Urban Sustainability Leadership Forum

How can sustainability leaders recruit new voices to the sustainability discussion? How do sustainability leaders manage multiple partnerships to facilitate collaborative action across sectors, disciplines, and overcome other institutional and individual barriers? What are the challenges and opportunities on the horizon that sustainability leaders are preparing for?

In June of 2013, Virginia Tech’s Metropolitan Institute and the Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability (CLiGS) held its first Urban Sustainability Leadership Forum to answer these and other critical questions to sustainability leadership. This event brought together fifty sustainability leaders and professionals from the public, private and non-profit sectors to explore the current state of cross-sector sustainability coordination. The goals of the Forum allowed leaders to reflect, share their experiences, identify capacity building strategies, develop policy and action priorities, and discuss the development of the next generation of sustainability leaders.

The participants in the Forum shared a breadth of knowledge and ideas, which the Metropolitan Institute captured in the video synopsis below:

Through the Urban Sustainability Leadership Forum, The Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech advanced the concept of an “Arc of Collaborative Sustainability Leadership” as a conceptual framework for enhancing our understanding of sustainability collaboration.  Several themes emerged from the forum’s discussion’s that further refine the interplay of the arc’s different phases:

1) Culture influences our understanding of sustainability. There is diversity in comprehension at the neighborhood scale as well as diversity in understanding linked to culture and values. Honesty, cultural competency and integrity of language and are very important in building trust.

2) People and partnerships are the essence of sustainable communities: Engaging everyone, regardless of where they fall on the political or social spectrum builds trust and fosters a sense of community that is critical to effective collaboration. Emphasis on human connection and community building is of great importance, as an engaged civil society is key to successful collaborations for sustainable communities.

3) Building capacity of the capacity builders: Building long-term organizational, civic and community capacity is essential for creating sustainable communities, establishing networks, and creating the next generation of sustainability leaders. We must also acknowledge the important role of the intermediary organization, defined as a multi-dimensional non-profit organization that can serve as an actor to create and facilitate the sustainability network.

4) Cultivate sustainability leaders across generations and sectors: There is a need to create more sustainability leaders across every generation and across sectors (e.g. public sector, private sector, civil sector).  Current sustainability leaders in all fields should provide leadership training opportunities as well as opportunities for young professionals to lead.

The full proceedings associated with the forum can be found here.

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