A walk in Heidi’s shoes

World Cleanup Day is a movement spanning 150 countries, involving millions of people, and thousands of organisations and companies. So what or who is behind such an expansive movement? Who are the people keeping the ‘train running’, who engage, involve and inspire participants from every country and all walks of life to hop on board? […]

World Cleanup Day is a movement spanning 150 countries, involving millions of people, and thousands of organisations and companies. So what or who is behind such an expansive movement? Who are the people keeping the ‘train running’, who engage, involve and inspire participants from every country and all walks of life to hop on board?

In a series of features, we interview leaders from Let’s Do It! World, to investigate their vision, motivation and thoughts on the most ambitious civic initiative in history. We start with Heidi Solba, Head of the LDIW Countries Network. Before joining LDIW, Heidi had a corporate background in HR, CSR, and organisational development. She has tirelessly built the international network for World Cleanup Day, which will take place on 15 September. We interrupted her for a few hours to find out what makes her tick, and get a snippet of what it must be like to walk in her shoes.

Heidi, what does 15 Sept mean to you?

We are catalysing a process of change in the world – getting people to change their habits, and move away from an era of plastic. We’re proving that by engaging communities, a global movement can make a real change! It’s amazing to see so much collaboration over many different sectors and among many civic movements, all with one goal and one purpose – to change the way we think, act and live.

You have covered a lot of ground this year while building the World Cleanup Day network. Which countries have you visited, and for what events?

We have conducted nine Leaders Academies across several different regions during 2017-18.  The main purpose of the academies is to welcome new country cleanup leaders into the LDIW movement, and build up fellowship and share knowledge between both new and old. The events are long days, but so energising and inspiring!

Academies have taken place in South Africa, for half of the African continent’s leaders; in Ukraine, for the Eastern Partnership Region countries; in Indonesia, for Indonesia’s massive team; in Panama, for all Latin America leaders, and three times in Europe – twice in Estonia, and once in Albania. I also work closely with our global partner, JCI – giving workshops and presentations about World Cleanup Day and LDIW at the JCI regional conferences. Recently my work has taken me to Mongolia, Benin, Dominican Republic, Canada, Germany, Finland, Latvia, the USA, Panama and Brazil.

The LDIW network is made up of some incredible individuals. Who has inspired you, and why?

I have come to realise that the more you get to know about a person, the more you get inspired. It would be very difficult to identify just one person. I think that people who are selflessly putting their all into such a huge cause in the LDIW movement are already pretty unique, aren’t they? This kind of person must have a very broad view of life on Earth. It is often unbelievable, what kind of obstacles our leaders are facing – such as civil wars, personal losses, resistance, or disinterest.  I am always inspired by our leaders, who carry their leadership with passion and with great consistency, and overcome so many barriers.  In fact, we could almost write a book about each leader, there is so much to be inspired by! I am so grateful to be part of this.

I am also very grateful to the network itself, who share so much with each other and help the movement to grow. This is so key to the success of the movement – ‘sharing is caring’, as we say here, and this is actually only way that we can keep making our movement stronger. And we need to be strong! I am so grateful to all the country leaders and our beloved Ambassadors, Representatives, Mentors, and Network Team – who have brought so much of their personal time, care and ideas into growing and supporting the network.

You must have had some very moving experiences. What have you discovered about yourself?

A lot! I am growing so much with this movement, and my heart is fully engaged in the cause. Our movement has so much beauty, as was we are doing is beautiful in so many ways. Most of the time I’m feeling inspired, and I love that. My work is providing me with so much personal growth! I have been working with people all my life, in all sectors, and nothing is comparable to this work here.

There is no manual on how to build up a network on a global level, how to engage and motivate civic movements, or how to grow from this into a smoothly-functioning organisation. So working with intuition, gratitude, passion and belief in our network of leaders – those are the key aspects of my personality that serve the work I do.

Overall, this job also really takes you outside of your comfort zone, and is therefore such a good platform for personal growth. I am very lucky to be learning from it. Working on a global level also brings an understanding about life on Earth. And understanding that we are all so similar – we have the same challenges, we are sharing the same passions – but we just live in different surroundings.

With less than 60 days to go to World Cleanup Day, what is your message to the Network Team? Three things we can all do?

Share your successes! Use social media, as World Cleanup Day is mostly about communication. Ask questions. Engage, and engage, and engage! Also view things with a long-term perspective, and engage with the key partners – find a friend among them, and keep them close!

We must also all segregate the trash in our households, and ask others – including our friends and families – to do the same. It is the first major and important step toward sustainability.

And as we have less than 60 days to go, this means a lot of pressure. So I think we must all take care of ourselves and others, so as not to burn out. Let’s all just do our best, as much as we can.

What would you do differently, if you had the chance?

If I had all the experience I have now, and working under same circumstances – I would be even faster and more effective. Building up a support team from the start, focused more on the needs of countries, and creating support systems according to their needs. It’s a challenge!  All growth of the movement has been organic, so all the support activities have been growing according to the needs and of the network itself – the same can be said for my team. Like with the Leaders Academies – the start was really hard, but now we have some great success stories from Academies as well. The mentorship program is something which could be working better. I also think we are not using the full potential of technology and social media – we could be more visible and reach even further. The whole network can do it! I am satisfied with the growth of network but concerned also, since it means there are a lot of new teams who are starting their activities. I’m pleased with the support developments, like our new support materials, and our ‘baby’ – the Leaders Information Centre. But at the same time, there are a lot of possibilities for improvement!

You are always extremely positive and full of energy, how can you maintain your enthusiasm when you come up against obstacles?

I give a lot of my own energy, but I’ve also realised that I get a lot of energy back as well – which comes from being so inspired by our network itself. So I am transferring it. Of course, I get tired too – and then I need to take time to myself to get back into balance. Being with my family, at home, and doing my art (painting and pottery) – I need these activities to be more in contact with myself, and get balanced again.  I live on the coast of the Baltic Sea and near a forest – these are the places I go to recharge.

You have met many leaders in the course of building the team. What are the key qualities of a good leader?

Each person is unique – and to say there is a ‘perfect model’ of a leader, would be narrow-minded. I think that knowledge in a civic movement is not actually a key feature. It is a person’s values – their ability to cooperate (the most critical skill!), passion, consistency, and a bond with the values and aim of the movement. I know from my personal experience, working for many years with the leaders, that a good leader is for start a good human. With these qualities, a person is enlightened and has followers, and is therefore connected to many people with great skills and knowledge. A good leader is like role model of being great human – someone you want to follow.

How do you see the network continuing to expand after 15 Sept, and building upon the work of the last 10 years?

I know that first of all we will have an amazing World Cleanup Day – where we will engage 150 countries or more. We will bring out millions and millions of people to World Cleanup Day – and for that reason, we shall be heard and visible. I also see that as we grow the Network, 75% are new countries, who came on board during 2017/18 – for them it is a new start, and we will all need to support them. And sure we will bring more people into the Network teams to make the movement bigger and stronger.

Keywords for the upcoming activities are: ability to collaborate, also engagement of the stakeholders, such as corporates and policy makers, and all that is related to creating sustainability – this is the main cause after all, that we are all working for. For this, we plan to hold the conferences/academies at regional level – in Africa, LATAM, Asia, etc. – to work over the sustainability topics, and help the national teams to look at things with a longer perspective.