From education to employment

Green Changemakers – A Paradigm Shift in FE

Dr Lou Mycroft is a nomadic educator, writer, and Thinking Environment facilitator.

We hope you may have heard by now about the Green Changemakers programme, a devolution initiative of the West Midlands and Warwickshire Combined Authority, funded by the Department for Education. What we’re attempting is a paradigm shift – for a new green mindset and a way of working in FE which carries momentum within it.

At Fircroft College, which has hosted the programme, we have trained 40 Green Changemakers from Colleges across the region – with 20 more to come in Summer 2024. The imperative for the work is clear. No serious research now disputes the crisis we’re living through, a dangerous entanglement of climate change and global loss of biodiversity. And there can be no environmental justice without social and economic justice.

Green Jobs need Green Skills and no one is better equipped than us to teach!

As FE Colleges, we’re in the business of skills and that puts us at the heart of a green economy – if we can grasp the opportunity. The future needs green jobs and green jobs need the green skills that no-one is better equipped than us to teach. Yet as a sector we are also exhausted by change and disconnected even from ourselves, fast-paced as our daily working lives seem always to be. Momentum is hard to sustain, good intentions fizzle out and sustainable change seems out of reach.

Generic approaches to professional development around green skills are falling short of what teachers need – self-belief in their own green expertise as subject experts and the autonomy to be accountable for making their classrooms “radical spaces for possibility”, to quote social justice educator bell hooks. For this to be possible, teachers need subject-specific green skills training (including learning that they are best placed to do for themselves).


Teachers also need to feel powerful again. That’s why we designed a changemaking-first approach to the Green Changemakers programme. We worked with the concept of potentia, a definition of power that was lost to us 400 years ago with the death of the philosopher Baruch Spinoza. Writing in Latin, Spinoza had two words for ‘power’ at his disposal. Potestas is what we know as power-as-usual – hierarchy, clout. Potentia is different – a changemaking energy, a determination to survive, joyfully, against all the odds, that feels right for our times.

Green Changemakers support their organisations to address the systems, structures and processes that block momentum and stifle change. They work collectively to overcome the silos which hinder communication. Put simply, they enable potentia to ripple out, working up, down and across hierarchies. Around them, colleagues wake up and step into their own power.

Changemaking Skills and curriculum design

Enabling this is a curriculum design which focuses on changemaking skills. Green Changemakers, being curious and determined people, are accountable for developing (and sharing) their own knowledge bases – and we have a Virtual Green Skills Hub in development (due March 2025) which will help disseminat knowledge across all the corners of FE. Realising that the changemaking process would be different in each College and that Changemakers have to lead as they see fit, we developed an architecture for the programme based on three framings:

Three Framings for the Green ChangeMakers:

AimHi Earth’s 15 Green Skills, Clearly Explained

Out of all the green skills definitions we researched at the start of the programme, AimHi Earth’s 15 Green Skills provided us with an expansive provocation. Vocational education’s technical focus hides from view the fact that people thinking, systems thinking and nature thinking are equally essential for human and non-human survival. The 15 Green Skills expanded our thinking into new possibilities. We took on board concepts such as ‘seventh generation thinking[1]’ from indigenous wisdom. Skills around ‘nature centrality’ were engaging for many. And we learned to use the term ‘maven’, to honour and respect educators as subject specialists with knowledge, discernment and the curiosity to learn more.

FE Constellations’ Four Seasons of Changemaking

Our second framing was the Four Seasons of Changemaking, developed over a number of years through my work with Joss Kang on the Education and Training Foundation’s Advanced Practitioner programme and beyond. Momentum needs potentia, and it also needs pause; working through practical and reflective activities for each of the four seasons, enabled Green Changemakers to know when to push and when to rest:

Getting Unstuck – figuring out what needs to be done

Releasing Potentia – influencing others to step into their own power

Gaining Clarity – pausing, reflecting, marshalling energies

Co-creating Unimaged Futures – moving forwards with momentum

The Thinking Environment

Without our third framing, the Green Changemakers Programme could have been just another CPD. Based on the work of Nancy Kline, the Thinking Environment is slowly gaining traction in FE, where people want to think together with independence, clarity and radical candour. It provided us with a space to compost all that we were learning, disagree with respect, figure out what to do next and learn from each other.

Adventure Ready Squad

Together, we have formed an Adventure Ready Squad (another of the 15 Green Skills), a constellation which is open-bordered and welcoming to all. And if you think that all the above sounds fanciful – because it’s different, it’s not ‘FE Speak’ – I promise you that it’s working. Only a few weeks after the end of phase one, we have a growing catalogue of impact evidence which we are beginning to share with the rest of FE on publicly available social media (not just hidden in reports). And we’re agile. For example, the Adventure Ready Squad pulled off a brilliant conference for just under 100 people in three weeks using a WhatsApp group back in March!

For more about Green Changemakers follow the hashtag #GreenChangemakers and check out our Linktree.

[1] Defined as, “considering the benefit to our great, great, great, great grandchildren, as our ancestors considered us.”

A graphic illustration showing the 'New Paradigm' of Green Changemaking
Graphic Illustration by Laura Brodrick from the Green Skills Conference 2024

By Dr Lou Mycroft, Co-Director FE Constellations, a nomadic educator, writer, and Green Changemaker.

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