Capacity Building for a Greener World

If you're focused on capacity-building for Climate Change and a Green Economy, you'll want to listen to Beth Offenbacker's report from the recent Green Economy: New Challenges, New Skills Learning Forum. This two-day conference was hosted by the Organization for Economic Development and Co-operation (OECD).

The Learning Forum aimed "to address one of the key questions for advancing a green economy: How can countries build up a critical mass of professionals that:

  • Understand the risks and opportunities of a transition to an inclusive green economy

  • Have the knowledge and skills to put in place the right policies and incentives to address identified risks"

It also focused "on the issue of learning and skills development for current and future decision-makers, technical staff in Ministries and others involved in policy design and implementation."

Check out the report Beth mentions in the audio: PAGE (2016), Green Economy Learning Assessment South Africa: Critical Competencies for Driving a Green Transition.

Listen to the podcast in the link below, or read the transcript (also below) to hear key insights from the Forum, and takeaways that you can use to step forward in your career as a green leader or green policymaker.


Beth Offenbacker: I was thrilled to be in the room with all of these folks in Paris at OECD for this conference because it brought together so many threads of the work that I've been doing for several years. Being able to come back and share this and help other people know about it and use it is something that I always love to do because I love it when other people do that with me. I'm going to share a couple of highlights. I don't know if you had a chance to go to the website and take a peek at the agenda, but I'm going to give a kind of a quick overview of what the conference was about and describe that experience very briefly. Then I'm going to talk about what I see is kind of three overarching themes that came out of the session, and then share some skills-based insights that I think are really instructive for our work in building the green economy on a variety of levels

Let me start by saying that the meeting was convened with about a hundred participants from a variety of public and nonprofit organizations. There were some private sector individuals in the room, like myself, but most of the individuals there were either with multilateral organizations or with nonprofits that have a connection to the green economy in a particular way. The focus was really thinking about how do we build up that critical mass of people that understand the risks and opportunities around transitioning to an inclusive green economy.

The second piece was equipping people with the knowledge and skills so that they can put in place the policies and the incentives that address those risks and get us to accomplishing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). So they're not just something that we all think, "Oh, that's a great idea, a wonderful vision." But they actually have legs and that they're implemented in countries and communities around the world. And so the professionals that were there... there was a lot of really wonderful discussion and a lot of great networking that was wonderful to hear and meet people from a variety of institutions.

The three takeaways that I would share is that we had presenters from the Green Growth Knowledge Platform (GGKP), which if you're aware of that, I encourage you to visit their website. It's a platform that helps to bring people together, they're doing a lot of the knowledge building, sharing resources and information around how do we bridge this gap? So representatives from GGKP, as it's known. There were also representatives, people who spoke, from the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), which are focusing on some of these capacity building efforts really more on a policy level and within government organizations.

And then another organization which I'd known about that was really my first chance to hear from them was the Green Economy Coalition (GEC), which is a really fantastic organization of really more civil society focused groups around the world about trying to, again, bring people together and create a dialogue on a more, again, civil society basis around how do we think about this. And it was really interesting because at the same time that was when the Yellow Vest movement was starting to have their protests in Paris. And a couple of the people talked about connecting with people on their way to one of the meetings at OECD, connecting with some of the individuals in the Yellow Vests, and the passion and concerns that those individuals have about some of the issues of greening our world.

Some other representatives that spoke were from the the International Labor Organization (ILO). And that was really wonderful to hear about their work. And then the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) talked about some of the efforts that they've been pursuing on the skill building side within United Nation's family. And finally, we heard from a representative who's the green industry expert from the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). So as well, one more, I'll mention a woman who did a study, Eureta Rosenberg, with the environmental learning research center at Rhodes University in South Africa. So a real cross section of individuals working on this work.

Let me pause for a moment and then dive into these kind of three overarching themes that I saw. The first one is that systems change requires a distinctive set of skills. That the skills that we're often taught when we think about what needs to happen on an organizational level or an individual level are similar, but distinct from those skills that we need to be able to make systems change. It really requires drawing on some of the thinking of complexity theory and some other skill sets that are a little bit more challenging because of the nature of systems change requires a lot of coordination. It requires a level of vision and a type of incentive that maybe a little bit different than what would cause an organization to make a change or an individual. How do we do that and how do we put those elements in place to be able to get to the green economy?

One of the things that the speakers talks about in building a critical mass of these rights skills, and policies, and incentives together is that we need to think about them in four different ways. We need to think about what technical skills do we need. That's number one. Number two, what public procurement skills, thinking on the public agency side to be able to get to scale, thinking about green public procurement was something that we talked about some at the event.

The third piece was around skills that engage the citizenry. The value of engaging the public around some of these issues and help them to understand and deliberate about the benefits, and drawbacks, and the trade offs that are involved in getting to these goals, which are good for all the reasons that we know. And then the fourth area is really around collaboration and networking. How do we help co create that future that w