We have tools and experience in creating system change that we apply to a range of sectors and issues. Our focus on food and energy allows us to understand how to create change in whole systems; however, we also apply our approach beyond these areas, either to work on the challenges experienced by our partners, to look at the cross overs between systems, or as an opportunity to experiment with cutting-edge ideas, develop new insights and lessons that we can feed back into the food and energy systems.
From telecommunications to tourism, from fashion to finance, we apply our knowledge and methodologies, from system innovation to futures thinking, to deliver on key sustainability issues and challenges, both nationally and internationally.
At Forum for the Future, we've learnt that a systems-based approach is the most effective way to address complex sustainability challenges. Rather than looking at problems in a linear fashion, we take a much broader and sophisticated view, seeing them within the context of the much wider system.
To help us, we have developed our Six Steps to Significant Change model, an invaluable framework for designing change processes and learning from them. We designed it with big systems change in mind, but it equally works at a sectorial and organisational level.
Put simply, change starts with understanding. The first two steps are about raising awareness of the challenges an industry faces, working out what needs to change and how it might happen. Then we move into system innovation where new thinking and practical action are key. Creating pioneering practice is about developing and showcasing new and better ways to do things. In the next step, enabling the tipping, experiments are taken up more widely by an industry once they see how effective they are and increasing number of people and organisations are involved. The final two stages are about maintaining the change that has been created, often through widespread sign-up to voluntary commitments, new consumer standards or regulation.
At Forum, we aim to maximise the opportunity to create impact and use our wide-ranging experience to transform systems in a whole range of sectors. Our flagship Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI) is just one example of this in action. International shipping is vitally linked to food and energy, but is clearly a vibrant sector of its own with its own challenges. From resource management and environmental pollution to marine ecosystems and finance, there are many other social, environmental and economic factors that make up the complex mix of this critical sector.
A global project, the SSI was founded by Forum in 2010 with the ambitious aim of making the shipping industry both profitable and sustainable by 2040, and exists today as a powerful coalition of some of the biggest names in the industry, including Maersk, Cargill, Lloyds Register and Namura.
Collaborations like these are crucial in tackling tough sustainability issues as no single organisation can do it on its own. The collective power, knowledge and resources of a collation like the SSI can spark system innovation and the potential for significant change.
We use our skills to help partners with specific challenges. When confronted by Greenpeace, we helped Nike, Adidas and other brands develop a roadmap to, and ultimately launch, the apparel brands’ joint Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals coalition, which aims to rid toxics from the supply chain. More recently our Informal City Dialogues project, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, has become a global, multi-stakeholder project which aims to design innovations that create inclusivity and resilience in six future cities. Starting in 2013, we have been working with Ecover to develop GLOCAL, an experimental project to explore producing cleaning products using local ‘waste’ materials, local manufacturing methods and global knowledge.
To do this we do a lot of thinking about the future, using trends, visions and scenarios to challenge assumptions about the world and to map routes to a sustainable future for our partners. More often than not, this involves helping organisations identify the need for action and the power that coalitions can bring. This helps us understand the challenges and visualize solutions. We have a set of innovation tools too and approaches that we think accelerate scale. All these are valuable beyond food and energy and our focus on system change and learning fuels our enthusiasm for these
Just as most of the world’s biggest environmental challenges are closely linked, there's huge connection across all critical systems. Being aware of this and taking advantage of the opportunities it creates is key in our work of making significant change happen in all key systems globally.