It never ceases to amaze me how we work to implement long-term planning, slowly moving step by step forward, yet seemingly for an instant we let our eye off the ball and end up four steps back.
There is a litany of backwards “steps” in the last few months.
I remember 20 years ago at an EYA conference watching David Suzuki announce that the 90’s was the “turnaround decade”. Today he bemoans that “we’re still fighting the battles. The direction we’re heading is catastrophic. This is not going to be easy. But the important thing is to get started.”
What sadly seems to move us forward is disasters such as what is happening in the Atlantic; but waiting for disaster is not a sustainable strategy. Perhaps we need to take a page from the youth community, and look at the actions they take to “meaningfully” engage.
Based on a youth engagement model developed by the Centre of Excellence for Youth Engagement, I propose four principles of positive sustainability engagement that could be undertaken by sustainability groups:
PRINCIPLES TO SUPPORT MEANINGFUL ENGAGEMENT IN SUSTAINABILITY
1. People Centred: Organizations respond to people’s diverse talents, skills, & interests in regards to sustainability; build on their strengths by identifying what they do well in the area of sustainability & develop those skills. Feature sustainability leadership & voices
2. Knowledge Centred: Creating opportunities that show people that learning is a reason to get involved. Opportunities that are clearly “about” something, e.g. community service as a way to sustainability; provide activities that deliberately teach a number of lessons & build a range of sustainability concepts and skills; & provide an opportunity for people to connect with a wide array of others undertaking similar work.
3. Assessment Centred: People need opportunities for ongoing feedback, peer reviews, & self-reflection to know how they are doing & how they can do better next time.
4. Care Centred: Effective organizations provide family-like environments where people can feel safe & build trusting relationships.
The radical nature of this model, rough as it is, is to refocus our sustainability work on the process – i.e the people – versus the product – i.e. the environment. Disasters will still happen – people made and natural – but perhaps this way we will be more prepared for them, and in then end our environment will improve. That to me is the basis of sustainability.