What is needed for sustainable change?
The course; Leadership for Sustainable Change names seven competences for sustainability. Competence is a definition different from a skill, for it holds knowledge; skills and attitudes and is process-oriented. Those competences are:
- Normative competence
- “values thinking which include self-critical action and critical thinking.”
- Systems thinking competence
- “ability to recognize and define the systematic whole in and around the topics and issues one aims to study, understand, and affect.”
- Interpersonal competences
- “emotional intelligence, or as social competence – depending on the disciplinary background.”
- Futures thinking
- “the ability to think systematically in different time scales, for the anticipation and estimation of different causal relations and consequences, with the ability to also consider history as an analog.”
- Strategic competence
- “simply: management — with the addition of action skills, conceptualises the abilities of planning, decision making, understanding of change and transformations, with skills to manage projects in different contexts and that pertain to different subject matters.”
Out of those, I’d like to underline three, which I see the most valuable for sustainable change. Change of sustainability cannot be done alone, so I see normative competence important. Especially if one’s scientific field is very narrow, I see it crucial to be self-critical and through that, understand different perspectives subjectively.
Competence of systems thinking is also important almost for the same reason. Systems thinking helps one to understand cause-effect relationships and it may be the skill to prevent some unwanted results and effects. Big changes, especially in field of sustainability and circular economy, can have some surprising effects, for it is affected by so many factors and so are hard to predict. But with developed systems thinking, it is easier to go find these actors and think different ends comprehensively.
Because sustainable transformation takes an effort from various people and units, also Interpersonal competences are important. Changing habits and the way of thinking of people, one must have high level of emotional intelligence and a skill of clear communication that appeals on people’s emotions and common sense. We need all competences of sustainability. But if we want to co-operate well together, at least the leaders should have high level of Interpersonal competence. There are people who knows what needs to be done. Then there is those who knows how to motivate others to get involved in that change.
On the course: leadership for sustainable change, there is also presented needed skills of Sustainable learning in form of a bike that you see below (Picture1).
Picture1. Sustainability bike
There are some skills that this transformation cannot be done without. Competences are more like features, that can be strengthen with education etc.. Some knowledge must still be there as a base for everything. Without knowing some facts like; mass food production is not sustainable for it causes disposal of forest areas what again means more carbon dioxide on atmosphere and fastens climate warming; there will be no understanding and no motivation for change.
Thinking skills are drawn as other wheel of the bike with knowledge. I think that education in Finland is already changing towards to teaching more thinking skills instead of just teaching facts. Teaching lifelong learning skills like in Proakatemia. People can never know everything, and it is important that a human himself can understand that. Education what aims for certain amount of knowledge to be “done” is a scary thought for me.
Identity, values and worldview are placed exactly where they are supposed to be in that bicycle; in the middle of everything as a core. But I also see values and worldview as kind of a same thing, to a certain extend. Values define pretty much of one’s worldview. If identity and/or values are lost, I think that it is absolutely unpredictable where a human being will be or what (s)he’ll do. These things also make the core that creates motivation.
I think one important thing is missing from a bicycle and that is social skills (or social understanding). Referring to my early part of assignments and the whole course; achieving sustainability and/or sustainable change cannot be done alone.
I have been thinking for a long time that I could make some changes in this world on my own as some kind of “green business consultant”. But by what I have learned, I understand now that having a group of experts in different fields with different skills, so that the group could own all the competences of sustainability, would be the most efficient one. It is important to do this kind of mapping of oneself time-to-time to wake up and realize, what kind of people is needed to support you to be you in the best possible way. It is an amazing feeling to find people who complements our own skills and therefor even makes you shine brighter in your own area of expertise while you are able to offer the same for them.
Overall I think these competences should not be named only for sustainability. Because these are skills that any development group should handle if there is need for throughout change. I say group, because I don’t think that this planet holds any super human who could handle this all by him-/herself. Another prove for teamwork!
More information can be found from:
Heiskanen E., Thidell Å., Rodhe H., “Educating sustainability change agents: the importance of practical skills and experience”, Journal of Cleaner Production, 123, 2016
Lang D., Wiek A., Bergmann M., Stauffacher M., Martens P., Moll P., Swilling M., Thomas C., “Transdisciplinary research in sustainability science: practice, principles, and challenges”, Sustainability Science, 7, 2012