John's story

16 March 2023

John was born and grew up in London with his mum who worked in a school kitchen and dad who was a machinist. He remembers “really enjoyed helping people as a kid” and this, along with a love of nature and having enjoyed geography as school, led to John moving out of London to attend Keele University where he studied Geography.

I really enjoyed helping people as a kid.

During his degree, John began to specialise in human geography before graduating and moving back to London, a time which he describes as “a difficult transition”. John felt he lacked confidence in entering the professional world and having left a long period of education, where each next step had been marked out for him, was experiencing a time of uncertainty that many young people share having left formal education.

John had heard about UpRising previously, “I was at a protest the year before and so just got chatting to someone in the crowd who was telling me about a project that she was running through UpRising” and so it had been on his radar for some time when the next opportunity to apply for the London Environmental Leadership Programme came around: “I had it as a bookmark in my browser for a long time, and then one day I just saw the applications were open and applied”.

Alongside his cohort of peers, John enrolled on the programme and took part in a range of in-person workshops building his skills and knowledge hosted in different venues across London. Midway through John’s time on the programme, he took part in the Social Action Campaign element of the programme, developing his own ideas for a campaign that would have a positive impact on the people and environment around him. It was at this point during the programme that the Covid-19 pandemic began to develop with significant impact on both John’s own life and the delivery of the programme, with every element of the project moving to be delivered online: “that was definitely a difficult bit because our campaign idea was about working with hospitality and coffee businesses to improve their sustainability, but during COVID everything was shut down”.

I got to learn a lot from the process and the fundamental skills in the setting up of a project.

Despite having to adjust to the new ways of interacting with the programme and the wider world, with national lockdowns taking place, John and his teammates were given the support to ‘pivot’ their ideas and deliver their project in a different way, utilising online tools. He recalls that whilst the campaign did not go to plan, UpRising’s response to the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns meant that the group were still able to “learn a lot from the process and the fundamental skills in the setting up of a project, and the start of delivery was definitely there”.

I became more confident in the direction that I was heading in. 

Aside from the skill development John gained from the programme, another big takeaway for him was the positive impact UpRising has on his job search which he was able to develop by making connections with and learning from professionals who mentored him from Oxfam and VSO. These experiences saw John become “more confident in the direction that [he] was heading in”, and during his time on the programme he began working for a community centre running a sports and mental health project.

A lot of the stuff we learned in those lectures has definitely come into play in other campaigns I've worked in since.

Since finishing the Environmental Leadership Programme, John has continued to be involved in social action and feels UpRising is still impacting him and supporting his activism now: “a lot of the stuff we learned in those lectures have definitely come into play in other campaigns I've worked in since”. He has also moved out of London again, this time to Brighton to study a Master’s in Migration, where he is focussing his research on border violence.

John cites his time with UpRising as giving him “that building block that [he could] use to build and direct [his] future career or activist life in a positive way”.