Guiding the hopes and dreams of our future leaders | WWF South Africa

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Guiding the hopes and dreams of our future leaders

Throughout the changing tides of my career, I’ve had a front-row seat to the exciting shifts around environmental education in South Africa, participating in the shaping of this evolving landscape.

What began as a career as a teacher has burgeoned into a calling to guide and foster our future leaders for Dr Glenda Raven.

Choose a green career

Applications are open for our 2019 graduate internships.

We are all young leaders

While we celebrate WWF’s 50th anniversary in South Africa, we also celebrate a decade of success in our Environmental Leaders Programme, growing young leaders of the highest quality for the environmental sector. Leading this work is a point of pride and has shown me that the vision of an equal, inclusive and sustainable future might well be closer than we think. We recently reflected on these successes and stories in our report Celebrating Young Leaders.

My career has unfolded around much of the country’s policy evolution for the environment and education. In the 1980s, I was an economics and accounting teacher at a high school on the Cape Flats. It was during this time that I got involved with the school’s environmental club where we organised hikes and camps over weekends and school holidays.

We wanted to expose these mostly township-based learners to our local plant and animal life, up close, in nature. It also gave them an opportunity to learn more about themselves and their peers.

De Hoop Nature Reserve, close to Cape Agulhas, was our favourite spot for weekend camps. For many of the kids, it was a blissful, bountiful nature escape from their ordinarily built environment.

​The dawn of democracy

In the mid-1990s, the academic community in environmental education was rapidly growing and mobilising to integrate environment into the formal school curriculum, cross-cutting in all subjects.

It was around this time that I left teaching and began work as an independent environmental education researcher.

The vision of a better world for all people inspires our interns to learn and grow and to bring this passion into their future careers.

Green light for green skills

In the mid-2000s, around the time that I completed my doctorate, the Department of Environmental Affairs established a directorate responsible for education and training. Many collaborative green skills planning efforts started to emerge to support our transition to a green economy.

Then, in 2008, recognising South Africa’s lack of adequate green skills and transformation in the sector, the Environmental Sector Skills Plan and the Biodiversity Human Capital Development Strategy were developed with great urgency. Responding to this, WWF made a strategic decision to support the implementation of these strategies.

And so it was, in 2009 that I was approached to work with WWF to support green skills development.

Celebrating a decade of success

Ten years later, the Environmental Leaders Programme has allowed me the privilege of watching the growth of 128 future leaders who have been through our programme. I have come to know the stories that have shaped their career choices for the environment. Like ‘tomboy’ Anathi who explored rivers in her home town of Cala in the Eastern Cape. She noticed the decline in the fish population and felt she had to do something for her children, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

I’ve heard stories about the interns’ families and traditions, sometimes about love, romance and wedding plans. I was privileged to witness their vision of a better world for all people and their commitment to making this happen, individually and together.

This rich tapestry of young leaders paints a beautiful picture of hope and dedication for a bright future.

"My career has unfolded in a way that I couldn’t have imagined," reflects Senior Manager of the Environmental Leaders Programme Dr Glenda Raven.

10 - and 50 - years from now

In 2028, we will be fast closing in on the vision of the National Development Plan 2030, which aims to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality. The interns who have completed the programme will most likely be mid-career professionals and making significant contributions to policy, practices and programmes that foster improved environmental governance – for the planet, its people and prosperity. 

By 2068, these national, regional and world leaders would have laid the foundations for a better world. Our just transition to a green economy is before our eyes: all South Africans, Africans and people across the globe should have enough affordable food, water and energy.

​Looking back to imagine forward

As I look back, my career has unfolded in a way that I couldn’t have imagined.

I hope that by 2068 we will look back and see what a difference our efforts have made. And I hope we can work together, now, to see even more positive outcomes, benefits and rewards for nature and for people – to increase our commitment for a better world for all.

Dr Glenda Raven Photo
Dr Glenda Raven, Senior Manager: Environmental Leaders Programme

Dr Glenda Raven is passionate about people and nature.

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Celebrating Young Leaders

WWF’s environmental leaders internship programme celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2018.