Climate change

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In 2019, in response to a growing sense of paralysis caused by the enormity of the problem of climate change, we launched an open-source study looking at small actions that might make a difference and restore a sense of agency. From that small beginning, we are growing an entire program, looking at climate change and people’s responses to it at the human level. By looking at the human side, we can approach not just the complexity of climate change, but we can also introduce our human compassion, appreciation, and even moral stance when it comes to the struggles, conflicts, and paradoxes we all face when confronted with the future of our planet.

Why are we doing this? Climate change is not only an existential problem of our age; it is also an embodiment of the combination of the unique properties of human complex systems and naturalising sense-making, the two founding principles of the Cynefin® Centre. “Naturalising sense-making” means making sense of the world to act in it, within the boundaries of natural science, including boundaries such as the capacities of our planet and its critical thresholds. The programme includes several thematic areas, such the collective response to climate change or dealing with the sense of loss. It is also open to expanding them and adding to them through collaboration with its members.

Target participation

This programme is open to governmental, not for profit, academic institutions, and occasional commercial organisations who orient themselves towards the public good. Members do not have to be active specifically and narrowly in climate change – we welcome anyone with an environmental side to their work and at the interaction of environment and society. Students are also warmly welcome.

Public projects

The Acorn Study

The inaugural open climate change study run from late 2019 to the end of 2020. It was a collection of people’s experiences and stories of small actions around climate change. The aim was dual: on the one hand to address the sense of paralysis and fear, and on the other to make the exploration of the landscape and the lessons and ideas of the participants open source. In its course, more than a hundred people have received access to the results, which are being publicly discussed and presented as part of an ongoing blogging series.

The COVID-19 MassSense

A MassSense is a particular way of using SenseMaker: instead of asking people to share and then interpret an experience or an anecdote from their lives, you instead present something to interpret – one artifact, multiple perspectives. The more diverse the eyes you get on it, the more aspects of the situation and nuances to the landscape you can uncover. This particular MassSense focuses on COVID-19 and its interactions with the perceptions of climate change. It can be accessed here.

Participation projects

These are established projects which you can either join or replicate

A citizen-based approach to climate change and sustainability

This project builds connections to the citizen engagement programme to start connecting environmental concerns with the practice of engagement in order to encourage alternative possibilities that go beyond individual attempts towards sustainability, and instead harness individual action to a common purpose and use it to inspire further action, interweaving the private and the political arenas. It can be used as a way to explore the different avenues of collective actions, manifestations of responsibility, triggering and propagation of change, or collective mapping of attitudes.

Climate Justice

This project looks at a concern with justice and responsibility around anthropogenic climate change. What shared starting points or adjacent possibles can we discover, and what direction should we set? Which understandings of justice do multiple diverse groups share? Could it be easier to start from defining the negative and identifying inadequate solutions that we can agree on? How can tension and confrontation be negotiated, if it is inevitable, and which outliers exist in the area of assuming a greater share of the responsibility for climate change?

Accepting Loss

This project looks at the process of mourning what we have already lost and will lose to climate change, but also at the losses that we are going to have to choose in order to combat it. How much are different kinds of people prepared to give up, for what reasons, and under which circumstances? How can we accept and ease the pain of losing loved practices that have become a part of our way of life, and as well as live with the cognitive dissonance of still practicing them, without resorting to defence mechanisms like denial?

Out of ourselves and into the world

Values that connect human beings with one another and promote the formation of community have been shown to be significant in participation in actions supporting and promoting sustainability. Where do our senses of responsibility and duty towards the world we inhabit, but also our sources of repose and restoration lie, when it comes to increased environmental stress and insecurity? This project links up with the networks of the Cynefin® Centre “Numinous” program, looking at spirituality and the sense of something bigger than ourselves.

Existing activity

See links for ongoing activity on the climate change programme's public projects.

How to join

Email the Cynefin® Centre to start a conversation!

References and links

More details on the programme are available in this brochure

For more on the Acorn study, you can refer to its launch and the results blogging series

For more on the MassSense, refer to the series of two relevant blog posts here and here

A background whitepaper on the literature behind the launch of the programme can be accessed here

Kickstarter projects

These projects have a minimum number of participants to trigger their initiation and may run as cohorts