by: Monica Douglas
The idea for Dynamic Results Training and the forthcoming Foundation started with a webinar I organized and moderated for the Security and Sustainability Forum in June, 2017. Called “Teaching Systems Thinking to Fill the Climate Literacy Gap”, participants included Jeanette Murry, Senior Knowledge & Learning Coordination, Climate Change Strategy and Operations, World Bank; Christopher Boone, Dean of the School of Sustainability, Arizona State University; Leslie Mintz Tamminen, a Director of Seventh Generation Advisors; and Chip Comins, Chairman & CEO of the American Renewable Energy Institute. Chip Comins then convened a follow-up panel at the annual AREDAY summit a few weeks later, after which I ended up doing research on how to accelerate deployment of climate education.
After talking to business leaders, teachers and students, I noted the following:
Climate education is best via systems thinking. In a nutshell, this methodology helps to effectively deal with uncertainty and complexity as well as learn how to identify ‘leverage points’ for transformative change, while avoiding the unintended consequences of interventions.
The way we fund education has to “CHANGE”! We need to actively listen to those on the front line- the teachers, businesses and students themselves- and design our educational strategy based on what they need and prioritize.
These two key points are driven by this: as evidence grows of the accelerating impacts of climate change, the business sector is urgently asking for a workforce better trained in the natural and social systems impacted by this change. Companies as diverse as Wal-Mart, Coca Cola and Pirelli Tires understand the benefits when current and prospective employees have a background in climate education through the lens of systems thinking. A study posted in the International Society of Sustainability Professionals highlights this. Maureen Kline, Director of Public Affairs and Sustainability, Pirelli Tire North America, sums it up this way:
“Within a company, it is impossible to implement an environmental strategy by relegating the task to one department working in a silo. An environmental strategy affects new product development, corporate reputation, employee retention and culture, consumer demand, cost of capital, insurance risk management, disaster preparedness and resilience, resource availability, operational efficiency, supply chain logistics, strategic direction and of course regulatory compliance. An environmental strategy isolated to only a few of these areas is ineffective.”
Furthermore, while funding for climate mitigation technology and climate policy has increased, investments in climate education and the systems that control deployment of this education have remained flat, according to a Congressional Research Service report. This flat funding has continued despite a 2015 Yale study that claims climate education is the strongest predictor of the action needed to prevent climate change. As a result, educators at all levels lack validated educational materials to provide adequate climate training, educational designers lack the funding to provide the material, and implementers lack the systems required to deploy at the scale to make a difference nationally and globally.
Our goal then at Dynamic Results Training & Foundation is to use a hybrid business model (a nonprofit and for profit under the same mission) with the aim of accelerating deployment of climate education via systems thinking for K-12, higher education and workforce development. Having joined me in this quest is Professor Maani, a 25 year veteran of teaching systems thinking to worldwide companies. It is with his passion and the urgency of dealing with the risk of extreme weather that we are starting off with his tailor made climate education via systems thinking for businesses.