The wider benefits of climate action and building a stronger case for sustainability


visual notetakers describe peoples ideas

This month we were invited to attend Ashden’s event; The wider benefits of climate action- building a stronger case for sustainability’ workshop day.

The title may be long, but the day packed a real punch, with an original and emotive format designed by award winning playwright, Sarah Woods.

Ambassadors from sustainable organisations of all kinds were in attendance, from built-environment professions, to innovative transport solutions, social change organisations and local and regional authority groups.

Birmingham was the location of the event and with many West Midlands folk present, the day was themed around our regional context, however the issues and solutions presented were broad enough to translate to any urban UK environment.

A trio of actors brought to life 3 characters, profiling ordinary people in the city and demonstrating the everyday challenges and long-term barriers to sustainable, healthy lifestyles in each performance. Each personality was subject to a host of problems, that were neither unique or over-dramatised, but built-up overtime clearly created something poignant and life-altering. Fuel-poverty, mental health, and waste were all topical issues, with ripple effect problems sprouting from each circumstance.

In a series of workshops, the audience split into groups to dissect the character, identify the roots of issues and create sustainable solutions, both at high-level and with detail.

There were many different ideas from the groups, who brought together thinking from a range of sectors and backgrounds. Some of the ideas came from better harnessing the technology and innovation that is available to us, and others called for a more simple, empathetic look at problems, and a more holistic approach to change.

One thing that struck me was how important individual story telling is in the rhetoric of sustainability. A reason that many people; from policy makers to individuals don’t prioritise sustainable ideals or practice is that they feel too far removed from the issue, and too small to make a meaningful contribution to a global problem. Breaking the issue down into relatable stories that affect us all was a powerful tool in quantifying some of the possible routes to change.

Many solutions came back to a necessary change by policy makers to amplify the priority of climate change. However, it was equally apparent that a shift in culture can’t be led from a top down approach and that the efforts of individuals and appetite of the private sector also have an important role to play.

It was fantastic to hear opinions and knowledge from the people in attendance, as well as a quick intro to all of the Ashden award winners, who are all committed to some exemplary sustainable business models.

Thanks to Ashden, Sarah Woods and the actors and visual note-takers that made the day so eventful and engaging.

Sarah woods leads discussion