A month ago, I had the opportunity to join in a two day workshop in Kollaboratoriet, Uppsala on Learning For Change. A small group of passionate individuals joined me in an emotional and challenging exploration to understand how we work as individuals and in the collective, towards our goals of sustainability. You can read more about Legacy 17 here.
I went with the conservative expectation of a workshop on how to integrate the Sustainable Development Goals in to one’s work. It was a pleasant surprise to be met with emotional and personalised approaches to understanding how we engage with sustainability, particularly in terms of structuring meetings, of deep listening, of celebrating achievements and humility, of mentoring speakers, and of reflecting as groups. In short, an emotionally reflective workshop on processes for working with sustainability. The culmination of which was a group largely made up of strangers, volunteering highly personal information and feeling confident enough in each other to share vulnerabilities.
The conclusions of this workshop are still ongoing, with the participants divided in to small groups to catch up over fika or through skype/ zoom periodically; we continue to work on using the Learning For Change process to strengthen our capacities in work with sustainability.
Over the course of the past few months, a small group of climate-interested Uppsala residents have been gathering to discuss climate fiction. The group was initiated by the Zennström Climate Change Leadership professor in order to explore how we might rethink, re-relate to, and reimagine our experiences of climate change in more creative forums. In our most recent meet up, we were tasked with bringing poems, short texts, and songs that reminded us of winter. Below are two poems written by Carolina from sparklets selected from 9 of these pieces. We realised, as Carolina read them out to us, that the meanings and tempos drastically change from the different orders through which they can be read.
It is December and nobody asked if I was ready I just want somebody to hold me through the night Aflame among the rest When your cheeks are wet from weeping on your own Stuck in a frozen state of shame My soul instantly ignores what was there before Perhaps the future is a tiny flame Ring, happy bells, across the snow There were no reindeer, but there were cats
There were no reindeer, but there were cats Ring, happy bells, across the snow Perhaps the future is a tiny flame My soul instantly ignores what was there before Stuck in a frozen state of shame When your cheeks are wet from weeping on your own Aflame among the rest I just want somebody to hold me through the night It is December and nobody asked if I was ready
These sparklets were taken from the following texts: A child’s Christmas in Wales, Dylan Thomas; Ring Out, Wild Bells, Alfred, Lord Tennyson; Winter Without You, Sarah Kay; The Cold Swedish Winter, Jens Lekman; Green and Red, Oisin Challoner; En Liten Konstnär, Nils Ferlin (translated by Urban); Gässen Flytta, Dan Andersson (translated by Urban); Untitled, Jakob Willerström
In the middle of October, I joined in the AIM Day at Uppsala University, organised by the university Innovation Team. This day is an opening up of the university to businesses and institutions who want to pick at difficult questions with researchers. This year’s theme was Hållbara Städer (Sustainable Cities). This year it was in Swedish, and with my limited language abilities (disclaimer: I therefore might have missed some important points to many of the discussions), I joined in on some of their workshops.
Overall this day was an enlightening experience, where the necessity for transdisciplinary approaches to tricky questions, and collaborations across universities, civil society and public institutions, was abundantly clear. However, as a representative of the Climate Change Leadership Initiative (CCL), it was disappointing to see that the discussions did not want to grapple with the elephant in the room: the added complexity of climate change (and biodiversity loss) to social sustainability and development questions.
The first question I attended was one that struck at the core of a project CCL is working on at the moment: “Hur bygger vi tillit och vågar vi ta tillvara kraften i initiativ som vilar på religiös eller kulturell grund och möjliggör för olika sorters drivkrafter för ett områdes utveckling?” (How do we build trust and courage to harness power of initiatives driven by cultural or religious grounds? And that enable different kinds of driving forces for an area’s development?) posed by representatives of the Kommun. Joining me in this meeting were researchers from Centrum för forskning om religion och samhälle (CRS) , as well as employees of Upplandsidrottsförbund. It was positive to hear that this was being considered, in particular concerning a suburb of Uppsala that we are interested in working with.
“Hur kan konst bidra till att stärka identitet och skapa gemensamma rum i stadsmiljön och hur sker konstnärlig medverkan på bästa sätt genom hela planerings- och byggnadsprocessen?” (How can art help to strengthen identity and create common spaces in the urban environment? And how does artistic participation take place in the best way throughout the planning and building process?) posed by Region Gotland, was the second workshop I attended. Having very recently organised an interactive and artistic process in collaboration with Uppsala Art Museum, which was designed to enable residents of the city to explore how we think about the space of the non-human in urban environments, I was particularly excited by this discussion. Sadly, there did not seem to be shared interest in the role that the arts can play with the idea of the urban as a space for wilderness and other species. Though the conversation was fascinating in that we covered the role of graffiti to shape identities of the space and its residents, a very important facet I had not previously considered, it was disappointing that the conversation could not include how we might use artistic process and design to stretch the possibilities of urban space in times of climate change. This discussion highlights CCL’s concerns that processes of urban development continue to neglect the role of the city in mitigating species extinction and adapting to climate change.
The final two workshops I attended were similar discussions on social innovation and meeting spaces. The first, chaired by Coompanion Uppsala Län, wanted to discuss “Stödsystem för social innovation, särskilt inom hållbar stadsutveckling” (Support systems for social innovation, particularly within sustainable city development). The latter, chaired by Uppsalahem, covered “Sociala investeringsprojekt för barn och unga (Mötesplats Gottsunda)” (Social investment projects for children and youth (Meeting Place Gottsunda). By this point, my Swedish was fairly exhausted and my contributions to the discussion were in english. Our discussions touched upon vulnerable groups across the cities and regions and who should be the targets for support systems (could they be non-Swedish speakers?), neglect and social segregation were repeated here, and we were fairly stuck on the meaning of social innovation at points. A shining star from this discussion came from Idrottsförbundet who work closely in Gottsunda, and recounted an experience of engaging with women residents of the area. She told us that she was trying to understand what types of sports opportunities women living in Gottsunda wanted. She reached out to several contacts who then sent out a mass whatsapp message. Expecting only a handful of people to turn up, she was overwhelmed by the interest when 60 people joined the discussion. Looking at their feedback (which was largely written in Arabic), she found that generally residents did not want to attend meetings to discuss types of sports, but rather were happy to be messaged through this channel and told when and where dance classes or swimming opportunities, or other events, would occur. Understanding the different methods of engagement with different localities of Uppsala city is crucial for CCL’s work with civil society.
Over all AIM day was great fun. It was wonderful to meet so many colleagues working in similar areas of democracy and development. What struck me, though, was that we are not thinking strategically about climate change in all of these challenges. Trends of privatisation, or art and urban development, and (disrupted) investments in social innovation projects are turbulent and challenging changes. With the added complexity of climate change, and our responsibilities to act upon it, we must include strategic ways of engaging with these problems. I look forward to attending AIM Days in the future and continuing to be a thorn in the side of these discussions.
Governments may have less immediate power than they used to but, in matters large and small, someone somewhere often has to make a decision that will affect many lives. The Ministers making those decisions are human too, and what we know about how science and futures thinking operate in government can tell us a lot about their place in wider public debates. Making decisions today, based on evidence from the past, in order to change the future: what could possibly go wrong?
Follow our youtube channel for more clips from this lecture, and for other talks and events with the Climate Change Leadership initiative at Uppsala University.
Dr Claire Craig CBEis Chief Science Policy Officer at the Royal Society. Previously Claire led the Government Office for Science, and has worked for three UK Government Chief Scientific Advisors. She was awarded a CBE for her work on Foresight, the UK’s science-based strategic futures programme, and was a member of Faculty at the World Economic Forum. Her career includes periods at McKinsey & Co and the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit. She has been pre-Elected Provost of the Queen’s College, Oxford, taking up post in summer 2019. Her first book “How does government listen to scientists?” was published by Palgrave in August 2018, and she began life as a geophysicist.
The renewal of the university’s mission in the era of climate change. A lecture from Zennström Chair of Climate Change Leadership at Uppsala University, Keri Facer. October 1st, 18.15 – 19.30 in the University Main Building, Room X
Come along for an evening of mingling and reflection with researchers, students, climate advocates, and members of the public to explore the role of the university in face of climate change. Join the mingle from 17.45 outside the lecture hall.
Keri Facer is Professor of Educational and Social Futures from the University of Bristol, UK. She holds the Zennström Chair of Climate Change Leadership at Uppsala University from 2019 – 2020.