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Ros Leeming, Parliament Manager at the International Fund for Animal Welfare, left the UK Government to lobby for change from the outside. She tells Katie Shaw what she hopes to achieve.
Currently: Parliament Manager at the International Fund for Animal Welfare
Class of: ‘07-‘08
Individual leader I most admire: David Attenborough, for his quiet leadership and ability to connect people with the environment in a way that they find entertaining and funOrganisation I most admire: The National Trust, for its understanding that sustainability is always a journey and you can only lead at the pace that people are prepared to follow.
I worked in the Government to understand the system
I understood going into the Government that, while civil servants can champion evidence-based policy making, it is still a world that revolves around four-year cycles and political agendas. I worked there to understand the way in which decisions are made, and my plan was always to eventually move on and use this knowledge to press Parliament and the Government effectively. I’ve seen a lot of good and bad lobbying, and I’m looking forward to sharing and applying what I learnt during my time in the Government.
I don’t believe in reincarnation
I always wanted to work on climate change, because I believe that we’re here only once, and I feel a huge moral burden. I had been focusing on climate change, on the basis that it seems irreversible, but of course this also applies to species extinction. So that’s why I chose to make the change from working on the Energy Bill team at DECC to working here, at the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
I’m looking forward to having opinions again
During my time in the Government, I tried to take society, the environment and economics into account in equal measure – but that’s not always the most appropriate approach as the reality is that trade-offs must usually be made. Any one department will have multiple objectives that it’s trying to achieve, and you have to hope that one won’t negatively impact the other. As a civil servant, you look at everything through your analytical standpoint and are obliged to be unbiased, but the trade-offs mean that conviction is needed, and this is the job of ministers. I’m looking forward to having opinions again – being subversive, even.
Government officials need data
Government officials usually aren’t experts on their policy area. One of the things that surprised me most going into the Government was that one person may have worked on, say, pensions, transport and agriculture. Their strength is being able to walk in with no prior knowledge and, within two weeks, be able to talk about a subject as if they know it really well. Because of this, officials need others to provide data and evidence if they’re going to change a policy. A lot of people don’t realise that the Government needs a lot of the information to come from stakeholders, so they only provide rants, and miss out facts that could support a change in policy. You get a lot of protestors outside the DECC office making vague demands. I used to think, “Give me three key actions that you’d actually like us to do.”
Forum for the Future’s Masters in Leadership for Sustainable Development has shaped the career of some of the most ambitious and influential people working for a desirable future. www.forumforthefuture.org/masters