Chair of the 2050 Climate Group, Elizabeth Dirth, shares her thoughts on the success of the Young Leaders Development Programme so far.
A few months ago, I made the decision to go back to tertiary education to undertake a Masters degree in Utrecht. This decision was about planting myself more firmly in this wicked field of climate change and about broadening my perspective… with it came a range of personal and professional challenges, and some very unexpected benefits.
One of the clear challenges of this transition is to maintain the balance of a life bridged between Scotland and the Netherlands. Maintaining my role as Chair of the group while we are going through the first year of our YLDP and keeping my eye on the future and the day where we start to expand beyond Scotland, which is coming more clearly into focus these days…
When an organisation goes from the ‘starting’ to the ‘doing’, when the language changes from “we will” to “we are”, this presents a new kind of challenge for everyone involved. You have to start asking questions like: “Are we actually doing this? Can we make this claim? What about X exception? What lessons can we learn from X?:
When you work with an organisation with 20 of Scotland’s most exceptional and ambitious young professionals in the field of climate change, you also start saying things like: “Okay, we are achieving beyond our programme outcomes, but there still isn’t enough change happening fast enough, what more can we do?”
I would say that the most difficult part of starting a new organisation is this transition – going from the excitement and glory of launching to the gritty battle of delivering. However challenging, this transition in itself is a manifestation of progress.
Just as one sees a different version of Earth from the moon, I have had gotten the chance to see a different version of the 2050 movement in Scotland from the Netherlands.
What I have seen in the past 4 months is the beginning of a movement. The snowball that we piled together from June 2014 to December 2015 no longer needs to be pushed, it has gained enough momentum to roll on its own, it is gaining its own speed. We are no longer pushing it down the mountain, we are encouraging others to keep up with our pace.
Since launching the YLDP in October 2015, we have held 3 of our Young Leader Development Programme events as planned. What is most notable is not the activities we planned to deliver, but it’s the buzz building around the hive before, after, in between these. We are now seeing Young Leaders building connections between themselves; Young Leaders now running their own skill-share events and training; events were added to the programme because of the demand from Young Leaders; Young Leaders worked to put together policy responses on behalf of the group; Young Leaders are encouraging their networks (personal and professional) to make lifestyle changes. In addition to all of the developments within the network listed above, our programme is also becoming more and more institutionalised in the climate action landscape in Scotland. We have received countless invitations for Young Leaders who are being specifically sought after for a range of opportunities, from free spaces at events, dinner invitations, speaking opportunities, job offers, and a range of others too many to be listed here.
From my distance, it has become clear that Scotland has embraced the vision that young people need to be a part of decision-making process on climate change. That they are not just A stakeholder to be consulted, but THE MOST IMPORTANT stakeholder in these discussions. This is what the beginning of transformational change looks like – and it’s only been two years.
When one is too close to this activity, it’s difficult to see the scale. One bee inside the hive can’t see the scale and extent of the network, but from a distance the shape of the swarm is abundantly clear.
An important thing has happened in the process of all of this, perhaps the most important thing: the “we” has changed. It is no longer the 21 of us in the managing group for the organisation, it is 150 young professionals driving our collective vision forward. We are no longer a sailing boat propelled forward by the skill and passion of a few and the winds and tides of the season, we are a rowing shell propelled by the collective ambition and vision of many.