Monday, May 25, 2009

The Otesha Project

We’re taking sustainable living personally. Sometimes we’re nomadic cyclists, other times we’re improv theatre wizards and every so often you can find us shamelessly sowing seeds. We want to spread and share good ideas - from cycling to free-cycling; from free-range to fair trade – and create social and environmental change through our everyday lives.

At the heart of the Otesha Project you'll find a two-wheeled revolution. Every summer, teams of wonderful young people are hopping on bikes and travelling across the UK, stopping at schools, festivals and communities along the way to perform the Otesha play and generally make the world a better place.

We do other stuff too. We’re writing a book (we want you to help). We’re supporting your projects (we want to help you). We’re building a movement (we want you in it). Come ride with us.

If you're looking for the Otesha Project in Canada, you can find them at There's also an Otesha Project Australia up and running - their online home is

Introducing the Otesha Project UK

Taking a break outside of Newbury

"Otesha" is a Swahili word that means "reason to dream."

The Otesha Project UK is a youth-led organisation that's mobilising our generation to create social and environmental change through our everyday lives.

I guess you could call us ambitious, or maybe just foolish. In either case, we decided that cycling across the world's second largest country just wasn't enough. You see, we were really inspired by the amazing, creative things the Otesha Project has been doing in Canada for the past five years. We wanted to do something here, too. Starting in the beginning of 2007, we gathered together a group of people from around the UK and took the project trans-Atlantic.

Our goals? To tackle big issues like climate change, injustice and poverty in creative ways, starting with our own lives and actions. To build a community of people who are all doing the same thing, to inspire others to take practical environmental actions, and to have a bit of fun at the same time. We want to challenge 'norms' we don't like, speak out against the things we don't agree with, and do it in an exciting, creative way. We want to create something big. A movement, even. Did I mention that we have big aspirations?

Here's how we're doing this:

1. Organising Otesha cycle tours that bring together teams of young people to travel around the UK in a mobile community, learn to live in a low-impact way and inspire thousands of others in schools, youth clubs & communities to make positive changes in their own lives.

2. Helping groups of young people start up projects about issues they care about, letting them develop leadership skills and make a real impact in their own communities at the same time. That's our Change Projects programme, which we've been piloting over the past two years and are about to scale up (and are bursting with excitment about!)

3. Providing ongoing support to our alumni (that's people who've been involved in cycle tours, local groups, or come into contact with us another way). Often once people get involved with Otesha, they want to keep on making positive change. Sometimes they want to start up their own projects, or give presentations at schools in their own communities, get work in the sustainability sector, find wicked volunteering opportunities, or even start up their own local groups. We help them do this.

4. Making great resources for all kinds of people that talk about social and environmental issues in a clear, practical and creative way. Who says living sustainably has to be boring? We've made a Handbook, a How to Change Things guidebook, Tools for Campaigners and we're currently developing resources for educators. We also have a monthly newsletter chock-full of interesting ideas, great local projects, and other thought-provoking nuggets.

From time to time, we also support special projects for new young leaders who want to tackle big social and environmental challenges. Last year, we helped to create, train and coordinate the first ever UK Youth Delegation to a UN Climate Change Conference.

About the book

Otesha book cover

This is our shiny, brilliantly informative handbook. We'd like it to be as participatory and inclusive as possible, so we're inviting you to send us your stories too!

Download the Handbook here

(warning, it's a pretty big file)

Sometimes you gotta point out the downright daft things that society seems to have accepted as normal and try and shake some common sense into the world. We reckon, with a little bit of help from our friends (that includes you), we might just manage to do that. But we didn't want to stop there, so we've included loads of ideas of day-to-day actions we can easily take and gathered stories from other people who've started up projects that are so good, we wish we'd thought of 'em first. The Handbook follows on from the example set by our Canadian counterparts. (Otesha Canada wrote a book and we don't like to be outdone, so we wanted one too.)

We broke the book down into eight different themes, so that each chapter's written on an issue we really want to shout out about. You can download and read one theme at a time or tackle the whole kit and kaboodle at once.

It's free for the world to read, share, and contribute to. So please download freely, read it through, and then tell us what you think. Like everything we do, this handbook is copyrighted with Creative Commons Share & Share Alike. What can we say, we like to share!

Here's what it looks like:

Book cover

Money screenshot
Fashion screenshot
Fashion screenshot 2
Trade screenshot
Trade screenshot 2
Food screenshot
Food screenshot 2
Energy screenshot
Water screenshot
Transport screenshot
Trade screenshot 3
Water screenshot 2
Media screenshot
Media screenshot 2
Transport screenshot 2
Download the whole Handbook to read more