Moving ideas to action: 7 stages to sustainability
This is the third and final part in the series of reflections from the 2018 Global Summit in Amman. You can find the first part “A global call for local action” here, and the second part “Personal development for global development” here.
How do we create real, meaningful and sustainable impact? This is the question aspiring change-makers continue to grapple with. Surely, there are an infinite amount of ways to answer this. Today, however, we will explore the approach applied at the Global Summit in Amman.
Stepping stones towards impact
Is it truly possible to find a common framework for action that can unite both humanitarians, economists, and environmentalists in their quest to transform the world? The whole premise of the Global Summit, founded on the idea that true impact requires cross-sectoral collaboration, is that not only is such a common framework possible, but it is also necessary.
Is it truly possible to find a common framework for action that can unite both humanitarians, economists, and environmentalists in their quest to transform the world?
Based on this idea of establishing diverse communities for change, the Global Summit proposes 7 stages to sustainability:
- Building a team and engaging partners
The first step is put into action by daring to dream about an ideal future and realizing that we cannot achieve this ideal on our own. We need a comprehensive network united in action for a sustainable future. An important part of this step is something labeled Partners in Empowerment. This is a grid of six mutually supportive, interconnected sectors: non-profit organizations, educational institutions, businesses, media groups, artists and social entrepreneurs. All of these sectors and their resources need to be activated in working to create an inclusive, sustainable future from the ground up.
Photo: Empowerment Works
- Assessing your asset
The second step involves uncovering the opportunities inherent in your local environment. It can be natural resources and cultural heritage, or it can be human resources like the skills, capacities, experience, and talents of people around you. This stage is anchored in the methodology called ‘Asset-based community development (ABCD)’, which emphasizes the need for local empowerment by building on already existing strengths.
- Setting goals and creating a plan
At this point, the planning process starts in full: Together with your team, you start looking deeper into the challenges you will address, define solutions (products, services etc.), establish measurable goals, set up an action plan to reach them and divide responsibilities.
- Building skills
After having established your goals, the time has come to identify what you need to make them deliverable: What kind of training, technology, and supportive structures should the team acquire? Are there any gaps in your resources, knowledge or skills needed to implement the action plan? A crucial aspect of this step is educating yourself and learning from others.
Photo: The Global Summit
- Transferring resources
The principle behind this step is to maximize the potential of your local assets. What kind of technology, information, education and other kinds of infrastructure are needed to fully utilize your existing resources? How can you add value to them?
- Accessing markets
At the sixth stage, you start delivering the products and/or services defined in stage 3. You also start linking your resources from stage 1 & 2 with the resources from stage 4 & 5 to create a channel of impact.
- Reinventing and reinforcing
A project is not over as soon as it has been implemented: it needs to be continually monitored an evaluated, reinvented and reinforced. After the initial phase, efforts can be made into ensuring an even deeper impact and greater sustainability.
The 7 stages in practice
One aim of the Global Summit is to put the 7 stages of sustainability into practice. In Amman, this was done by involving the participants in ‘impact streams’: Interactive, collaborative innovation sessions gathering participants dedicated to finding solutions for some of the most pressing challenges facing humanity.
During three days of coordinated team efforts, the streams would climb the 7 stages of sustainability to come up with concrete solutions in each field.
The Summit consisted of 4 impact streams working to create human welfare, education for all, thriving cities and gender equality in the economy – ‘feminomics’. Each stream was facilitated by a set of experts, innovators or leaders, motivating and guiding the innovation process. In the impact stream for ‘feminomics’, for instance, program manager for the network of female entrepreneurs and investors Womena talked about why inclusion of women is so important in the MENA-region (the Middle East and North Africa): Predictions state that more female economic involvement in the area could increase national income with as much as 1/3. While in some countries more than half of the university graduates are women, the female participation in the workforce is as low as 20% (source). The potential for female-driven economic growth in societies such as Jordan, then, is enormous. Based on such insights, participants in the impacted stream went on to develop their solutions motivated by the acknowledgment that their efforts to create change has huge potential value.
During three days of cumulative training, comprehensive dialogue, and coordinated team efforts, the streams climbed the 7 stages of sustainability to come up with concrete solutions in each field. Each stream needed to find three different kinds of solutions, reflecting the multidisciplinary approach of the Summit: A legal solution in the form of a proposal for policy change, a social solution in the form an on-the-ground-initiative, and a technological solution. Again, using the ‘feminomics’ stream as an example, the following solutions were developed during the Summit: 1) a policy proposal to change Jordanian law, improving the legal protection of mothers, 2) an initiative to empower rural women through cultural cooperatives along the Jordan Trail, and 3) an app making it easy and safe for women to report sexual harassment.
So – do the 7 stages of sustainability in fact work? Will the solutions developed during the Global Summit in Amman have any real impact on the issues they are addressing? It’s still too early to tell. But whatever the concrete outcomes of the innovation process will be, it at least helped prove one thing beyond any doubt: Jordan encompasses a lot of will to change the world.
Jordan encompasses a lot of will to change the world.
By Johanne Kalsaas