This summer I have had the enormous good fortune to spend two weeks in France. The first of these was spent cycling east to west out of the arid lands of Provence and into the massif central and the Tarn valley. Much of this land is relatively wild and unpopulated; wild flowers flourished in the verges, trees and scrubby shrubs cover the uplands (even in the co-presence of a few sheep, which suggests that sheep farming doesn’t always need to mean the barren hillsides we take for granted in the UK) and the waters of the Tarn, which flow directly…


“Power seems to be important in your work. How do you think about power?”

Yesterday I caught up with Søren Vester Haldrup from the UNDP’s Innovation Fund — and this was one of the questions that most intrigued him about our work. The topic had caught his attention through this blog about the Boundless Roots programme — and it’s a topic that he’s explored in more detail here. For me it almost took me by surprise: building power is so central to our thinking at Friends of the Earth that it almost becomes invisible: of course we’re always aiming to…


Since November I have been studying for an Open University Masters’ level module in Managing Technological Innovation. This sits alongside a module I completed in 2017 in Making Environmental Decisions. Making Environmental Decisions introduced me to a wealth of systems-thinking tools and approaches to stakeholder analysis and gave me new strategies for managing complexity. It also gave me a grounding in some of the legal framework that underpins environmental policy. The core case study was around fracking; a few of the talking heads who appeared in the course material videos are now my colleagues. This second module will enable me…


And then there we were again. Back into the time and brain-contracting routine of schooling and working from home. It snowed overnight here in Bristol and I’m writing these in an end-of-Sunday morning window, rosy-cheeked from a good play in the snow, the small person now curled up on the neighbours’ sofa (thank goodness for the childcare bubble).I don’t always remember to grasp these opportunities — it’s too easy to fill them with pottering and chores — and I am grateful for it now.

Five things I’ve been working on

  1. Developing a proposal to enable our activists to engage better…


Since the second half of December I have done very little of what normally constitutes ‘work’ for me. I have not been on social media — except for messaging friends — and have not read work-related books or articles. Leading into the solstice I was on the edge of a mild depression; I struggled with motivation to do simple things — getting up in the morning being one of hardest. Like many, we made Christmas plans that were cancelled, and back-to-school plans that have been torn up. We did some decorating. We mourned the final severing of our formal membership…


This week is national tree week, so returning to our trees work has been an important part of this week’s story. On Tuesday I spoke at our Tree Summit — following directly on from Lord Deben to tell the story of our Woodland Opportunity Mapping. It was a real ‘dream big’ moment for my team: imagine if when we’d started this work we said “within 18 months we want to have gone from a local prototype to a national tool, influencing policy-making and grassroots change and be the showcase for our trees campaigning”. I’m not sure we’d quite have believed…


Last week Chris and I in my team were focused on a short sprint: accelerating the next stage of OwnIt (our peer-action programme for women and personal finance) to take it from proof-of-concept to something that is financially sustainable in the long-term. For my three working days last week I cleared my diary of (most) other distractions and worked intensively on testing our hypotheses for possible revenue models.

Feedback loops in a business model for OwnIt — and some of the different actors in the system

I was reminded throughout of the RSA’s model (which I did some early stage work on back in 2017) of ‘Think Like a System, Act Like an Entrepreneur.’ Last week we were…


Having got into a good rhythm with weeknotes in early autumn, more recently I have stalled in this practice. And the more I leave something, the harder it can feel to pick it up. I was interested and encouraged to see this experience picked up in Cassie Robinson’s notes — she talks about the quiet times. This resonated with me, and quiet is emerging as a theme.

The most powerful thing I’ve read in the last month is an impassioned plea from Nancy Kline for more quiet. Or, more precisely, the power of not interrupting. …


A carpet of yellow hornbeam leaves, Hazel Hill Wood

Nature — how we value it, understand our place in it, campaign for it — has been the big theme of the last two weeks. This weekend I co-hosted our annual autumn conservation weekend at Hazel Hill wood. It was an experimental group to see how we could make it work with Covid restrictions, so only 7 adults (including the small lead team of 3 of us) and 2 children. It was strange: no hugs, but also much harder to be fully collaborative around things like food preparation, and mealtimes where you are too far apart to converse normally and…


This week’s notes are not so much weeknotes, as fortnight notes as somehow, last week they didn’t happen.

That was driven last week by the work — and anxiety — associated with organising an online community meeting for the street to relaunch the debate about traffic calming (and the idea of closing off our road to rat-running). I had invited our MP, Kerry McCarthy, to speak as well as two local Councillors and a representative from Bristol Liveable Neighbourhoods campaign. A local journalist was also present. It went off well in the end, but I found the process incredibly draining…

Mary Stevens

Climate, sustainability, nurturing community and self. Cycling comes into it a lot. I often use this blog to take the long view, or a sideways look.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store