The transition to a conserver society and economy is happening all around us. Our job is to be a catalyst for that change — to help it happen a little faster, and a little easier.
[toggles class=”blue_style” t1=”The Next Wave (completed 2014)” t2=”The Dialogue Project (completed 2013)” t3=”Big Ideas: Transformative Leadership” t4=”Big Ideas: Catalytic Projects” t5=”The Next Steps”]
[t1]We’ve completed a detailed review of the trends and opportunities in Canada. The trends are disturbing, to say the least, and they point to the need for a major new commitment to leadership in Canada.
[t2]Our first project was to talk with Canadian leaders about conservation and Canada Conserves. Over the course of a year, we circulated a concept paper and met with funders and environmental, business, and government leaders. Our conclusions:
- There is widespread support for “conservation” across the board. It is generally considered the preferred option for addressing natural resource and ecological issues.
- Public support for conservation remains high, especially for solutions that save people money (eg. lower utility bills and transportation costs) or that improve their quality of life.
- Individually, leaders tend to scope the term “conservation” according to their own issues and terminology. “Conservation” is widely used to refer to “nature conservation” or “energy conservation”, or used to refer to a subset of activities (such as “reduction” as opposed to “efficiency” when talking about energy use).
- There is a low understanding of the term “conservation” as a guiding philosophy for integrated solutions for environmental, economic, and social issues. We also noted a strong overlap between conservation and similar terms (sustainability, green, eco-friendly, etc.)
- There is a significant gap between public demand for conservation and the environmental policy debate. In particular, whereas the public sees value in conserving energy, improved transit, community development and local economies, the environmental debate continues to centre around climate change and carbon pricing. There is a very strong need to make the connection between climate solutions and improved quality of life for all Canadians.
- Funding for on-the-ground conservation activities continues to decline, be it for energy efficiency or community engagement. This is also a general declining trend across the entire voluntary sector with the rise of competitive online funding, increased administrative and reporting requirements
- Funding constraints have also played a role in the shift to “showcase issues” that can capture attention and funding. As a result, we are increasingly fighting a rearguard action and individual battles instead of a proactive and collaborative approach to creating a better future.
- Social consensus and visioning are at an all-time low. All the provincial and federal round tables (multi-sector advisory bodies) have now been disbanded and there is no formal venue for building a common vision, priorities, and strategy for Canada. The one notable exception we found is CivicAction (in the Greater Toronto Area), which is an action-oriented and independent collaborative effort, and a model for the future.
Overall, Canada’s leaders see the need for a conserver approach, but the way to get there is unclear and the obstacles are profound. On the bright side, we are long overdue for a fresh and positive approach to solving Canada’s most pressing environmental, economic and social issues. This is actually the perfect time to focus on the next wave in leadership and high-level policies, and to make sure that they fully understand and support the public demand to save us money and deliver services that help us to live better. By whatever name we choose to call it, the conserver model fits the need.[/t2]
[t3]Canada needs a large-scale collaborative effort aimed at creating a new social contract – a contract between the people of Canada and our governments and companies. This contract cannot be based on ideology (political or economic), but it must be based on the common desire to build a better future. In so doing, it will emphasize the priorities of people over politics and profit, and of the environment over economics. The quality of all human and natural life becomes paramount.
The goal of a transformational initiative would be to combine social forces to create a superpower of positive Canadian values that in turn empower action and leadership across the country. There are two essential components: a national voice strong enough to set new directions for Canada, and a power base strong enough to empower the leadership and good work of all those who support the common vision for Canada.
Here three ways it might work:
- A Canadian Climate Council
Following the example of the Australian Climate Council, establish a Canadian Climate Council of science and social leaders to provide a strong voice on the need for action. Given that all provinces and the federal government have a strategy or high level commitment to act on climate change, a council would be able to maintain strong social pressure for government action while empowering leadership by business and the voluntary sector. This would be a focused application, using climate change as the means to stimulate action for a healthier and sustainable future.
- Set up CivicAction Canada
Build on the CivicAction model in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area to establish a national cross-sectoral collaboration committed to empowering positive change. CivicAction has an excellent record in building bridges across disparate organizations and it brings an integrated approach to enhancing the quality of life.
- Launch a National Unity Initiative
Create a new initiative specifically directed at brokering a new national contract between all organizations working towards a better future. At the heart would be a common set of Canadian values. The advantages of this initiative would be the ability to build on the Truth and Reconciliation report by embracing First Nation values as a cornerstone, and in the ability to embrace and empower the positive aspects of all ideologies.
[t4]Whatever collaborative, transformational powerbase we choose to create, there will be a need for projects designed to work as catalysts for organic, voluntary change. Here are some suggestions for strategic interventions which can be developed via a national collaboration with a lead host organization.
- A National Strategy
Part of the process of elaborating a Canadian vision would be to develop a national transition strategy that would reference and support leadership across Canada towards achieving national goals. A similar exercise, We Conserve: Ontario’s Conservation Strategy, was undertaken for the Conservation Council of Ontario in 2011.
- National Transformational Campaigns
It may prove easier to lead by example. Pick solutions that maximize both public and environmental benefit and build a national collaborative campaign. The campaigns must be truly national and inclusive, with sufficient funds for social marketing, support programs, and research carried out by participating campaign members.
- Unity Directory
Build a national online directory of solutions, including products, services, incentives and support programs to help people live better with less. A prototype of a Great Green Directory was developed for the Conservation Council of Ontario with funding support from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment. The concept needs updating and a new directory can be created to take advantage of the latest in member engagement via ratings and reviews.
- Unity Card
Tied in with the national directory, a national rewards card is a great way to connect consumers with products and services in their community. For example, the Live Green Toronto card now has over 35,000 cards in circulation. The benefit of a national card is that it would be able to provide the benefit of a national directory with a membership card that can be adapted to individual municipal branding and integrated with their community outreach programs.
Imagine what we can accomplish if we all share a common goal. At Canada Conserves, we believe the future of environmental campaigns lies in co-marketing high-level goals… saving energy, responsible air-conditioning, better transit, safe cycling, local food, or strong local economies.[/t4]
[t5]The simple next steps is to keep the momentum moving forward.
Canada Conserves needs a host organization or funding support to be developed as an independent organization. At the very least, the Canada Conserves website and initiative can be developed and maintained as a resource on leadership in helping Canadians live better with less.
If you can help, as a potential host, supporter, or sponsor, we’d love to hear from you.