Conflict, collaboration and climate change

Eddy Canfor-Dumas


August 2021

The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change pulls no punches – we’re on a clear path to catastrophe.

And maybe it’s because I ended my career in TV drama penning global doomfests such as Supervolcano, but from where I’m looking the story that we’re currently writing for ourselves does not have a happy ending – unless we start to do things very differently, on a very large scale. And very soon.

At the heart of doing things differently stands a single word – collaboration. But it’s up against another single word – conflict. The challenge of climate change will bring into even more conflict those who think that radical change is essential and those who don’t. And that’s before all the associated challenges kick in, such as how to deal with increased migration flows and the numerous ways in which we’ll be forced to pay for a significantly warmer world.

We need a revolution

But wherever you place yourself on the spectrum between ‘Oh my God, the world’s coming to an end’ and ‘Chillax – it’s all a load of apocalyptic baloney', one thing that we’re going to need by the buckets-full is better communication between people, individually and in groups. We need to massively up our game in how we talk and listen to each other – how we understand each other – so that the inevitable conflicts can be overcome and collaboration supercharged.

This is one big reason why Peter Osborn and I wrote The Talking Revolution.

And since its publication in December 2018, we’ve been working hard to turn the ideas in the book into practical, doable, learnable actions. Things that anyone can undertake to make themselves better communicators and collaborators, and more able to deal positively with conflict.

The good news is that we think that we might have cracked it.

We’ve just taken the senior management team of Catalyst Choices, a major social care provider in the north-west of England, through a 10-week programme in creative conversation and conflict transformation – and these are some of the things that they’ve said at the end of it.

‘It’s transformed the relationships in the leadership team.’

‘It’s helped us as a leadership team really open up more to each other.’

‘The way we’re working now has improved so much. It’s changed each one of us for the better.’

‘Where before I felt that we all had different management styles, we’re all on the same level now and it’s brilliant.’

‘People I anticipated would never change, have. That’s been a real bonus.’

In a few weeks time the second phase of the transformation project will begin and over the next several months everyone in the company – more than 300 people – will go through this programme on how to understand each other better.

Ten weeks to transformation. Does that sound to you like a long time – or a no-brainer bargain?

If you think of this as ‘normal training’ then yes, it might sound like a long time. But the senior leaders we've been working with said this was unlike any course they’d ever been on – and they’ve been on many.

Conflict and caring

There’s an old saying that ‘Good by the inch invites evil by the yard.’ Which means that when those with good intentions come together to tackle climate change they will inevitably find themselves in conflict at some point with each other – because they care about it. And conflict arises from people caring.

But we need to get serious about working together to halt and then reverse this ultimate challenge to humanity. Which means we need to find a way of making sure that the good manages to overcome the obstacles that will inevitably arise to scupper our efforts. And at the heart of that is creative conversation.

If you want to find out more, get in touch. It’s urgent.

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