Patagonia Action Works connects creatives with organisations to take action against vital issues

Through digital skills-based volunteering, individuals can use their talents to help protect people and the planet from the worst of climate change.

29 July 2021


Over the last year or so, we’ve seen dramatic changes in our environment – be it the arrival of more regular wildfires, droughts, floods and heatwaves, not to mention the issues related to land, water, climate, communities and biodiversity. When it comes to the impending threats surrounding earth’s lands and resources, many creatives are realising an increased sense of responsibility towards bettering our planet. However, a full career u-turn can seem daunting or unattainable. This is where the clothing company Patagonia comes into play with Patagonia Action Works. Through digital skills-based volunteering that can be done anywhere, Patagonia Action Works connects individuals with grassroots activists and organisations.

Nathalie Peña is just one of many skilled professionals who have volunteered their expertise through Patagonia Action Works. After a year in a fellowship role at a public relations company’s fashion team, Nathalie felt unmotivated and discovered Patagonia Action Works through a company email. In a short film about her experience, Nathalie explains how she was starting to learn “what changes I wanted to see in the world and how I wanted to contribute to that change,” and simultaneously, her own ambitions for a creative, meaningful career.” Then, during a trip to Chicago, she met a stranger who had moved to a new state and worked part-time as a barista and musician, before eventually heading to school to study law. They inspired Nathalie to rethink her approach. “I had a tiny revelation that I should do something similar – as in take a break and work on my own thing before I commit to a full-time job.” Volunteering was an enticing and viable option for Nathalie and something she could do on the side while working part-time. She left her fellowship and gave Patagonia Action Works a try. For more than 40 years, Patagonia has supported environmental activists in myriad ways, from fundraising to petitions and events. With Patagonia Action Works, the organisation has opened these opportunities to the creative community by partnering with more than 1,000 grassroots activists and organisations in the United States, Canada and Europe.


Photography by Cassandra Giraldo (Copyright © Patagonia Action Works, 2021)

Nathalie says she is a “huge introvert” who can get nervous in new environments, “so digital volunteering kept me in my comfort zone while still giving me the opportunity to help nonprofits doing dope work.” Plus, she gets to work with people who live in different places across North America and Europe, use her writing and communication skills, and learn new ones, too: “A lot of us think we need to know everything there is about our specific role, when we’re all really just faking it until we make it,” Nathalie says. “Digital volunteering reminded me of that, making me more patient with myself and proving to myself that it’s possible to learn new things if given the opportunity.”

So far, Nathalie has volunteered her skills with a few organisations, writing newsletters and other materials, and learning how to create a branding guide. After seven months volunteering with Power Shift Network (PSN), an organization that mobilises the collective power of young people to mitigate climate change, she got a full-time job offer from the group. “I loved PSN’s mission and work, and wanted to stay in touch with them.” Nathalie had applyied for a different role initially, but the organisation reached out with one that was better suited to her skillset. “That’s the power of relationship building, which is a huge part of what we do at PSN.” Nathalie says.

Nathalie now feels happy with the type of work she does every day. “We’re all about being a decentralised network that truly values everyone’s identities and voices no matter our job title,” she says. “Because at the end of the day, our full selves – in my case being an able-bodied, cisgender woman, first-generation American, Afro Latina, that comes from a low-income community – intersects with the very justice movements we’re fighting for.”


Illustration by Peter McBride (Copyright © Patagonia Action Works, 2021)

It might sound nerve-wracking, but taking the plunge into a role that better aligns with your ethos and ethics as a creative clearly has its advantages. If you’re thinking of volunteering your skills, Nathalie has some advice. First, she suggests collaborating and learning from people in different spaces, as there are many conversations that need to be amplified “to get us closer to a more just and clean energy future,” she explains. “Especially the stories and work of disabled folks, young people, people of colour, queer folks and other marginalised communities who are often left out of the conversation of environmentalism, even though they’re the most impacted.” She encourages not to be afraid to try volunteering with an organisation whose work you know nothing about, as it can open up new opportunities for your creativity. And lastly, she offers, if you’re not able to save money while living with your family, as she did, she suggests making a plan but to avoid putting “too much on your plate, especially if you’re doing the work for free, no matter how fulfilling it may be”.

Art and environmentalism go hand in hand, and creativity has a vital impact on the stories that can spark meaningful change. Patagonia Action Works makes it easy to work alongside groups who are taking action to protect people and the planet. “Without sharing the stories of people who are impacted by the climate crisis, there wouldn’t be as much of an urgency to make change,” shares Nathalie. “Creativity can make an audience think about issues in a different way, can create more empathy, and make what can be a very hopeless space consumed by mostly bad news really fun. Activism doesn’t just look like protests. Art is a powerful tool to call out the racist systems that work against (mostly marginalised) people to make for a more liveable planet.”

Volunteer your skills and discover more about Patagonia Action Works here.

GalleryCopyright © Patagonia Action Works, 2021


Photography by Cassandra Giraldo (Copyright © Patagonia Action Works, 2021)


Illustration by Peter McBride (Copyright © Patagonia Action Works, 2021)

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Patagonia Action Works

Patagonia Action Works was built to connect committed individuals to organisations working on environmental issues in the same community. It’s now possible for anyone to discover and connect with environmental action groups and get involved with the work they do.

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Illustration by Peter McBride (Copyright © Patagonia Action Works, 2021)

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