10 Billion Strong: Launching an Environmental Leadership Movement

by | May 6, 2022 | Heartivist Of The Week

Patrick Arnold created 10 Billion Strong, a leadership development organization focused on environmental sustainability, because he believes it’s unjust that more than a billion youth as well as future generations have to find solutions for environmental catastrophes they did not create. As an international educator, Patrick is passionate about education, training and designing transformative experiences to support youth in understanding root causes, mobilizing change and finding solutions to environmental issues. Recently, he was the one transformed by the very experience he created when he hosted his first in-person workshop in two years in Nairobi, Kenya with an amazing group that included Pollination Project grantees, David Mulo, founder of Green-Kenya, and Maulidi Hamisi Mwinyikai, founder of Kishoka Youth Organization.

In March 2022, fifteen exceptional trainers and community leaders gathered in East Africa to work towards building a movement of youth leaders and strengthening their organizations. Each participant is working at the intersection of environmental issues, youth leadership development and a variety of sectors, including: environmental law, the blue economy, plastic pollution, afforestation, biodiversity protection, endangered species conservation, and women-focused entrepreneurship. They examined their business models, theories of change, strategic opportunities, and networks and then discussed ways to train other like-minded organizations to deliver the environmental leadership training created by 10 Billion Strong. In the end, they began to plan a series of follow-on training sessions in Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, and Tanzania with their peers.

As Patrick reflected on working with members of the TPP family, he said, “It was fantastic. We all received initial seed funding and it was clear that we shared a lot of the same values. We all shared an understanding of how challenging it can be to get an Initiative off the ground. Although it wasn’t a stated part of our training, we ended up having a little bit of “founders therapy” as people shared the highs and lows of this important, but challenging work.”

In October 2019, Patrick received a seed grant from the Pollination Project to fund the general digital infrastructure for 10 Billion Strong. They had planned to hold their first, online training for environmental leaders from across sub-Saharan Africa as well as an in-person training at UC Berkeley in March 2020. However, the pandemic changed everything so, instead of an in-person training, Patrick and his team ran an additional online training for twelve, incredible leaders in Bangladesh.

“Receiving the grant was one of the happiest and proudest moments of my professional life. I’ve written proposals and received millions in grant funds for organizations that I worked at previously. But this one was for a new concept that I created independently. I always felt like it was a big risk, but the validation from the TPP team gave me the confidence to continue this entrepreneurial journey. It’s not always easy, but confirmation from others in the sector can provide an amazing burst of energy. TPP was the first external entity that wasn’t a friend or family member that said, “Great idea, make it happen!” said Patrick.

As 10 Billion Strong initially began to grow, Patrick made a strategic decision to build a train-the-trainer model so that he and the team could reach more communities. Then in 2021, they developed the curriculum and content for their flagship Green Leaders Academy program with environmental leaders from more than 20 countries. Now, their 2022 goal is to reach some of the highest capacity trainers and community leaders in East Africa and South and Southeast Asia through a series of Master Trainer Institutes.

Patrick and his team are planning their next Master Trainer Institute in Indonesia in July 2022 for participants from across South and Southeast Asia. The goal is to create a community of practice for environmental leaders who are trying to inspire and support youth to make a difference in their communities. They are excited to bring together 10 to 12 ambitious and environmentally-focused leaders with diverse perspectives to learn more about the Green Leaders Academy, how they can use it in their communities and strengthen their collective organizational capacity. Thanks to a generous grant, the program is funded and includes travel, lodging, and food as covered by 10 Billion Strong. To learn more and apply – https://www.tenbillionstrong.org/institute-bali

When Patrick was starting out, he hoped to create something that would allow him to look his daughters in the eye and tell them that he worked to do everything possible to chart a different course for our planet and humanity’s well-being. As he builds a supportive and optimistic community of changemakers who are passionate about their work, Patrick has observed that many community leaders don’t always consider themselves environmentalists. He shared that many recognize that a stable environment is almost always related to community well-being. And that shared perspective has helped launch a movement. 10 Billion Strong is actively looking to build new partnerships across the world, so if you are passionate about creating positive change and helping humanity, we invite you to connect with them and start that conversation.