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Change forum inspires grassroots activism

14 May 2014 1:28 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Young professionals discuss environmental and sustainability issues

From starting urban gardens to launching green teams, young environmental and sustainability professionals can start to initiate change for a more sustainable future.

A source of their motivation is the recent Leading Change Canada Emerging Leaders Forum in Vancouver. Held every two years, the conference unites young professionals from across Canada to discuss environmental and sustainability issues, as part of a push to create a national movement. Through discussion and engagement, delegates are empowered to catalyze positive change, beginning with actions in their communities.

Sarah Jane Wolch of Brookfield Johnson Controls Canada and part of the 2014 forum’s organizing committee, says participants explored trends driving future energy, food and water needs. Farming representatives, for instance, discussed initiatives such as urban farming and gardens and the value of farmers’ markets for sustainable production.

These are ideas that forum delegates could take home and implement, as change first blossoms locally.

“Someone might say that’s small stuff but the fact is these little initiatives, once they start connecting together, become something large,” Wolch says.

“We try to inspire this generation to be the grassroots (activists) because at the end of the day, that’s as much as you have control of.

“It’s how everyone can work within their own communities themselves and make change there, and then hoping to inspire the next generation and the next group and the next group that come through, to continue to make these small changes within their own communities, and then have it all add up,” Wolch says.

The 2014 forum delegates also considered how their generation will work within corporate structures and the changes that are occurring and necessary for the next group of leaders to be engaged in organizations to address environmental, social and economic issues critical for a sustainable future.

As well, participants could learn about local, national and international developments at the GLOBE 2014 business sustainability summit, which immediately followed the Leading Change Canada forum.

Hearing about what’s happening at various levels was energizing, Wolch says.

“It’s a real opportunity to hear what’s going on around the country and the world,” she says. “And it’s to be able to hear these ideas and take what you can and apply it to your own community.”

Wolch anticipates delegates will be able to build on the forum’s energy and take action, with the support of the Connecting Environmental Professionals (CEP).

CEP has chapters across Canada to support networking, capacity building and career opportunities for young professionals, with the Calgary group taking on the planning of the 2016 Leading Change Canada forum.

“Under the CEP platform, we’ll be able to create more community-based engagement activities,” Wolch says.

“We now have a hub in each community where a lot of our (forum) delegates are from to keep things going.”

Wolch notes delegates came to the forum from areas like the Yukon and want to remain engaged with their counterparts. A resource document is to provide suggestions on how they can get involved in their communities. The CEP organization also provides a way for young professionals to learn about what others are doing, including how to start a CEP chapter. The Toronto chapter is currently being revived and Wolch envisions sharing their activities at the next Leading Change Canada forum in 2016.

“When 2016 rolls around, we’ll have a solid delegation from Toronto head to the event to share what they’ve done, get re-inspired and learn what everyone else is doing in the country, and then come back to Toronto again to repeat the process.

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