media wizardry. Our social media has been transformed, as has our website thanks to our incredible Web Officer.

If you’ve not already checked out our social media pages and website, you definitely should.

STEP TWO – getting our house in order

At AFON, directors serve a 2 year voluntary contract, after which time we are encouraged to move on to give the opportunity to other young, aspiring directors. This is very beneficial for AFON as it avoids stagnation and keeps things fresh, however with such a high turnover some things can be lost along the way. Emily and I were keen to make sure that whilst we can’t attend physical events, we can get our house in order, and so the Campaigns and Policy Officer role was born. Since being in post, Lauren has completely transformed the way we work. Safeguarding our young network members is our main priority and through Lauren’s continual commitment we work to ensure our supporters are safe.

As an entirely voluntary organisation, all our income is generated from grant funding. To continue with the housekeeping theme, we hired Ben who dazzled us at interview with ideas of ways we can generate funds to support our campaigns. Ben really hit the ground running so we have lots of exciting projects coming up!

STEP THREE – diversity, inclusivity and equality

robin (Ben Marsh)
(Ben Marsh)

Broadening our audience and increasing our diversity at AFON has been a priority for Emily and me since we began our roles as directors. This goal began with the development of our 2 year plan and our Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity Action Plan. We were committed to changing things and these plans made sure we were both transparent and accountable.

One of the first steps on the road to a more inclusive and diverse AFON was recruiting an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Officer who despite only being in post a short while has already made a huge impact to our work. We continue to improve our understanding of equality, inclusivity and diversity through training and research. This is and will always be an ever-developing area of our work, and as always we welcome feedback from our network.

STEP FOUR – continual growth

Perhaps two of our most impactful areas of work are our mentoring and regional rep programs. Thanks to the sheer drive of both the Mentoring Officer and Regional Rep Officer both programs have levelled up in the last year. We are now covering more of the UK thanks to our regional reps who despite lockdowns continue to spread their passion for nature with their communities. Our Mentoring Officer has developed a careers page on our website which is packed full of advice, interviews with professionals and blogs. This area of our work is still developing, but we hope it will provide some inspiration and advice to aspiring conservationists everywhere.

If you’d like to join our mentoring program, take a look here.

To become a regional rep, email Claudia.

As I start my second year at AFON, I am excited for what the next 9 months has in store. I feel entirely privileged to lead a team of passionate and dedicated young people and am constantly inspired by our incredible network.

We have big plans for this year, watch this space!

If you have any questions or want to get involved in our work get in touch with Carys, Creative Director on cd@afocusonnature.org.

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Posted On: 08/03/2021

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