By Florence Lasbennes, David Nabarro, Thuy Maryen.
On Friday 29 September, 2023, in the span of just one hour, we hosted an Open Online Briefing (OOB) that started with a discussion on specific challenges, and, resulted in a captivating conversation about the necessity of reshaping our way of working for sustainable development.
Our interactive session kicked off with a straightforward yet impactful reminder that the challenges we encounter are all interconnected. To tackle these challenges head-on, we recognised the need for a fresh approach. This is what we, at 4SD Foundation, refer to as “living systems leadership,” and it places people at the core of the transformative systems change we strive for.
Throughout our conversation, a collection of ‘C’ words that encapsulated the essence of our conversation emerged:
- Chaos and Confusion: Participants observed that the current global narrative on challenges is chaotic, confusing and fosters concern. This negativity often triggers a defensive mindset, leading people to act in self-protective ways. The world witnessed this dynamic during the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to witness it as the cost-of-living crisis exerts pressure, particularly on the most vulnerable within the poorest countries.
- Common Narrative: So how can we, as a community of development practitioners, healthcare professionals, communication experts, and leaders in our respective fields, adapt our approaches? How can we transition towards a method that addresses challenges inclusively, even when we each perceive the world differently? Can a ‘Common Narrative’ unite us? Can a narrative that promotes teamwork and fosters collective action, prevail in the face of obstacles and opposition from those who (perhaps subconsciously) prefer the status quo? Is the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development sufficient, or can we, as a community, build upon it further?
- Connections: We recognise that the real magic happens when we connect and engage in conversation. Ideas flow, and we begin to converge, akin to distinct streams merging into a powerful river, a collective force comprised of diverse identities.
- Courage and Commitment: Through this intricate river of ideas and collaboration, individuals are more willing to be courageous and commit to working in ways that better serve their families and communities. Equipped with a common narrative and a shared purpose, people gain agency and the courage to stand up against attempts to hinder progress.
Our OOB explored how working for sustainable development is a collective endeavour, not a solitary mission. We acknowledged the interconnected nature of our challenges, the need for a shared narrative, and the power of meaningful conversations with diverse groups.
We recognised our collective voices are our most powerful instrument and will continue to share and learn from one another in our pursuit of a more equitable just and regenerative world.
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Watch a recording of the session below: