Progress, friendships and change: 2023 in review

From addressing the UN to the departure of our director of seven years, 2023 was a big year for Population Matters. Alistair Currie, our Head of Campaigns, looks back – and forward.

As a small organisation with a big task, Population Matters has been guided for the last three years by our organisational strategy. 2023 saw us making strides in every pillar of it.

going global

Central to our strategy is having a global impact, and that has been a theme throughout the year. We participated in the first UN Water Conference in 40 years in March, and April saw us using our status as a UN-accredited organisation to join the annual Commission on Population and Development in New York, where our Campaigns and Content Specialist, Florence, delivered a well-received address to the session. We shall be returning to New York to build on that success next year.

Beyond the UN, a Population Matters delegation was invited to speak at the Fifth International Conference on Sustainability Education in India, where we also took time to meet Indian campaigners and activists and learn about the challenges they face in what is now the world’s most populous country. We will be working with some of those campaigners to develop exciting plans which we will reveal more about in the New Year.

Abimbola Junaid
Abimbola speaking at the Fifth International Conference on Sustainability Education this year

We are also proud to be working with Nigerian partners to launch a landmark Population Conversation roundtable meeting in Abuja in February. That work is being led by our new Partnerships, Advocacy and Voice Manager, Abimbola.

Our grassroots Empower to Plan (E2P) projects continued to go from strength to strength as we welcomed our new E2P Coordinator, Shweta, who launched appeals for YVNO in Albania and NWERO in South Sudan. In early January 2024, we will announce our next E2P partner, delivering vital services directly where they are most needed.

the campaigning year

In addition to our annual Change Champion Awards, we marked World Population Day in July by releasing a significant new report, Power to the People, showing how past population policies have improved lives, and laying out the positive, voluntary actions that help to bring down population growth and empower people.

We also held an online symposium, bringing together global experts to ask ‘Is education the magic bullet?’, the full 90 minutes of which can be viewed online.

Change Champions 2023
Change Champions 2023

This year, we called for action on population growth in the UK, contacting MPs and political leaders, and encouraging our UK supporters to do likewise. That work took place in the light of a growing “baby bust” narrative in the UK, echoing the pronatalist policies increasingly adopted by many governments across the globe, which we have continued to shine a light on.

Meanwhile, reflecting the continued pressure on the natural world, October saw us bolster our HumaNature campaign with a new report on biodiversity loss, by our new Campaign and Media Officer, MadeleineVanishing Icons: how population growth is driving our most-loved animals to extinction

Our strategy also calls for us to tackle the impact of unsustainable consumption which combines with population growth to drive our environmental crises. In the next stage of our We Don’t Buy It campaign, in May we published our iCon report on the corrosive consumerism associated with mobile phone upgrades, something we highlighted again on Black Friday.

reaching more people

We’ve continued to reach new audiences through our online presence and international media work, and the year also saw the launch of our new TikTok channel. With the highest ever number of people joining our mailing list, we know our message is getting through.

a thank you to all our supporters

We could do none of this without our members and supporters, whose individual acts of generosity continue to be our main source of funds. In the spring we held our first annual Spring Action Month, leading into our We are Kindred spring appeal. Excitingly, this year – for the first time since the covid pandemic began – Population Matters fundraisers were able to, literally, run marathons for us! To close out the year on a high, we held our third annual Big Give Christmas Challenge. The appeal was our most successful to date, achieving over 100% of our appeal target and raising over £22,000 in total.

November also saw the departure of our Head of Fundraising, Izi Clery. The first person to occupy that role, Izi and her team of Rob and Anthony have transformed our fundraising over the three years she has been with us – not least in weathering the storms of the pandemic and, most recently, the cost of living crisis, which saw a small drop in our donations but overall, remarkably sustained support. We wish her all the best and look forward to introducing our new Head of Fundraising when he joins us next year.

a big goodbye

So much of the credit for all our achievements this year goes to our director since 2017, Robin Maynard, who announced in the summer that he would be stepping down from his role after seven years at the helm of Population Matters. Robin led our progress from an organisation consisting of just three paid staff supported by volunteers to our current team of 12, a real global presence, and, in the words of a supportive UK parliamentarian, “a focussed voice which has made itself heard”.

Robin Maynard

In his parting blog, and still committed to being a ‘positive nuisance’ to help change the world for the better, Robin reflected that “Population Matters is better equipped than ever to play a pivotal role in raising awareness, challenging preconceptions and highlighting all the available solutions”.

The process of recruiting our new director has begun, and we also give thanks to our wonderful board, who have offered fantastic guidance and support to the team as we go through this time of change.

looking forward

2024 promises to be another exciting year, with a new Executive Director and a new Head of Fundraising joining us, and, most importantly, the development of our next three year strategy, to build on the exciting work we have done and take us to the next level of influence and impact. Watch this space!


Do you want to find out more about our important work? Sign up to our newsletter to keep up to date with all things population and consumption.