Case Study

National Centre for Voluntary Organisations

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) champions and strengthens the voluntary sector in England. NCVO recognises that climate change will affect all aspects of society. It believes that voluntary organisations have a crucial role to play in helping communities across the country to respond to the emerging challenges.

The vulnerable people and climate change project

NCVO is working with a range of organisations to help them explore the impact that climate change could have on their work, and on the people they support. Its current programme (2011-2013) is targeting groups of organisations in different parts of the country whose beneficiaries may be particularly vulnerable to climate-related risks:

    • Older people (London)
    • Disabled people and those with mental health needs (London)
    • Black and minority ethnic communities (Greater Manchester)
    • People on low incomes (Hull & East Riding and Portsmouth)

Each group of organisations is working together over several months to explore the implications of climate change for their work, and to identify appropriate responses. Participants:

    • attend a series of workshops
    • run in-house discussions with staff, volunteers, trustees and service users
    • create an action plan.

A big ask?

Many voluntary organisations do not feel climate change has any relevance for their work, or expect the programme to help them reduce their carbon footprint. Although the need for carbon reduction is explored, the project has a strong focus on climate change adaptation. So in order to manage expectations it’s been important to be very clear about the purpose of the initiative. At times, it has been hard work persuading groups to sign up.

Conversely, the adaptation angle enables organisations to link climate change to their missions and to make a strategic response to the challenges it presents.

  • Organisations that take part tend to be:
    • working on the topic in some way already
    • feel they ought to be doing something because of organisational values or external pressure
    • persuaded by a team member with a personal interest
    • curious


  • Response ideas across the programme cohorts include:
    • Adding climate change issues into existing life skills or activity programmes
    • Updating organisational risk registers and disaster recovery plans
    • Identifying opportunities for collaboration with others to improve community resilience

Key insights

  • Participating organisations are quick to grasp the implications. Key climate related risks and issues identified include:
    • Service disruption due to extreme weather
    • New and increased demand for support
    • Marginalisation of some service users from mainstream response programmes
    • A need to increase beneficiaries’ awareness and resilience

Further information

Find out more about the NCVO vulnerable people and climate change project.