Nicola Fitzsimons

Community Development Officer, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful

Nicola has been employed as the Community Development Officer at Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful since 2011. She holds an MSC in Sustainable Rural Development and Project Management and a BSC in Geography from Queen’s University in Belfast. 

Nicola joined Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful through a placement from The Conservation Volunteers initially to provide advice and support to volunteers through Northern Ireland’s national clean-up campaign, The Big Spring Clean. Nicola ensured volunteer participation in The Big Spring Clean grew year on year and brought with it the support of strategic partners, particularly all 26 Local Authorities. Such was her success that the campaign duration was extended from a fortnight to the full month of April each year. The campaign now involves over 110,000 people annually, representing approximately 6% of the Northern Irish population.

Nicola quickly added running the Coast, River and Lough Care programmes to her work. This supports a further 4,000 volunteers who clean up our coast line removing marine litter on an ongoing basis. She has continued to grow the number of groups getting involved, the number of people volunteering and the amount of rubbish removed. On a small number of beaches monitored quarterly she has managed volunteers who have removed over two thirds of a million individual pieces of litter since starting the project in September 2012. More recently, Nicola has added the Live Here Love Here campaign to her work load. In this she is inspiring individuals to take positive environmental action within their communities through developing a sense of civic pride. Under Nicola’s leadership the campaign has developed over 230 Adopt A Spot groups across Northern Ireland.

Nicola also manages a Small Grants Scheme, enabling communities to carry out environmental and sustainability projects to grow civic pride. The scheme, in its first three years, awarded over a quarter of a million pounds to community groups in Northern Ireland. This funding programme not only ensures sustainable environmental action, but also helps to break down barriers between communities. Nicola encourages collaborative work so that different communities, often viewed as opposing communities, can come together, work together and build trust together through non-contentious environmental action that benefits everyone.

Nicola’s enthusiasm, strong work ethic and drive for positive environmental action has resulted in her recruiting and working with over 100,000 volunteers every year across Northern Ireland. Her name is well known for her friendly and approachable nature. Children as young as five have been inspired by her, communities respect her, and people are always keen to express their high regard for her work ethic and passion. Nicola wants to ensure everyone plays a role in helping to protect the environment. She has led on all volunteering programmes for Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful and is proving her leadership through success in all areas of her work. Her passion for the environment does not stop at 5pm. She is often present at litter picks and spruce up initiatives throughout the country at evenings and weekends. Nicola believes that you can only lead if people want to follow, and she has ensured that her work always results in people wanting to follow her example.