Deborah Leach and Thames21

If you’ve never heard of “fly-tipping,” then you’ve certainly seen its results. Fly-tipping is the British term for dumping garbage illegally, and it’s the civic challenge that motivated Londoner Deborah Leach to start a research project with the Tidy Britain Group (now ENCAMS) to investigate what it takes to engage citizens in cleaning up trash-laden waterways. “The litter along the Thames shores and flowing beneath its bridges was upsetting thousands of Londoners,” Leach recounts. Beyond their desire for cleaner rivers and canals, she found people eager and willing to help.
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With support from a number of British environmental agencies and the Greater London Authority, Thames21 was soon launched. Leach took the helm, directing a rapid proliferation of subgroups and additional projects to clean not only the Thames but community waterways wherever residents volunteered. Previously the head of fundraising and marketing for Sports Leader UK, Leach was well equipped to wrangle volunteers and manage programs run mostly on enthusiasm. "There are a lot of similarities between my past job and Thames21," says Leach. "It’s all about mobilizing local communities, getting people involved and making a difference in their neighborhoods."

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