After the science and the theology has to come the ‘so what?’ What are we actually going to do about all of this? Andy Atkins (CEO of Friends of the Earth UK and Chair of Friends of the Earth International) was our third speaker at the Communicating Hope gathering and his presentation aimed at looking precisely at this question. This post won’t cover everything he had to say (you had to be there to hear that!), but these are some of the key points.
Andy reminded us again of the urgency and scale of the problems, both globally and within the UK, and gave us the challenge that we can’t just keep doing the same thing over and over again.
We need to look at what we can do differently:
- Scale up. We’ve got to scale up the solutions not the organisations, asking ourselves what can make the biggest difference now.
- Join up. Need to engage many more people in backing those solutions, finding out how to connect our issues to their concerns.
- Team up. Andy pushed for strategic alliances between organisations. This does not necessarily mean big branded campaigns, but organisations working on the same issues with their own constituencies. It was really encouraging to hear that the heads of the major organisations meet together to plan and work on a 10-year strategy.
- Link up. We must link up our knowledge, asking what knowledge do we need? Where is it and how can we link to it? For example, FoE has lots of knowledge that smaller Christian organisations can use and make the most of.
- Speed up. We’re in a dynamic situation where things move quickly. We need to be able to react fast, particularly with regards to the media.
This has implications for us as Christian leaders, presenting us with some strategic dilemmas:
- Do we convert more of our own within our churches or go with what we’ve got?
- Do we align much more with our own number, with other church groups, or do we ally with secular groups? Or both?
- Do we focus on local or national or international issues?
- Do we get practical or political?
Coming from his perspective at the top of a large environmental NGO, Andy had some strategic words of wisdom to those of us listening. He encouraged us to focus much more on working and making use of the people we’ve already got rather than concentrating our efforts on trying to ‘convert’ those who are not yet there. He pushed us to be coordinating more behind the scenes on strategy, asking ourselves where we want this country to be in ten years’ time and what we need to do together in order to reach for that. As above, that action does not have to be a big branded campaign, but it does need coordination behind the scenes, acting together publically at the right moment. Andy also encouraged us to get behind the major secular campaigns saying that whilst the secular organisations can have the intelligence, it makes a huge difference if they are supported by a wider constituency. It is the breadth of coalitions that turns a campaign into something that the politicians cannot ignore.
Personal Leadership Lessons
Finally, Andy had some helpful thoughts for the many of us present who, both as individuals and in our organisations, have committed ourselves to being leaders in some way on this agenda:
- Look individually at what are you made for: what’s your particular vision and role? What are you here for? You can’t do everything so stay focussed on the role that God has given you.
- How do you stay informed? There is always a danger of getting too much information so ask yourself who has got the knowledge you need to sustain your vision?
- What’s your sphere of influence? Wherever you are, whatever role you’re in, you have a bigger sphere of influence than you realise – church, family, friends, work… who might you try to influence to get on board?
- What are your own strengths and weaknesses, your passions? What do I do well? It will probably be in that area that you have the biggest impact.
- Who are the individuals who you can most effectively work with, both formally and informally? Make the most of those people.
Conclusion: Practical Visionaries
Andy’s talk was inspiring and challenging; all the more so because of the position that he is in and his track record on successful campaigning. It left us with lots to think about and act on, in particular the need to coordinate more together behind the scenes, rather than us all doing our own little bits and pieces. I think we also need to heed his words about focussing less on trying to ‘convert’ Christians to the earth-care agenda and concentrating more on working with those who are already there.