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ON:SUBJECT - Momentum for Sustainability
What are your priorities these days? What's the one thing that you will focus your resources on? In every strategy workshop, we invariably hit on these questions. In many organizations, people are feeling spread thin and overworked. They see mission creep affect their ability to deliver outcomes - and yet, conversations keep returning to the new important development or the additional approach without also asking: What can we let go of? 
It's easier to let priorities slip than to have the difficult conversations it requires to maintain them: How can we transition out of this project? What happens to that person's job? What if this topic becomes important again in the future? Hidden behind all this is the question: What do we really want to achieve together? What's our theory of how we can be successful? The less clarity a group has on its purpose, the more it will resist clear priorities. 
To move forward, it's a good idea to slow down, dive deep and really listen. Why are we doing this? No, really: Why is this important? And why do we think this works? Keep asking 'why' until you understand the shared ground and the different values in the room. 
Explore scenarios: What different approaches to prioritization could we take? Where could success in one area create progress in others? How could our priorities shift over time? Where does our energy need to go at this time: strengthening the movement, preventing harm or building alternatives? What's our role - and what is best left for others? 
And remember: social change is a marathon, not a sprint. Not everything needs to happen at the same time, and burnout never served anybody. 
That said: apparently we're having a terrible time focusing our energies at ON:SUBJECT - that's why this newsletter brings you stories ranging from air quality, sustainability standards to climate communications. 
Yes, it's all connected.

DIY air quality sensors
It was terrifying to realize that I would have to get myself a soldering iron to properly participate in the air quality project hackAIR. Now, six months later, no less than five different air quality sensors grace my house - and I've built all of them myself. There's no need to go overboard, but consider the following: 
  • Air pollution is a huge health risk - and there's increasing local activism to reduce it. Its main sources (traffic and industry) also nicely overlap with key culprits for climate change. 
  • We don't have a whole lot of data on local air pollution: Especially in rural areas, 50km between measurement stations are common - and even my town of 150.000 inhabitants only has one. 
  • The official air quality limits (set by the EU and WHO) are commonly and regularly exceeded - and we don't easily notice. 
  • It's really fun to see data come in from your own sensors -- and really empowering to realise what else you could build with simple DIY electronics. 
If you're interested, you can find a tutorial here - and feel free to ping me if you have questions!
The future of sustainability standards
New technology has implications on how we approach many aspects of sustainability. With the ISEAL report "Smart Data", we explored the relevance of current trends to sustainability standards – from mobile data collection and the internet of things, to open data and blockchains. Last year, we were honoured to open PEFC's stakeholder dialogue with a keynote address titled "Embracing technology innovation within certification: what’s the hype?”.  And on a smaller scale we're supporting the thought leadership of the Sustainability Standards Specialist Group as they explore how to move from "Big data to SMART data". 

Communicating climate adaptation
Tired of polar bears, apocalyptic scenarios and dry statistics? You are not the only one. For an upcoming training, we've been working on a list of strategies that can help  making your climate communication more engaging, effective and fun. Here's the short list - let us know what we've missed! 
  1. People vary (Also known as: You are not your audience)
  2. Cut the technical detail (Also known as: Less is more)
  3. Local impact, local action (Also known as: Reduce psychological distance)
  4. Paint a positive future (Also known as: Things we love)
  5. Give people agency and choice (Also known as: Let freedom reign)
  6. Tell stories, use visuals, speak to the gut (Also known as: Emotion anchors)
  7. Foster belonging and identity (Also known as: People like us)
  8. It’s not (just) about the environment (Also known as: Let’s get out of the niche)
  9. Use human connection and social networks (Also known as: Social proof)
  10. Walk the talk & foster cooperation (Also known as: Competition separates)

Reading recommendations

Coming up
I unfortunately can't be there, but do check out the Big Brother Awards in Bielefeld (or livestream) on 20 April. I'm facilitating a strategy retreat in Bielefeld on 23-24 April, and will be traveling onwards to Bonn for the Resilient Cities Conference on 25 April. I'm also looking forward to going to Manchester for the Disrupting the Story Workshop and to Geneva for the European Citizen Science  Conference in the coming weeks. If you are around, let’s grab coffee! Otherwise, you can find me in the Amsterdam area, as usual. Let me know if you are in the neighbourhood! 
And otherwise: Shall we meet for virtual coffee soon? Just hit reply to start a conversation! 
Speak soon,
* Wiebke
Wiebke Herding (+31 61 55 073 66)
Managing Director, ON:SUBJECT – Momentum for Sustainability

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