by Seren Pendleton-Knoll, Canada, MDP Class of 2015
Seren_PendletonKnoll_2.jpgI was nervous stepping into the Blum Center for Developing Economies to attend a class through the Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program. Having worked in the social sector for the past six years I am confident in a wide range of social issues: California county government structure, youth development and empowerment, eating disorders in women and youth, school to prison pipeline, alternatives to incarceration – but Environmental Leadership is a whole other ball park. While personally I strongly adhere to a ‘green lifestyle’ by minimizing my carbon footprint, encouraging my employers to adopt environmental practices in the agency, and having frustrated conversations with my housemate about the importance of composting, I had yet to have any formal education on the issue. Though I was just a guest in the back of the classroom, I was concerned that this would show, loudly and clearly to others in the room – not a first impression I wanted to make at UC Berkeley before I started my Masters.
Fortunately, a room of diverse and joyous people welcomed me, including inviting me to join in on their congo line to Shakira’s “Waka Waka” (obviously my highlight of the ELP experience)*. I had the great fortune to attend three classes, two in “Impact Assessment” and one in “CSR”. The room was made up of over 40 individuals from not only different countries, but different sectors. Questions and discussions with the instructors ranged from how to implement these ideas in profit driven companies, to hands on community groups. It was a relief to know that those in the professional world were just as non-experienced as I was, and faced the same dilemmas in their workplaces.
While I was there as an observer and not a participant, I easily connected the lessons brought up in impact assessment to use in the non-profit work I do, and the same issues that for-profit companies had with CSR were also concerns for the monetarily tight organizations for which I had worked. While so often the topics of CSR and evaluation are done in silos, with each type of organization approaching it differently and without collaboration, it was refreshing to have a room full of people not only hearing another’s perspective on the issue, but assisting each other with their problems. If only the room of cultural knowledge and professional diversity could be repeated on a global scale – perhaps then we could take actual steps towards addressing climate change.
*Note: I have since added “Waka Waka” to my Spotify playlist, and it is now part of my daily listening.