Co-founder of 350.org Jeremy Osborn remembers April 14, 2007 as one of the most beautiful days of his life.
That was the day he and six friends, all newly graduated university students, worked with author and environmentalist Bill McKibben to launch a day of action calling on U.S. Congress to “step it up” and cut carbon 80 percent by 2050.
The day of action was founded on the belief that people are passionate about preventing climate change, yet are told to do things like change their light bulbs or recycle more. The responses lack the needed systemic approach to truly tackle a global challenge.
While the group believed people wanted to make change, they never imagined the kind of support, energy and action the plan would unleash.
Across the United States people showed their support to address climate change, rallying in front of coal plants, skiing the shrinking Dinwoody Glacier and scuba diving amongst fragile coral reefs. 1,400 actions in all fifty states were recorded. In many cases participants snapped photos of themselves, which were later aggregated and shared.
It was the birth of 350.org, and its core model fuses people’s desire to see climate change leadership with creative, visual actions.
Five years later, 350.org is a force to be reckoned with. The organization has 40 staff members and seven directors, all under the age of 30. It’s been hailed as the first climate movement to build leadership and connection among people across the globe, engaging hundreds of thousands of people in more than 180 countries.
After dedicating its focus (and name) to a campaign calling on governments to adopt a globally safe carbon target — 350 parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere — 350.org has evolved into a powerful grassroots environmental campaigning organization. It most recently rallied support against the Keystone XL pipeline resulting in the Obama administration effectively killing the pipeline.
Osborn presented 350.org‘s work and impact as a case study at Social Change Institute (SCI) June 8.
Case studies are a core component of the conference that aims to advance social change, providing a space for organizations to share intimate details of their operations and seek expert feedback and advice.
Osborn’s case study asked how the young organization can continue to build on its success while creating systems that enable organizational growth and scale.
Photo Credit: Bill Weaver