Essential Mindset for Sustainability Practitioners


I’m embarking on a new chapter (more on this soon) and reflecting that my biggest learning curve is surprisingly less about the technical aspects and more about embracing and cultivating the mindsets necessary to make this big mission work – while somehow bringing others along.

Some takeaways:
► Embrace complexity
Working on sustainability means dealing with complex systems where issues and interests are intertwined – solving #deforestation means addressing issues around livelihoods and #humanrights; change entails working through differences that often boil down to tough negotiations; etc. Don’t resist it, work through it with an open mind, heart and will. The coalition and work at Accountability Framework is a testament of this in practice.

► Work from the emerging future (not only from problems)
I sometimes get so caught up in my anxiety and feeling overwhelm ed about the state of the world, that I need space to reflect and readjust my energy towards solutions and transformation. We are experimenting our way forward together therefore we can’t be attached to predefined outcomes or let problems and past patterns stop us (from the future we want to create).

► Don’t let them tell you collaboration is a ‘soft skill’
No seriously. There is a real need for individuals and organizations who can professionalize facilitation, convening, and coalition building. The processes and cerebral power needed to make big collective agendas work and transform ‘competition’ into ‘completing each other’ is no joke. Intentionally plan for the resources and TIME needed to engineer partnerships. After all, sustainability is a vision humanity needs to see and create TOGETHER. I love UNDP‘s Guide to Effective Collaboration Action for this.

►Zoom in and out between the needs of system and the individual (you!)
Sustainability practitioners have been hard wired to think about the system. Well, how do you ‘change the system’ if the people (read: individuals) who make up the system are not fired up in mind and spirit? Our work in sustainability entails cultivating meaning at the individual level as much as it is about defining the higher purpose.  Really interesting evolving work at Inner Development Goals on this highlighting the awareness, critical thinking and empathy necessary for sustainability practitioners.

There are people behind each of these points that I have learned from across the years. Thank you Adrienne BrownJeffrey MilderKaren SteerLeah SambergAndrew BovarnickGita SyahraniMeridian InstituteAgus Sari –and coach Dimas Boddé for helping to maneuver the transition and conceptualizing these thoughts.

Any other helpful resources or thoughts that comes to mind on this topic? Please do add them in the comment space.


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