The Change Effect

Recently I have had the joy of working with a not-for-profit team who are working to inspire and catalyze leadership for a low carbon future that is smarter, better and more prosperous.

Part of the day was re-connecting the team to their purpose through a series of talks by people working in areas such as Climate Science; promoting and researching “green” business practices in large commercial entities and Social Entrepreneurship.

Suffice to say, I’ve had my eyes opened.

Much of the discussion was about the realities being imagined if the Earth warms by 1°, 2° or the disastrous scenarios (unimaginable, from my perspective) of a 4° future.

And I found myself profoundly humbled, disturbed and also… kind of energised. I realised I was in the room with people who are dedicated and committed to generate the conversations and actions needed to… well… DO SOMETHING about the current situation…. And I began to start asking more about what part I can play in that.

I had a conversation with one of the team and was saying:

“It’s all so big. There is SO much to think about. I take out my bottles and recycle everything I can. We run a woodburner and I’m an extra-jumper-no-heating girl… is that enough? Does it make a difference? At all?”

And of course, the answers were not fully yes or no.

And what I’m noticing is this:

Firstly my spectacular ability to not pay attention to something that disturbs, perturbs and alarms me (Climate Change and all that means for our sustainable future). I am astonished at just how little attention I can actually pay to something because it seems unbearable to consider– tuning out information until it’s a low-level hum that I barely notice anymore… and I’m noticing I’m not alone in that.

Secondly that I have to believe my contribution matters and behave as if I can make some sort of impact. Just as I would say to anyone within an organisation: the responsibility for what goes on around here is partly with you – you can’t opt out if you are in this system. Pretending you don’t matter or have no effect in itself absolutely has an effect.

Thirdly, The day was, for me, a massive re-affirmation of the complexity of change. Climate Change doesn’t happen in a neat and tidy way. It is unpredictable and messy. Some will argue it isn’t happening. Some will be deeply skeptical about what the authorities are offering to be “true”. Some believe it won’t affect them…. Or won’t happen on their shift, at least. Some won’t care until it directly affects their pockets or lifestyles.

And then there are the some who embrace that something is happening and fight to ensure the future is a better one, despite or maybe even because of, the changes that are afoot. Some people are positive, relentlessly active, striving to be creative and inventive to adapt and respond to their circumstances.

As a Consultant working in organisations, I can’t help seeing the parallels, that this global experience is so clearly also our local one.

I guess I’m left with the same sense about the global situation as I have about working with people and organisations. I believe small actions can make a big difference. I believe conversations and connections allow new possibilities to open up. I believe change doesn’t happen in huge conferences or across Board tables, but the need for change gets highlighted here. I believe that the voices of skeptics are vital to spur on the actions of the advocates. I believe apathy is dangerous and also inevitable.

I believe one afternoon, listening to 3 different perspectives in a room filled with committed and action-oriented people has made me read more carefully and pay more attention to what is actually happening around me.

The Change Effect? It’s that simple…

7 thoughts on “The Change Effect

  1. This resonates. I remember during the Iraq war, I tuned out very quickly. I didn’t want to know what was happening. Not because I didn’t care, but because it was too vast and too much to comprehend. Sure I knew the headlines, but I didn’t take the time to read the day to day news updates. Some time after I started making myself pay attention. How can I connect with others if I’m not allowing myself to be connected or have an informed understanding of what’s happening in the world?

  2. Hey Sukh….

    The tuning thing has interested me – so much going on that we could be and want to be paying attention to – the big huge matters can seem so distant from us….and how can we hear well in the midst of all of this, without getting overwhelmed or cynical?

    I don’t have the answers, but I know that I have been more highly attuned to climate issues over the past week… and I’m trying to focus on areas where the low carbon solutions and support of the low carbon economy are making a difference – challenging Big Business to reconsider how the use resources and energy – somehow focussing on where there are small victories makes the rest seem so much more doable…

  3. What an insightful and inspirational post, Julie! I recently attended an OD Connection event here in the U.S. on sustainability. Being fairly new to the OD world, I didn’t really know what to expect. I attended because of my insatiable curiosity for our field.

    What I found in that event was a striking blow on how poorly we (developed nations) are doing in terms of environmental responsibility. I was blown away at the statistics that were shared, and it prompted me to rethink how I consume everything.

    I’m no sustainability expert, and sometimes it does seem as though my efforts are insignificant. But, as change agents working with organizations with more impact, I see us having some responsibility in building environmentally-renewing aspects into our efforts.

    Kudos to you for writing on this, and I look forward to more examples from your work…


    • Mike, How good to hear from you. Want to know more from the world of MPOD… tell me how things are?

      Yup – the stats are unnerving. I was sitting in the room thinking..”Blimey! this isn’t good. Someone should tell people about this.” As I say.. my naivety and ability to have NOT heard this stuff astonishes me. I’m determined to act better and differently now to see where that take me/ our household… and consumption is certainly one of the areas I’m looking at ( I guess a recession is a good time to get thrifty?)

      The message from the guy I spoke to in the team was: Do something. Do anything positive. Vote. Read stuff. Blog stuff. Talk to people. Behave as if your behaviour matters. Be responsible. That is the basic.
      After that you can start challenging the wider system – get active, push back….
      All good OD lessons, huh?

  4. Oscillating wildly is something I do. We are avid recyclers, preferring not to have to do that at all – just don’t use it in the first place. In a slightly self satisfied way, we are proud that we have the least waste going out of the house every week, and there’s the problem. All down our street, we see 5/6 black sacks of rubbish on most doorsteps. I sometimes wonder whether we’re the only ones that think we can make any difference. At the same time, as a scientist, I also wonder whether world politicians have become hooked on the idea that we can control the earth, when in fact it is earth that controls us. Ah well, just rambling.

    Thank you Julie

  5. Hey Peter,

    Loving the ramble… it makes eloquent sense.

    Re making a difference – see my comments to Mike above – I’m going on the basis that my behaviour matters. And starting with less consumption of food, fabric and fuel – so far ( ok.. so this week) so good. Baby steps, I guess… and perhaps my own version of an illusion of control? Heh heh….

    There is synchronicity in the experience – it comes just as the Ashridge MSc is pointing us toward sustainability in organisations and inviting us to look at how we incorporate that into our practice. We’re heading to Schumacher college in Devon in a couple of weeks – so I’m fairly sure themes of ecology, sustainability and impact will become firmer for me ( and fuchsiablue) going forward.

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