Reflecting on a week of fascinating conversations

‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’ (Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities)

At Tearfund we recognise that we’re living in a paradox – the more we achieve on development, the more we suffer on sustainability. Last week we hosted two conversations under Chatham house rules and invited various wonks from NGOs, think tanks, academia and government to discuss how we step forwards in facing in this paradox and ensure that Tearfund’s fantastic development work is not undone by our changing climate. You can read a background think piece that we shared with the participants and sets out some of our early thinking and ideas here (please note it really is just a think piece, and not in any way a statement of Tearfund policy).

Alex Evans, our lead consultant on the project has blogged about the conversations here. He says, the main purpose of the conversations was to ‘start imagining what it would look like for us to move to an economy that was both just and sustainable – at all levels, from global policy right down to what it would mean for individual families.’ The second purpose was to explore ‘the new kinds of influence and change that will be needed to unlock change on this scale. Tearfund have recognised very candidly in their internal thinking that traditional ‘insider’ lobbying strategies will have limited power here. Instead, alternative approaches will be needed – ones that propagate different norms, build new kinds of movement, create new coalitions for change, and use environmental, social, and economic shocks to fuller effect.’

Duncan Green, a guest at one of the conversations, has reflected on his thoughts here. A snippet of his thoughts: ‘To get real movement on climate change, we need a grand narrative on One World, sustainability and the need for environmental stewardship. But campaigners also need quick wins to build optimism and momentum. Those often have to be much less ambitious and system-shaking to have a chance of being adopted. The danger is that watered down quick wins will undermine the grand narrative (agreeing to more comfortable slave ships rather than total abolition). We need to make sure quick wins are aligned with the end goal, and develop the ground for a subsequent set of policy changes that are currently ‘just beyond the possibility horizon’ and make sure they fit the big narrative too.’

We’ll be launching our latest campaign based on the outcomes of these conversations next March.


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