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Personal resolutions failing? Here’s 19 ways to change the world this year

So you’ve made it halfway through January. Maybe those personal development goals of being a better person or going to exercise more have had to take a break for a while. Whether you’re on track or not, here are 19 resolutions you can pick up now to make the world a better place this year.

1. Start regular volunteering

As an ICS volunteer, you’re no stranger to this one. But if you haven’t continued after ICS, then start again. Begin by checking out local organisations that you like to see if they need support and if they can use your skills. And of course, look into volunteering again with ICS as a Team Leader!

Time: 3 hours a week

A sea turtle approaches a plastic bag
By 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans. Do something about it

2. Go for a week without single-use plastics

In October the European Parliament announced plans for a ban on single-use plastics – stuff you’ll only use once, like plastic bags and straws – by 2021, following countries like Kenya and Rwanda. This blog has 100 great tips on how to live without or live with less plastic.

Time: 5 hours a week

3. Share your feedback with the UN on the SDGs

We’re now four years into the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – and it’s time for member countries to report on progress. Share your ICS experience with the UN and get in touch with your ICS country office to see if they’re looking for input into their Voluntary National Review.

Time: 30 minutes

4. Carry out a random act of kindness

In a world that can often feel like it’s becoming more self-centred, random acts of kindness can go a long way to making a big difference to the planet – and to other people’s day. Resolve to give more praise or write handwritten letters to friends and family. There’s loads more ideas here.

Time: 1 hour a week

Ugandan ICS alumni Betty Nantongo was interviewed about the importance of safe spaces
Ugandan ICS alumni Betty Nantongo was interviewed about the importance of safe spaces

5. Speak to the press about your time on ICS

Champion the impact of UK Aid and youth volunteering – by telling your local paper about your time on placement. Fill out our quick, five minute form – then copy and paste the press release we create and send this to your local newspaper for them to publish.

Time: 5 minutes

6. Give your CV a makeover

Looking to get into your first role in international development or charity but don’t know where to begin? Or looking to move up the ladder? Restless Development have some great feedback in this blog on how to make sure your CV will get you the jobs you’re applying for.

Time: 1 day

7. Become a blood donor

Hospitals need a regular supply of the eight main blood groups. More than half of the world’s population belong to O or A blood types – but rarer groups are always needed. Last year, Facebook launched a feature for you to find local blood donation groups and sign up online.

Time: 30 minutes

A bright green healthy vegan salad of vegetables
Stopping your consumption of meat can help your heart, wallet and the planet

8. Give Veganuary a go

Whatever your opinions on meat, stopping your consumption for a month can improve the health of your body, your wallet, and the planet. Whether committing to January or just want to do the occasional meal, Veganuary’s site has loads of tasty recipes to try out.

Time: 1 month

9. Join (or start!) your own alumni network

Last year we launched our National Youth Engagement Networks – countrywide groups of ICS alumni keen to still create change. In 2019, these groups will run in Tanzania, Nepal, Bangladesh and the UK – with more countries to follow later this year. Find out more here.

Time: 30 minutes

10. Keep your local area tidy

Hate rubbish? Love your community? ICS volunteers across the world have tackled waste issues with clean-ups in their local area. Get a team of volunteers together, pick an area and record the results and take photos of your work! There’s more tips here on how to do it.

Time: 1 day

A child in Loitokitok, Kenya, takes part in a clean-up organised by ICS volunteers
© ICS / Jack Howson
A child in Loitokitok, Kenya, takes part in a clean-up organised by ICS volunteers

11. Visit your host family and local partners

In 2019, why not reconnect with your host family or the local partners you worked with while on ICS. We’re always interested to hear how volunteers have continued to build on the relationships they formed while on placement. But before you go, speak to your country office!

Time: 1 day

12. Contact your local politician

Get in touch with your local politician about an issue that matters to you. Whether that’s making your views about youth unemployment or corruption heard – your politicians are paid and employed to represent you. Find out who they are and reach out to their office.

Time: 30 minutes

13. Offset your carbon emissions

Thinking more about your carbon footprint? Carbon offsetting means compensating for your CO2 emissions by paying or taking actions to reduce the equivalent amount in the atmosphere – such as by planting trees. Six trees need to be planted to offset a tonne of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Time: 1 hour

Platforms like have seen users achieve huge results through petitions
Platforms like have seen users achieve huge results through petitions

14. Sign a petition

Clicktivism might feel small, but petitions have made big change. From mobilising millions in the wake of disasters to making historic environmental progress with the Paris Climate Agreement, showing your support online can change things offline. See what’s trending – and start your own.

Time: 15 minutes

15. Spread the world about the SDGs

Tell your local community about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, how you helped work towards achieving them through ICS, and why they should care too. Get in touch with your ICS country office to tell them how you’re talking to schools and community organisations about ICS.

Time: 1 hour

16. Stop wasting food

Around a third of the world’s food is wasted. This year, resolve to save some money and help the planet by planning and eating better. This handy guide has some good tips – including keeping a tally or taking photos of what’s left inside your fridge and avoiding shopping when you’re hungry!

Time: 2 hours a week

testCelebrate the power of Fairtrade - by joining in the events from 25 February
Celebrate the power of Fairtrade - by joining in the events from 25 February

17. Celebrate Fairtrade in their fortnight of activism

Fairtrade Fortnight takes place from 25 February to 10 March. This year, the event, which focuses on cocoa, is looking at the crash in prices that has affected West African farmers. Host your own events and awareness of Fairtrade at work and in your local area.

Time: 2 hours

18. Get back in touch with your ICS team

Why not organise a reunion, get back in touch with your counterpart or organise a cross-country campaign? Now’s a great time to see where everyone is working and use your contacts to help each other. And sign up to our newsletter to hear about what events we have coming up.

Time: 30 minutes

19. Skill up

Join one of FutureLearn’s free, online, month-long courses on international development and global politics, taught by world-leading lecturers and gain skills and training that you can include on your CV and in future applications. Browse what’s on offer.

Time: 1 month

Stay involved with ICS

Click here for more ways to change the world

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Funded by the UK Government.

ICS is funded by the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), which projects the UK as a force for good in the world, including reducing poverty and tackling global challenges.

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