[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"1601","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"193","style":"color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; width: 300px; height: 193px; float: left; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px;","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"300"}}]]Learning from past successes to create the broad-based support for deep transformational change can occur through one simple concept: collaboration. Identifying villains and heroes, winners and losers has no place in the collaborative process necessary for such change.


I work for a green economy think tank and see collaboration in action on a regular basis. Here at Sustainable Prosperity we think that our current economic system isn’t very good at valuing the environment because the costs of damaging and overusing it aren’t properly recognized. This means that the services the environment provides us are undervalued because it is cheap to use air, land, and water as a dumping ground for pollution. We think that fixing the system will bring environmental benefit, but will ultimately bring benefit for the people who live on this planet and rely on its resources every day.


But readjusting our economic system to better value the environment is a difficult task, and one that we recognize we can’t do alone. That’s where collaboration comes in. We look to existing corporate social and environmental initiatives, grassroots environmental success stories, and various levels of government policy at home and abroad to build our own understanding of how things can change. Successful collaboration requires committed leadership to moderate conversations, encourage creativity, and maintain momentum, and Sustainable Prosperity plays this role when convening businesses, ENGOs, academics and policy makers around shared visions of a more sustainable future.


As a society, of course we won’t agree with all the opinions out there on how best to tackle this challenge. And herein lies our challenge.


Scaling up success requires a great deal of collaboration beyond the individual actors involved because not everyone can agree on a shared definition of “change”. To some, change may mean business as usual, but with added investment in social and environmental wellbeing. To others, change may mean an entire re-orientation of society, such that elements of the current economic framework are unrecognizable. Some may think that a new economy is all about creating new jobs so people can afford a certain standard of living, while others may be concerned for the marginalized members of society who do not have the same skills and opportunities to compete for these new jobs.


Collaboration can be a useful tool to help reconcile these divergent opinions because it requires participants to be honest about their agendas. If agendas are out in the open, the process of building a collaborative outcome becomes more feasible because the bounds in which compromises are made are clearly defined.


At times, collaboration can be uncomfortable. It’s not just about sharing ideas with others; in many cases collaboration also involves confronting assumptions about who benefits/should benefit from economic growth. It’s easy to get caught in a cross-fire of finger pointing and fist-raising that does nothing to advance a potentially-shared vision of a new and better future.


What I think we can all agree on is that our current economic system puts the environment, and in some cases, people, in second place. This message is becoming clearer as the impacts of climate change remind us that we are confronting our planet’s ecological limits.


But we should also agree that there are ways to fix this situation that will be beneficial. The most pivotal aspect of collaboration is that it requires a commitment from participants to realize a shared goal. Collaborating across diverse perspectives will help to create a longer lasting and more sustainable prosperity because businesses will have an incentive to reduce pollution and people will have an incentive to work towards protecting the environment. These incentives will create innovation and jobs which ultimately contribute to the wellbeing of our economy.


I sincerely hope the time has come to recognize our collective ideological differences as a starting place rather than a threat. The future is much too close for our sacrifices to mean nothing.


A modified version of this blog originally appeared on the New Economy Coalition blog(external link) and was written for New Economy Week(external link) in answer to the following question: How can we connect and learn from successful experiments, pilot projects, and campaigns to build broad-based power and effect deep transformation at scale?