What can I do about climate change, personally and as a facilitator?

I Declare A Climate Emergency

On the weekend that David Attenborough addresses members of the public who are taking part in the UK’s first climate assembly, starting in Birmingham, I am heartened to know that more and more of us are seriously raising and addressing concerns about climate change, and challenging and supporting others to do so as well. I am heartened too by the increasing recognition of the role that engagement, deliberation and facilitation have to play.

This is a question that I have been pondering more and more myself, especially as I take something of a sabbatical this winter in Sitges, in Spain, to give me some extra time to “reflect, write and learn, and to look ahead to my next seven years of freelance facilitation“. That seems to be working, even though I have found little time for writing and most of the time I have devoted to learning has been spent studying Spanish. My last couple of blog posts have helped, and I didn’t even have to write them. I reflected on my career and my facilitation practice with James Smart in an interview with Session Lab, and on the importance of values in facilitation with Helene Jewell for the IAF Facilitation Stories podcast. And I have done a little reading and research, including estimating my own personal and professional carbon footprint.

What I have learned, and what (more) can I do?

Carbonfootprint tells me that the average annual carbon footprint for people in the UK is 6.5 tonnes of CO2 equivalent (CO2e), for the EU about 6.4 tonnes and worldwide about 5 tonnes – and that the worldwide target to combat climate change is 2 tonnes. It’s free carbon footprint calculator tells me that my own carbon footprint for 2019 amounts to about 10.3 tonnes – 6.2 from flying and 4.1 from everything else.

It comes as no great surprise then that the single most effective way for me to reduce my own carbon footprint is to fly less. I flew 31 single flights in 2019, all within Europe, 8 personal and 23 for work. That compares to 24 and 25 in 2017 and 2018, however those two years included two trips to the Middle East, two to North America and one to Asia & Australia, resulting in emissions of around 12-13 tonnes per year from flights alone. So, while I have already somewhat reduced the carbon impact of my flying, I think it is clear that I am still among the minority of problem flyers in the UK that needs to stop taking so many flights.

WHAT CAN I DO, TO CALM THE CLIMATE?

Reducing the rest of my carbon footprint will be harder. Travel and household energy are typically the areas of highest personal carbon impact, and it seems that mine are otherwise already low. I live in central London, I don’t own a car and rarely hire one, and I travel otherwise largely by bus and train or on foot locally. So the carbon footprint of my non-flight travel amounted to around 0.2 tonnes in 2019. I live in a small, modern and well insulated flat, and I understand from Ecotricity that their supply of 100% renewable household gas & electricity already contributes precisely zero to my carbon footprint. An equivalent supply of non-renewable energy would otherwise contribute around 0.9 tonnes.

The remainder of my emissions are from ‘secondary’ sources, largely consumption – of food, drink, clothing and other products & supplies, use of appliances, and recreational and professional activities. For me these amounted to around 3.8 tonnes in 2019 – 1.5 on hotels, restaurants and the like (much of that for business), and 2.3 on the rest. Already I have substantially reduced my meat and dairy intake in recent years, albeit primarily for health reasons. I have never had much interest in shopping or expensive hobbies and I don’t keep pets. Traveling less could certainly reduce the contribution of my hotel & restaurant consumption.

What does that leave?

As well as reducing our own carbon footprints, we can all use what influence we have to challenge and support others to reduce theirs as well. This can include how we vote, and how we spend and invest. Also how we donate and volunteer, and how we exercise influence and leadership in our in our own workplaces, communities and societies. I have long taken environmental and sustainability considerations into how I vote, and in my choice to invest in an ethical pension. I could donate and volunteer more, and I could pay more attention to how I spend and invest. I suspect that I could make much more of an impact in how I exercise influence and leadership, and particularly in my professional role as a facilitator.

sustainable facilitation easy hacks

As facilitators we can, of course, take care to use recycled flip chart paper and refillable marker pens, and venues that provide these and that recycle and use renewable energy. There are some more ‘easy hacks’ here. Such measures can be worthwhile for the indirect impact they can have by influencing others, as much as for the direct impact of reducing emissions themselves.

However, the greatest contribution to the carbon footprint of a facilitation contract is likely to be associated with any travel, board & lodging involved in meeting face-to-face. That would include our own as facilitators, of course, but especially that of the group – and even more so for a larger group and where air travel may be involved.

So, we can seek to work with clients in the contracting and design process to limit and reduce the carbon impact of the facilitation process as a whole – for example by choice of venue and design of face-to-face events, but also by the use of more online facilitation and blended or hybrid approaches (those that involve face-to-face and virtual elements in sequence or at once).

We can also choose not to seek or to accept work that would likely involve a high carbon impact, perhaps by referring a distant client to a trusted colleague or IAF Certified Professional Facilitator located closer to the group or the venue. We can of course also choose to seek work particularly from groups and organisations that are working to respond constructively to the climate crisis and not from those that are not.

We may find ourselves faced with new ethical dilemmas. If I decline a facilitation contract, could that result in a higher carbon impact than accepting it and working with the client to reduce its carbon impact? Or could it result in a less effective and socially beneficial meeting or process without affecting the carbon footprint? If I decline to travel to provide facilitation training to a distant group that requests it, could that result in more flights and a greater impact due to participants’ travel to my scheduled public courses in London and Brussels?

We can also share and collaborate with each other as facilitators, to explore what else we can each do and what we can all do together and as a profession. This post is inspired in part by just such conversations at recent IAF England & Wales facilitation meetups and our 2019 annual conference, including for example on Greening our practice with Penny Walker and on Climate Conversations with Susannah Raffe.

I am looking forward to considering how IAF E&W can support more of such collaboration at our annual face-to-face Leadership Team meeting in Birmingham this coming week. I hope that the global Board of IAF may be having a similar conversation at its annual face-to-face Board meeting, that is taking place in Kuala Lumpur as I write.

I understand that it is planned already to hold fewer, larger CPF assessment events in order to reduce assessor travel. Will that reduce or increase travel and carbon impact overall? Will this year’s single IAF Global Facilitation Summit in Sweden, the home flygskam (flight shame), have a higher or lower carbon impact than the usual 3 or 4 regional conferences each year? What can be done to limit the carbon impact and maximise the beneficial social impact of this year’s summit in particular, and IAF as a whole?

We can also choose to ‘offset’ emissions by supporting projects that aim to tackle climate change and help to improve the lives of some of those most affected. In 2019 I ‘offset’ 72 tonnes of CO2e by donating £540 to Climatecare, roughly equivalent to my total personal & professional carbon footprint since I went freelance in 2012 – on that basis, improbably good value!

What (more) shall I do?

I am declaring a climate emergency.

I shall seek to limit and reduce my own personal & professional carbon footprint – my aim is to contribute no more than the current UK average within 5 years, ie. a reduction of around 37% from my 10.3 tonnes in 2019 to 6.5 in 2024.

I shall seek to use what influence I can to challenge and support others to respond constructively themselves as well, both personally and professionally – starting by including a short statement to that effect at How I work and in future proposals to clients.

In particular, I shall seek to:

  • fly less, and travel normally by rail (and perhaps sea) to destinations that can be reached within a single day or overnight journey
  • travel less overall, and mostly to places accessible to London without flying – that includes Sitges, in case you were wondering
  • consider carbon impact as well as price and convenience in deciding whether and how to travel (and never air miles)
  • make the most of travel by taking time to take advantage of and enjoy both the journey and the destination
  • work more with groups and organisations that are working to respond constructively to the climate crisis, and less with those that are not
  • work with clients to limit and reduce the carbon impact of our work, including by choice of venue and process design and by the use of more online, blended and hybrid approaches
  • consider the likely carbon impact as well as likely value (to the client, to me and to the wider social good) of prospective work in deciding whether to accept it or perhaps refer it
  • collaborate with other facilitators to explore what else we can each do, and what we can all do together and as a profession, and with IAF on what we can do as an association
  • support projects, campaigns and politics that aim to to respond constructively to the climate crisis
  • periodically reflect on my progress relative to these goals, and share what I else learn and plan as a result.

In addition to the links shared above, my thinking on this has been informed also by other posts of Penny Walker including What can I do to calm the climate and Managing the change to sustainability, and by Business declares a climate emergency, The Man in Seat 61 and Trains vs. planes: What’s the real cost of travel? Top of my reading list is now Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide.

What questions are you asking yourself, what have you learned and what will you do? What can you contribute to my own thinking and plans? Please do add a comment below, or contact me.


See also about me, how I work, who I work with and recommendations & case studies, and please contact me about how we might work together. Please do not delay before contacting me – the earlier I hear from you, the more chance that I will be able to help and the more helpful I may be able to be.

Register now on Eventbrite for my free facilitation webinars, and for my regularly scheduled ToP facilitation training courses in London and Brussels.

Four hands on the steering wheel? Co-facilitation in action

Thank you to all who attended yesterdays’ facilitation webinar for IAF India, and especially to Preetha Raghav and the IAF India team for their invitation and support and to my co-hosts Martin Farrell of get2thepoint and Sunny Walker of the Virtual Facilitation Collaborative. It was a rich and engaging session for us, so I hope also for others. Thanks also to those who live tweeted on the #FacInd hashtag – a couple of their tweets are below.

Martin Farrell wrote “As we see some world leaders promoting division and hatred, facilitators’ skills of collaboration are ever more essential. Yes we practice listening deeply to our client’s needs, and engaging participants. To challenge ourselves, let’s also take our skills to the next level by practicing co-facilitation. There are great benefits and also great dangers.”

This highly interactive 90-minute session was hosted in Adobe Connect to offer an experience of co-facilitation in a virtual environment. We offered a framework and some tips and tools for co-facilitation, illustrated by a case study.

Session materials & additional resources shared include:


For more on my work, and what others have to say about it, please see how I workwho I work with and recommendations & case studies – or view my profile and connect with me on LinkedIn.

You can connect with me also by joining my free facilitation webinars online, and IAF England & Wales’ free facilitation meetups in London and elsewhere.

Happy New Year from the ICAI Board

Global-Buzz-banner-1000x667-641x427Happy New Year from the ICAI Board to all ICAI members, and to all ICA friends and colleagues worldwide.  We are grateful for all your support for ICA’s global mission of advancing human development in 2015, and wish you the best for all of your activities in 2016.

Fourteen representatives of 10 member ICAs participated in two online ICAI General Assembly (GA) meetings on December 10, and seven of 10 current statutory member ICAs voted in the online GA poll over the following 10 days to December 20.  Thank you to all who participated.

As a result of the GA we are pleased to welcome two new Associate members to ICAI, both nominated by ICA Kenya with the support of ICA Tanzania and ICA Uganda, and both approved unanimously by the GA – NCOC Kenya (Nairobi Community Organisation Consultants) and SCR Kenya (Support for Community Response) are both led by long-time colleagues of ICA in Kenya.

During the GA meetings we heard updates from the ICAI Global ToP (Technology of Participation) policy working group and the ICAI Global Conference working group, and also discussed global communications and peer-to-peer support for new members of ICAI.

We are grateful to the 28 ICAs who have already responded to our recent global survey on members’ usage of, capacity for and aspirations for ToP facilitation methods, and to the Global ToP working group that is now analysing the responses in order to make recommendations for peer-to-peer support and collaboration among ICAs in implementing our new global ToP policy.  We urge members that have not yet responded to continue to do so – please contact us to ask for a link to the online survey form.

We are also grateful to the ICAI Global Conference working group for its work with Initiatives of Change (IofC) exploring possibilities for a joint conference in Human Development at IofC Caux in Switzerland or elsewhere, now perhaps in 2017 or 2018.

The December issue of ICAI’s Winds & Waves magazine ‘Climate Change‘ was published on the 25th, as a Christmas gift!  We are grateful as ever to the tireless editorial team, who work so hard to enable us to share stories and insights on human development  in this magazine three times each year.

I echo the appeal of Peter Ellins in this latest issue –please do contribute to the magazine in 2016, and please contact us if you may be interested in joining the team to support with commissioning, reporting, editing, layout and design, social media, or in any other way.


This post was written for ICAI’s monthly bulletin the Global Buzz, January 2016

 

 

Climate Change

This article was written for ICAI Winds and Waves, December 2015 issue.W&W 1215-cover 1000x667Welcome to this December 2015 issue of Winds & Waves, the online magazine of ICA International, entitled “Climate Change”.

The Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) was so named, when first separately incorporated in 1973, to reflect its social mission of ‘human development’. This was to restore balance to the social process by strengthening the weak cultural (meaning-giving) dynamic in society, relative to the dominant economic and allied political dynamics that provide sustenance and order.

The wider context for the social process, now as then, is the natural environment of our planet. As the environmental impacts of our still-unbalanced social process have escalated, and become more clearly understood, so ICAs have increasingly sought to broaden their global perspective to include the environmental as well as the social and the spirit dimensions of human development.  Reflecting this trend, former CEO of ICA USA Terry Bergdall describes ICA’s mission in his 2015 ICA Handbook as ‘to build a just and equitable society in harmony with Planet Earth’.

COP21: Thousands join London climate change march, November 29

This issue is published in the month that 196 parties to the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference have negotiated a global agreement on the reduction of climate change at ‘COP21’ in Paris – an extraordinary achievement, and the result of an extra-ordinary process. The conference was preceded on 28-29 November by worldwide civil society actions, intended to ‘send a message to world leaders in Paris’, involving over 785,000 people and 2,300 events in over 175 countries according to 350.org.

Many have remarked on the radical transformation of our global economy, and therefore also of our politics and culture, that will be required for us to achieve even the goal of limiting global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (°C) compared to pre-industrial levels, let alone the more ambitious target of 1.5 degrees that was also agreed in Paris. This certainly represents a daunting challenge. Like every crisis, however, climate change represents an opportunity as well. To paraphrase Naomi Klein in ‘This Changes Everything’, referenced here by Richard & Maria Maguire in Australia, climate change presents the clearest and most compelling case we could wish for that such a transformation of the social process is indeed required, and in the interests of all of us, urgently. With the Paris agreement of the world’s governments now in place, both the challenge and the opportunity for civil society is clear. As our own ICA mantra has it, “These are the times” and “We are the people”.

In this issue you will find stories of how ICAs and ICA colleagues participated in those climate actions in November, and how they are responding to climate change in their work more broadly, in Australia and the USA, and in Canada, DRC & Peru. You will also find stories of how the social process has unfolded over 40 years in communities that hosted some of ICA’s original Human Development Projects of the 1970s in Chile, Guatemala, and Indonesia & Malaysia.

As usual, this issue includes stories of a variety of methods and approaches to human development around the world.  These include facilitating conciliation in Ukraine, transformational action planning in Taiwan and facilitation learning labs in Hong Kong; story telling and oral history in the USA and the Torres Strait Islands of Australia; philanthropy in India and micro-enterprise in Chile; medical support in DRC and impact assessment in Kenya; Montessori pre-school education in Sri Lanka and youth volunteering in Tajikistan; and dialogues, book studies and reflective blogging online.

You will also find book reviews on personal transformation and sexuality in India, on social transformation and gender in Nepal and on dynamic ageing in the USA; plus reflections from Venezuela on ‘swimming with the current’ and social chaos, from Japan on the evolution of leadership styles and from Ukraine on culture and organisation development.

ICA International has been delighted to be able to support a upsurge of face-to-face regional gatherings of ICAs this year, first of East & Southern Africa in Tanzania May and then (reported in this issue) of West Africa in Cote D’Ivoire in September, Europe MENA  in the Netherlands in November and Asia Pacific in India in December. We are looking forward to a regional gathering of the Americas in Peru in April, and keen to support all the regions to expand and deepen their regional and inter-regional interchange next year.

We are delighted to welcome two new Associate members to ICA International, both approved unanimously by our online General Assembly this month.  SCR Kenya and NCOC Kenya were both nominated by ICA Kenya with the support of ICA Uganda and ICA Tanzania, and both are led by long-time colleagues of ICA in Kenya.

We are grateful to the 28 ICAs who have responded recently to our global survey on members’ usage of, capacity for and aspirations for ToP (Technology of Participation) facilitation methods, and to the ICAI Global ToP working group that is analysing the responses in order to make recommendations for peer-to-peer support and collaboration among ICAs in implementing our new global ToP policy.  We urge members that have not yet responded to continue to do so – please contact us to ask for a link to the online survey form.

We are also grateful to the ICAI Global Conference working group for its work with Initiatives of Change (IofC) exploring possibilities for a joint conference in Human Development at IofC Caux in Switzerland or elsewhere, now perhaps in 2017 or 2018.

We are grateful as ever to the tireless editorial team of Winds & Waves itself, who work so hard to enable us to share these stories and insights on human development  in this magazine three times each year.  I echo the appeal of Peter Ellins in this issue – please do contribute to the magazine next year, and please contact us if you may be interested in joining the team to support with commissioning, reporting, editing, layout and design, social media, or in any other way.

Thank you finally to our contributors and our readers, and to all our members, partners and colleagues ‘advancing human development worldwide’.  I wish a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all who are celebrating them.

Enjoy this issue, and please share it and encourage others to do so!

How engaging can a large facilitated online session be?

Economics of climate change mitigation options in the forest sectorThis was the question that intrigued me when I was first invited to work with with the Forestry Economics team of FAO, to design and facilitate an online conference this month on the Economics of climate change mitigation options in the forest sector.  The answer, as it turns out, is pretty engaging!

FAO approached me last September for my experience with the Adobe Connect online meeting platform, with which they are also familiar and which they had chosen to use for the project. Their aims for the conference were to connect researchers, practitioners and others to learn from each other on the costs and benefits of various mitigation options in the forestry sector in different countries, to gather data for a forthcoming FAO publication and perhaps also to establish a community of practice among participants for further learning and collaboration in the future.

The team had not before convened such a substantial online conference, however, and were uncertain how many people they would attract to be involved. Our initial design was for a series of six 90-minute sessions for up to 100 people each, involving a keynote presentation and two shorter case studies followed by questions and answers with the presenters and some small group discussion in break-out rooms. As registrations came in from prospective participants and presenters we were keen to accommodate as many of them as as we could, and our ambitions grew.  I was thankful to have partnered on the project with Sheila Cooke of 5Deep, as meeting producer and co-facilitator, for her extensive experience of working with Adobe Connect and with FAO as well.

In the end the conference attracted more than 1,600 registrations from 127 countries, and 126 case studies from 47 counties. Fifty-one presentations on the six conference themes have been shared on the conference website, and over 700 people already have attended the first three sessions.  Our remaining sessions continue tomorrow and next week – see below for how to join.

The design we settled on is for six sessions of two hours, using an Adobe Connect ‘seminar room’ with a maximum capacity of 1,500. Participants engage through submitting typed questions for presenters, and responding to questions themselves by text chat and polls. Pre-recorded presentations are replayed by video, to reduce the technical risks of delivering the presentations live. Up to a dozen presenters and expert panellists respond live to questions put to them, and they discuss participants’ typed responses to questions put to them. We dispensed with the idea of small group discussion in breakout rooms because of the technical challenge of supporting so many people to configure their own audio to be heard effectively.

The conference teamThe FAO team (led by Illias Animon, Forestry Officer- Economics, and comprising Ruth Mallet, Eros Fornari, Sarah Butler, Marcelo Rezende and Johan Trennestam) lead all content-related tasks, select and assign questions for presenters and also provide technical support behind the scenes to participants and panellists.

After a brief technical orienation and introduction, each session begins with a series of questions to participants to help them and the panellists know something of who is in the room and what experience and interests they bring to the session. The keynote presentation then provides an overview of the topic, followed by questions and answers with the keynote presenter. Each of the additional presenters is then invited to introduce themselves and their presentations briefly, before participants vote for one presentation to view together in full during the session followed by questions and answers with that presenter.

A panel discussion follows, where all panellists share and discuss responses to questions raised by participants before and during the session, on all of their presentations. During the following plenary discussion, participants are invited to share what successes they are proud of, what challenges they face and what resources and other support they can share, while panellists respond and discuss verbally.

The session closes with a brief summary of key points raised, and an opportunity for participants to evaluate the session and share feedback, and what follow-up actions they would like to see or take themselves. Feedback has been largely very positive so far, with more than 60% rating yesterday’s session 9 or 10 out of 10 overall.

If you are wondering just how engaging such a large facilitated online session can be, then join us for one of the remaining sessions, or watch out for the session recordings to be posted to the conference website.

If you are wondering how you might engage large or smaller numbers of people through virtual facilitation, then please do contact me – and see Sheila’s Virtual Facilitation Online training course with ICA USA.

In the meantime, for a flavour of the conference and the importance of its content, take a look at the opening remarks recorded for our first session by Dr. Eva Muller, Director of FAO’s Forest Economics, Policy and Products Division:


For more on my work, and what others have to say about it, please see how I workwho I work with and recommendations & case studies – or view my profile and connect with me on LinkedIn.

You can connect with me also by joining my free facilitation webinars online, and IAF England & Wales’ free facilitation meetups in London and elsewhere.