Thirteen organisations have joined together to form a steering board committed to helping embed the Tree Charter into the fabric of society. The first meeting took place last month.
Joining this first meeting were nine board representatives: Centre for Sustainable Healthcare, Landscape Institute, National Association for Local Councils (NALC), National Union of Students (NUS), Northern Ireland Environment Link, Sylva Foundation and The Tree Council. Apologies were received from Royal Forestry Society, Common Ground, ConFor and BEN - Black Environment Network. A special guest also joined us: Sarah Shorley, who is the Trust’s new delivery lead thanks to a three year grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
Starting with a pop
The meeting began with bubbly and cake to celebrate a fantastic partnership to date. After more than two years’ hard work, the charter’s launch last November was a great success, with wide media coverage on the day as hundreds of professionals, enthusiasts and academics came together to develop and evidence the 10 principles. The charter has received over 132,000 signatures so far. Together we have created something beautiful and inspiring and it felt good to mark the occasion!
Sarah Shorley was welcomed into the Tree Charter family, having started with the Trust full-time in May. She has a history of working with communities and is already engaged in the charter at a local level in Sheffield. Sarah’s focus is on supporting and motivating the UK-wide charter branch network and developing resources and materials for Charter Branch activity, especially for Tree Charter Day on 24 November.
The morning’s discussions were on the draft terms of reference and accord. From there, the board considered how the Tree Charter’s principles can best be integrated into business as usual. As a minimum, each board member will incorporate the logo and link to relevant principles. There’s a further expectation around promoting the annual Tree Charter Day, and members will be invited to contribute to a ‘state of the nation’s trees, woods and forests’ report. Each member was asked to send back a personalised accord for their organisation.
Tree Charter around the world
The charter has already gained an international following! The calendar committee at Syracuse Cultural Workers, a peace and justice publisher in New York state, USA, has asked to include the charter in its 2019 calendar. The charter’s principles will feature on the November page and Tree Charter Day (UK) on 24 November will be included in the calendar dates along with the website address.
In the EU, the Urban Forest programme has recently looked into the charter as a model of public engagement, as presented by the Landscape Institute. And wider still, the UNESCO ‘Man & Biosphere’ team - an intergovernmental scientific programme that aims to establish a scientific basis for the improvement of relationships between people and their environments - has asked to use the charter as a model for a ‘bottom-up’ approach to engage young people in the environment.
Closer to home, the Tree Charter won runner-up for best coalition campaign at the 2017 Sheila McKechnie Awards.
The main behind the scenes work now includes activity that will be supported by HLF. The grant will enable the strong partnerships established by the Woodland Trust with NUS and NALC to continue, working with students and local parish councils respectively. A charter toolkit is being developed to help people embed the principles into everyday life and a three year plan will be developed to set out the strategic direction of the board.
We were lucky enough to be based at the Birmingham Institute for Forest Research for our meeting, which generously provided a room for free. Over lunch, some of the board members visited the charter legacy tree on campus. The afternoon was dedicated to planning the charter’s next big event: Tree Charter Day in November.
The Trust’s CEO, Beccy Speight gave a brief summary of the day’s meeting. Beccy spoke about how fragile the charter feels right now and so we must all work hard to keep up the momentum and profile. But the next phase is very positive, and we are all feeling enthusiastic about where the charter is headed, especially with such an energetic and committed group working closely on its future.
Why are trees important to us? What we can do to ensure trees and woods stay in our lives in the future? The Tree Charter explores all of these questions, and offers solutions.