The UpRising Environmental Leadership Programme 2018-19 launched in November this year in London, Cardiff, Manchester and Birmingham. We kicked off the programme with a Leadership Launch Weekend that was held simultaneously across the four cities. During the weekend UpRisers shared knowledge about the key environmental challenges facing their local communities as well as understanding their role as young green leaders in rising to meet these challenges.
Michael Woodland from the London Environmental Leadership Programme shares his thoughts on how he found the weekend…
On Saturday 10th November 2018, I met up with around 30 of my fellow UpRisers at the Western Snuff Mill in Morden Hall Park to attend the first day of the Environmental Leadership Weekend. The aim of this day was to outline the pressing environmental challenges facing the world, and to explore different leadership styles and the values that underpin them.
After an initial catch-up and icebreaker of human bingo, we were given an hour talk by Dr Shahrar Ali, the former deputy leader of the Green Party. Dr Ali’s talk focused on outlining the personal, technological and economic challenges that faced the world in tackling climate change. In addition, Dr Ali focused on a principle of ‘generational fairness’ as justifying taking action. This principle entailed that the present generation had a moral duty to ensure ‘as much and as good’ of the current world and its resources for future generations. Dr Ali also focused on ‘climate injustice’ in that climate change disproportionately affects those in developing nations, meaning that it was also part of the solution in tackling global inequality. Crucially, Dr Ali suggested that our generation could act by putting facts about environmental degradation into the public sphere, and to lobby politicians to take legislative action against climate change.
After this talk came lunch, which was followed by a three-hour seminar on leadership. In this session we examined how leadership can be broken down broadly into nine different styles, including ideological, charismatic, transformational and moral. Each of these styles entail different methods and values, and we applied these styles to famous historical leaders (such as Nelson Mandela and Winston Churchill) to examine how they explain real-life contexts. It quickly became apparent that these styles overlapped with one another and could vary at different times in a leader’s life. This session was also underpinned by examination of the qualities, skills and values of an effective leader. We also considered which of these aspects our own leadership style possessed, and how we could incorporate these elements to improve our own leadership abilities. This session ended with a reflection on what we learnt throughout the day and discussion of how we could create our own ‘personal development plans’ to achieve our aspirations.
Reflecting on the day and the key aspects of what I personally took away from it, I found some interesting ideas raised in Dr Ali’s talk. In particular, the concept of ‘Greenwashing’ really resonated with me, in which people will take perceived ‘green’ actions that impact little on the overall environmental issue. A clear example of this would be that people might buy a reusable coffee cup but still buy coffee every day which supports the cycle of exploitation of coffee farmers in developing nations. Another interesting idea raised by Dr Ali was the transitional town movements, a social action campaign in which UK cities like Brixton and Bristol aim to cultivate local producers, environmentally friendly solutions and build a healthy community atmosphere. One method this movement uses are alternative currencies to the British pound used to support environmentally-friendly local shops rather than corporate global companies. Although this grassroots movement has a long way to go, this concept really supports values of localism and community-focused solutions. This personally really interests me in transforming power dimensions within the UK from the central to local and offers a trailblazer for future sustainable city development. I also found the later seminar useful in understanding how leadership styles need to be flexible and emphasize certain aspects at certain times, and what my own leadership strengths and weaknesses were. Overall, I found the day very useful – it was great to get to know my fellow UpRisers and put into context the key emphasis of the programme for the next nine months.