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Insights from the 38th Climate Reality Project Leadership Training in Berlin

This week, I attended the 38th Climate Reality Project Leadership Training in Berlin. This is the third blogpost of a 5-piece series that elaborates on different perspectives of creating strategic impact.

When I received the confirmation email saying that I was going to be one of the 650 participants of the upcoming Climate Reality Project (CRP) Leadership Training in Berlin, I really wasn’t sure what to expect.

I felt honored but at the same time had some doubts regarding an event that “empowers people to become climate activists, equipped with the tools, training, and network to fight for solutions and drive change planet-wide”.

How will the information be brought to the attendees? Is it more about battle calls and team building or laying the foundation of science-based knowledge about the climate crisis?

It was probably none of this. In the end, of all the insights I could gather, what stood out to me was an understanding of what activism is about. This adds an important perspective to the spectrum of creating “strategic impact” which is why I share it within this series.

What led me to the insight about activism was learning about the organization (CRP) and the organization of the event itself. It were the details that mattered, small and sometimes very subtle things adding up and leaving behind an impressive feeling of simple concordance that reverberates. To sum it up, these are the key messages alongside its limitations:

  1. First of all, the training was a Green Event. Organizing a 3-day event for 650 people must have been a massive undertaking let alone organizing it carbon neutrally, meaning leaving a net zero carbon footprintBut it is possible and to my surprise, it was running smoothly. On top of that:
  • all meals were vegetarian to cut carbon emission coming from livestock farming
  • there was a strict no-plastic-policy
  • we were asked to bring our own reusable water bottle and coffee mug to reduce rinsing cycles and
  • to compost and recycle our waste by sorting it into three different containers which will prevent 1 ton of waste going to a landfill
  • all materials used during the event are either 100% biodegradable or printed on fsc-certified paper

Limitation: I believe that “carbon neutral” didn’t account for the heavy carbon footprint the transportation of speakers and attendees to and from Berlin caused.

2. It was about the people. Obviously, it is not easy to teach 650 people at the same time and make it a worthwhile and intense experience. How do you get everybody involved? It seems that the organizers have learned throughout the years since the establishment in 2006 and how to deploy the methods enforcing interaction and engagement:

  • on day one, every table (each 10 persons) got to submit one question, a few of which were discussed the next day with the founder and renowned scientists
  • the stage program included the leaders of past trainings wherever possible, be it in showing case actions, acknowledging their achievements or giving them room to speak out on stage
  • feedback was welcomed and help offered at all times by designated mentors, all breakout sessions included Q&A and a very objective feedback questionnaire was offered to be handed in (which I mention because from my professional background I know that questionnaires can be manipulative)
  • last but not least: there were no fees charged to attend the training

Limitation: Again, teaching 650 people at the same time limits the didactic effectiveness of working in small groups. There was a lot of one-way presentation and I bet a few dazed away but all in all, the organizers did their best to enforce engagement.

3. Al Gore demonstrated leadership. The Climate Reality Project was founded by former U.S. Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore back in 2006 in order to push practical clean energy policies across the globe. As a man of honor I expected him to show up for a 20 minute welcome presentation and then leave again but instead, he was there all along: I counted 7 hours of stage presence within the overall 22 hours of training in three days, including breaks and breakout sessions. He so demonstrated commitment and dedication to the goal (catalyzing a global solution to the climate crisis) as well as deep appreciation for the people that form the grassroot movement, which is probably self-evident but nevertheless a strong message.

Limitation: Mr. Gore committed himself to so much stage time, it truly conveyed a feeling of approachability. But this feeling became illusive the moment he concluded his speech outside the ballroom to preface the evening reception. He got escorted out of the hallway while some selfie maniacs imposed upon him. Not a real limitation, just a limitation to a public figure’s approachability.

4. The CRP enables its leadersBut also calls for commitment. The training devoted a large part to panel talks with scientists, researchers and politicians. The organizers made sure that different perspectives are given a voice and that experts give insights into the status quo of current developments such as decarbonizing transportation or climate migration. Furthermore, the CRP implemented a “Reality Hub”, an online platform on which leaders can connect, look into projects and activities and retrieve the materials you use to raise awareness amongst your realms of influence. Throughout all the networking on the training and the consistent backup of the (online) community you know you are not alone.

But they equally demand for you to take action. As a guideline they advise you to fulfill at least 10 acts of leadership per year which can be anything from holding a presentation in a school class, meeting with an influencer, to arranging a meeting in your community. With being certified as a Climate Reality Leader comes a sense of responsibility.

It is the sum of all the small details, the interconnected “meta concepts” deployed in the training and the holistic framework they are presented in that create instant impact but most importantly impact that will last.

Impact can unfold itself because integrity is contagious.

Every single action counts — every activist knows that — but it needs an underlying mindset that confers meaning, a mindset that claims responsibility, enablement, leadership and kindness towards the people and the environment.