Climate change is a global problem that requires a collective response to mitigate its effects and adapt to its impacts. We are now living in a climate-altered future that Lauren’s professor had warned about in her university days, and the sad fact is that the climate crisis is a political and social, and not a technological problem. Humans have the ability to invent technical solutions to climate change. We already see it today in renewable energy technologies and low-carbon solutions like hydrogen and carbon capture, utilization and storage. But we still cannot seem to find the political will and build the social capacity to have an effective collective response to climate change.
Lauren’s story of being hired by the Asian Development Bank to develop its climate change programme at only 27 years old – my age – goes to show that her core strengths in organising and mobilising a network of experts and local partners are more valuable than possessing deep knowledge and experience on the topic of climate change itself. As a young person, you don't have to solve the problem yourself, but you can contribute to solutions by convening stakeholders and providing a framework and process by which to solve the problem. By pooling resources, you can expand your impact and achieve more than you could alone.
Being a co-founder of a non-profit myself, I found her advice on fortifying your network and leading for resilience to be immensely helpful.
First, to leverage your network to make change, one has to know your strengths and thus your relevance to your network. This means knowing where you are in the larger system, what you are strong on, and how you are connected to those who can support you. For example, if you are a graphic designer, you can use your skills to create visuals that communicate your message more effectively, and can be a powerful ally for research think tanks to advocate for policy changes or educate the public about the impacts of climate change and ways to reduce carbon emissions.
Second, to leverage your network to make change, one has to find your critical friends in your network. A critical friend is someone who brings authenticity and their different perspective and expertise to a partnership, and can provide constructive feedback, support, and guidance in a non-judgmental way. To find these critical friends, we should look for people with different backgrounds, experiences, and skillsets, and seek out individuals who are known for providing thoughtful and actionable feedback.
Lastly, Lauren shared about how to lead with personal resilience, to continue doing good work without burning yourself out. She shared that we should invest in things that give multiple benefits, informed by a self-awareness of what gives you energy versus takes away energy. I thought about how the SMC Youth hiking trails was one such example – to give mentors and mentees space to recharge in nature, but at the same time learn and connect.
In all, I had a positive experience at the youth hiking trail and look forward to learning more from inspiring speakers in the future.