One avenue for action is often overlooked and is especially relevant to consultants plying their trade in the voluntary sector.
The areas for action we hear most about are individual behaviour change and government policy. Both can leave us feeling a bit helpless, wondering what else we can do apart from being more conscious consumers and more critical citizens. However, there’s so much more we can do, and that’s because the third area is where we “creative cascaders” can use our professional skills and expertise imaginatively to champion sustainability, by cascading it down and out through our networks.
Creative cascaders look to maximise their impact to influence change – in people, communities, organisations and across society. This change can include amplifying messages, supporting people shift from awareness to action, and working at lev-erage points to transform organisations’ policy and practice. By doing so, we help shift social norms, making it more acceptable for others to follow, and we help cre-ate new social structures, such as policies, regulations and economic drivers – structures that shape individual and organisational behaviours. This not only puts pressure on governments to act more radically and urgently, but also helps creates the political space where this is possible.
You may be thinking you don’t know enough about either the causes of the crises or the solutions. However, it’s common knowledge that the environment crisis is re-al and will have major environmental, social and economic impacts. You don’t need to know more than this to do some simple research into how your clients and their stake-holders are likely to be affected. And that will doubtless start you think-ing about the opportunities you may have to apply your existing expertise to help them either start, or make progress on, tackling these issues.
But where to start? It can help to flip our attention from the crises we face towards the future we want. The seventeen UN Sustainable Development Goals cover themes from health to hunger, energy to equalities, poverty to peace. Because all these issues are inextricably linked, it doesn’t matter where you start, so long as you engage with one of them – without undermining any of the others. If your skills and passion connect with any of the goals, that’s a great place to focus your energy – whilst remaining alert to other interconnections.
Another approach is to start from your clients’ perspective. A bit of research, and perhaps some lateral thinking, will soon identify some of the sustainability issues that will affect them or their stakeholders. And then consider how your professional skills can support them address these.
The crucial point is not that everyone can or should become an expert on sustainability – what’s important is that everyone can apply their existing expertise to help create a society where we, and the rest of the living world, can thrive. And while this is sometimes seen as an environmental crisis, it’s also a social one – it’s a crisis caused mainly by rich but it’s the poor who suffer most. Given that members of Consultants for Good are in the business of championing equality and changing the world for the better, we’re in the perfect position to help tackle the cri-sis from several angles.