The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed little so far here about the climate crisis. In honesty, this is because I needed to do more research to be sure that I was well (enough) informed about its implications for our future. It's been an unsettling process. But having done so I'm more intellectually and emotionally prepared to work with this. For reasons I cannot fathom, I ‘woke up late’. I’m willing to risk any hypocrisy to share what I now know.
Climate Crisis – what all non-profit leaders can do
1. Please - look at the facts and face them as such.
I know you are busy, but don’t turn away from this. It IS relevant to you - today, to your Mission, organisation and team.
Source for understandable science: https://climate.nasa.gov/
2. Deeply consider the societal impacts and implications
Envisage potential effects on a) the communities you serve b) your delivery partnerships c) your funding.
Yes, this is not an exact science as clearly we don’t know for sure. In simple terms, the West will imminently face food insecurity, extreme weather events that will affect health services, and an immigration crisis. As ever, these will impact the economically and psychologically vulnerable the hardest.
A Politics of Fear may/will demand that money is allocated to defence, and border controls - to the detriment of social care. Non-profit organisations could face increased demand and simultaneously reduced funding.
If you work in International Aid and Development, you are probably already living this. Food security and migration projects, as well as emergency responses to extreme weather and conflict are likely to receive increased focus.
3. Review your 3-5 year Strategy in light of the challenging context
Key questions may be:
Will we be positioned to respond and to do what is most important? Are the services and support that we offer going to be what our community most requires from us? Do we need to consider a funding model that is less reliant on institutional support? Should we diversify project approaches, such as more 'virtual' services as travel becomes less reliable?
4. Consider the psychological impact on your team
Eco-anxiety, first coined by the media, is receiving growing attention from psychologists. Many also stress that this is not a mental health issue, but a natural and sane response to the destruction of our planet and threats we are facing.
For Humanitarian agencies, stronger support mechanisms will be required to help staff face the scale of ongoing suffering.
The approach of Extinction Rebellion may not appeal to you, but the rationale and their theory of change are well-considered. Peaceful disruption seems the only means left to try to provoke attention and action from our politicians.
As leaders of social impact organisations, it's our responsibility to discuss the climate crisis in an open and supportive environment with our Board and with our team. If we do not, at best we are guilty of the same ostrich-like behaviour as government.
I understand this reads pessimistically. I can only say that I've taken the time to fully inform myself. I’ve spent 20 years working in our sector and have always been a natural optimist, believing that we could improve our society for the future. I have come to understand that challenge is now enormous.
Please research and draw your own conclusions, they may differ from mine. But do look.
If you would like to discuss how to engage your team in these discussions in a structured and supportive way, please do get in touch.
We were made for these times.
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