30 January 2015

Think of a situation in which you felt able to change the world

Think of a situation in which you felt able to change the worldParticipants in a Marine CoLABoration Workshop

So here we were, on a dark January day in Hoxton Square, sixteen people – some established colleagues, some meeting for the first time – reflecting on our own histories. When had we been able to change the world? What had happened? How had we felt? What resources had we needed? The Foundation’s new two-year Marine CoLABoration initiative had begun.

It was a big picture, getting-to-know-you kind of day, but the facilitators, FOAM, a Brussels-based organisation with expertise in exploratory, inter-disciplinary approaches, worked us hard and we sailed a lot of ocean: facts and assumptions, drivers of change, critical uncertainties, and scenario mapping on the axes of economic growth and climate change. By 5.30 pm we had four versions of 2021 taking shape – all surprisingly/worryingly plausible: Pollutopia, Rescue, Cool Growth, and Imagine  – and an insight into how the Marine LAB might intervene in each. Full details of the day are shared here.

So how can the Marine CoLABoration change the world? The question that framed the day was ocean-sized in its ambition, but the energy – impatience even – to exploit the potential in the room was palpable. Improving the management and protection of the ocean is a critical issue – and urgent. We need solutions to be scaled and collaborations which create sea-change, not simply more conversation. The LAB must navigate the risk of becoming just another talking shop, but the space it offers to connect, reflect and experiment is real.

Networks, time, shared cause, the availability of a safety net (family, friends, finance) bringing with it the confidence for bold and timely action, the capacity and willingness to change: at the beginning of the day these were the resources that people said had helped them in the past to ‘change the world’. That being so, the LAB is well provisioned for the future.

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The Marine CoLABoration is a key initiative in the UK Branch’s Valuing the Ocean strand, part of the Gulbenkian Oceans Initiative, launched by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon in 2013. The LAB will explore how we communicate the role of the ocean in human wellbeing and increase the environmental sector’s capacity to influence the management and protection of the ocean in the best interests of society for the long term.

Nine organisations are involved in the LAB at this stage, each selected for their distinctive experience, interests and networks: Client Earth, Fauna and Flora International, Forum for the Future, Institute for European Environmental Policy, IPSO, Marine Conservation Society, New Economics Foundation, Thames Estuary Partnership, Zoological Society of London.