What makes a champion? I think strong values about social justice can inspire and influence. But equally important are the attitudes that can turn our ideas into reality: being solution driven, hardworking, inclusive, fair, transparent, empathetic, dissatisfied with the way things are ... and passionate.
Being a leader in the context of climate change requires seriously challenging development practice and governance beyond the boundaries of what ‘climate people’ may consider their remit. If we don’t move into the action space, then our challenge to what’s wrong about development and adaptation will be elitist and easily forgotten.
‘Sustainability leadership’, in contrast to traditional views based on an almighty strongman or an enlightened visionary, suggests that everyone can develop leadership skills, and that the trick is collaboration. We can develop these skills by connecting with nature, exploring our inner selves and values, creating opportunities to reflect with others, learn together and jointly design adaptation – or development, or life – pathways.
In this issue of the Spotlight, we look at climate and development champions within the ASSAR consortium and its partners. Their inspiring stories give us hope that the world is and will be a wonderful place for our children to inhabit.
Daniel Morchain, Co-Principal Investigator, Oxfam GB
Opening doors and sharing wisdom
ASSAR’s research sites are in most cases not situated in the same locations as our research teams, who therefore dip in and out of them to conduct interviews, workshops, surveys, consultations and many other data gathering activities.
Preparing for such fieldwork would be impossible, were it not for local individuals who open doors for the research teams, help to organise community members into meetings, advise on timing and locations, and provide invaluable contextual knowledge that helps to ensure our research is relevant, culturally appropriate and informed.
In the process of interacting with ASSAR researchers, many of these champions also learn more about the process of undertaking research, climate change adaptation, the differential vulnerabilities that occur in our research sites (that often go underlooked) and the responses that can be taken. After three and a half years of the ASSAR project, we finally acknowledge the role of these tireless and vital individuals, that pave the way for our researchers and enable it all to happen.
Lucia Scodanibbio, ASSAR Project Coordinator
Uniting people to achieve a common goal
Researchers increasingly recognise the important role played by champions in driving climate change adaptation and mitigation agendas at the local level. Such a person can hold various positions and may be a politician, a public official, an industry or academic expert, or even a representative from an NGO or civil society interest group.
Champions emerge most strongly amongst individuals who are passionate about and committed to resolving an issue, proactive about identifying and leveraging opportunities, who are optimistic, insightful and are able to suppress the need to be an expert authority. In addressing complex problems such as climate change, it is necessary that these individuals play an ‘integrative leadership’ role to unite diverse actor groups across sectoral boundaries to achieve a common goal.
Julia Davis, ASSAR Southern Africa Senior Research Assistant