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Leadership
Taking a Look Inside:
How Are We, the Sustainability People, Doing?

Change agency, as it applies to sustainability, is an increasingly popular subject in prestigious academic institutions, government conversations, NGOs and businesses globally. Permeating the communities and conversations of the sustainability fraternity, we find inspiring ideas, language, energy, ambition and commitment. But is there also an increasing sense of frustration, helplessness and a dose of ultimately unhelpful cynicism around our own effectiveness?

Change agency, as it applies to sustainability, is an increasingly popular subject in prestigious academic institutions, government conversations, NGOs and businesses globally. Permeating the communities and conversations of the sustainability fraternity, we find inspiring ideas, language, energy, ambition and commitment. But is there also an increasing sense of frustration, helplessness and a dose of ultimately unhelpful cynicism around our own effectiveness?

The planet has not been saved; the IPCC is reporting ever-greater concern; we are seemingly besieged by landmark failures in ethics, moral and social responsibilities; and businesses, governments and consumer societies are all failing to radically reinvent. Put simply, for many of us, change is not changing nearly fast enough and with this in mind, the change agents’ mojo is in peril.

How do we move with and through that, staying whole and effective? How do we stay centred? How do we harness our personal power, staying wired to possibility and opportunity and detached from threat, outcome and feelings of impotence? How do we deal with what ‘is’ and what ‘unfolds,’ staying in sequence to deliver change, gently, sustainably, while using our own personal energy to its full potential?

Let’s get the baseline.

Typically, we love data. Show us a good benchmark, a baseline and a solid evidence base and we will show you solutions. So, let’s be shoemakers’ children who wear shoes and check in on how we are doing …

It is necessary, when working in change, to find time and space to work ‘inside out.’ As well as being ‘expert’ by academic and project experience lenses in relation to core subject matters — e.g. carbon, water, social purpose, ethical supply chain — we need to build and sustain something far greater as a tool – our own personal power.

This survey was originally designed for the Cambridge Leadership Programme in Sustainability as pre-work for a lecture on ‘Personal Sustainability and Authentic Leadership’ and has since been seeded out to the Ashridge alumni network. Its purpose is to look ‘inside’ at our change agency.

A colleague of mine (Pamela Fischer, author of the forthcoming book, Motivity: Leading Change Through Power with Grace) and I are working with a number of groups and individuals in order to understand and experiment with some approaches to working in wholeness and with authenticity as leaders. We are seeking to understand where our 'power' is strong and 'graceful' and where we become 'stuck' or eclipsed by other people, forces or the size of the challenges which we all face as we try to navigate the climate, business and social challenges we face.

The survey was designed specifically to help us understand better how we, as sustainability practitioners are faring, both as 'experts' and as change agents, as well as human beings with multiple hats to wear, reconcile and enjoy.

Please consider taking ten minutes to complete the survey — the results will be anonymous but shared with you all, along with an option of a series of web-based workshops to explore some of the themes as they emerge.

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