5 tips to get your climate ideas off the ground:
By Kelsey Harrison:
At the same time that I was starting as a Pathways Fellow, last winter, I was entering my second semester in the India Innovation Studio. Like Core Pathways, this course centers around a complex problem (drought instead of climate change), and breaks down the problem in order to understand the challenges and potential solutions in new ways. The first year of the India Innovation Lab, then Studio, aimed to create policy solutions to some aspect of drought in Maharashtra, India. The class included a summer trip to India to speak with farmers, politicians, NGOs, and other stakeholders. The second year has centered around an impact assessment for the Paani Foundation, an NGO working in water management.
India Lab is a solutions based, project-driven course. Since one of the most common pieces of feedback I hear as a Pathways Fellow is that students want classes to have more engagement with real-world issues and hands on, experiential classes are somewhat uncommon at Georgetown, I’ve drawn some of what I’ve learned through my experiences in India Lab together to create 5 tips for creating real, implementable solutions to tough problems.
- If your idea seems like an easy solution, it’s probably to good to be true. If climate change was an easy fix, it would be solved by now. When you’re creating a solution, its important to ask why it hasn’t been tried yet. It’s important to think about technical, social, political, and economic barriers that might complicate your solution. It might also help to change your perspective. If your idea is broad and large scale, consider narrowing your focus to a few aspects of climate change’s causes or effects. If your idea is already specific, take a step back to consider how it might fit in to the framework of existing policies and projects.
- Context is key. Since, technical requirements, as well as social, political, and economic factors vary widely between different locations it is important to break down other people’s successes and failures to understand what parts of the project or policy was instrumental or try to map out what factors will relate to your project. Another way to consider these factors is to look at the different actors that may become involved. Who benefits from the current situation and who would benefit from the changes in your project? The costs and benefits of climate change often effect different groups of people, these incentives will drive actors to become advocates or roadblocks to your policy.
- Remember your audience and your goal. The goal is to help improve some aspect of climate change and practicality is the name of the game. If you’re talking to policymakers, its important to remember that they’re driven by the desire to get re-elected (VOTES!!) and will respond better to your ideas if you can relate it back to the current policies or ideological language of their party. Sometimes you don’t have to convince policymakers (or Uncle Steve) about the scientific truths of climate change if you can convince them of the benefits of your climate solution. Efficiency, health and cleanliness, resilience to natural disasters, and financial gain are often great arguments for climate solutions. Usually, what’s good for climate is also good for the community, regardless of people’s views on climate change.
- Talk about your project to anybody who’ll listen. The more times you explain your project, the better you’ll understand its strengths and vulnerabilities. This will also help you gain confidence in your project and background knowledge about it. It’s also useful to have to answer a range of difficult questions (if you don’t know the first time you’re asked, make sure you look into it in case you’re asked again). Keep an eye out for opportunities to gain critique from more experienced people, like professors or industry practitioners, as well as opportunities for access to university support and funding.
- Don’t let perfect stop progress. Climate change is a complex problem tied into social, political, and economic networks so any solution will face barriers to implementation and will probably have unintended consequences after implementation. Try to plan for the different factors that will influence your project but don’t let uncertainty or trying to address every possibility prevent you from doing good.