Prepare for Change: The Schumacher Institute

Schumacher-BristolThe only constant is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be.
— Isaac Asimov

The world will see many global scale changes over the coming decades – environmental, technological, social and economic. The Schumacher Institute, a Bristol-based independent research organisation, is concerned about resilience to these changes. It is helping organisations to improve their preparedness for the risks and opportunities of the future.

At the heart of the Prepare for Change (P4C) project is the monitoring unit; a ‘crow’s nest’ from which horizon scanning is conducted. The Schumacher Institute collects early and weak signs of change, listens to what the experts are saying and gathers predictions, forecasts and opinions. A workshop participant noted that the project is, quite simply, ‘looking out for what is coming towards us’.

The output from the monitoring is used in workshops, with a systems thinking perspective to explore the consequence of change. There have been five workshops so far, which have been well-attended by people from all sectors: public, private and civil society. Working together, the attendees think through what the observations and research might mean – and then discuss what actions could follow to ‘prepare for change.’

Running throughout 2012, these workshops were set against a background of apt headlines; from the daunting – failing crops, record breaking rainfall, and natural disasters, to the innovative – 3D printing, organic LEDs, and nanomaterials. Perhaps most tangible occurrence for the participants of the workshops was the variable weather in the UK – discussions have ranged from the impacts on insurance policies to the development of community support networks for times of extreme weather.

Ian Roderick, director of the Schumacher Institute and Project Manager of P4C, says: ‘Organisations in all sectors find themselves faced with a multitude of complex issues – some pertain specifically to their work, others hover on the peripheries. The more intangible concerns – climate change or pollution – are lost amid the most pressing ones, like the ongoing economic recession. But the more intangible concerns are not going to disappear – they will only grow evermore relevant. P4C, therefore, is designed to illuminate what is on the horizon – the risks, the issues and the opportunities.’

The Schumacher Institute partners with DAS Legal Expenses Insurance Limited to deliver the project. Helen Gunn, Corporate Responsibility Advisor at DAS, says: ‘DAS is proud to support the Prepare for Change project. As a proactive, forward thinking company with an award-winning corporate responsibility programme, we know that exploring crucial issues such as climate change, energy supply and disease, will mean we are better prepared for an uncertain future and able to adapt our operations more easily.’

P4C is also a sub-group of Bristol Green Capital, a local membership organisation that aims to make Bristol a ‘low carbon city with a high quality of life.’ The organisation has actively engaged with and supported Prepare for Change as it notes the importance of resilience to environmental, social and economic changes to the city’s sustainability.

This year, the Schumacher Institute is launching a subscription service, which will support the monitoring unit and workshops. This will offer businesses the results of our monitoring to make sure that they are at the forefront of understanding the ‘possibilities’ and can respond quickly to changes. The project will always remain open to communities and other organisations – the Institute wants everyone to contribute to thinking about resilience in their city.


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