Care to join us for prototyping around green jobs and a just transition?

mySociety’s Climate Programme is halfway through a series of six prototyping weeks, and having caught our breath we’re keen to hear from people who may be interested in our next one, starting 13 June 2022.

As a reminder, our prototyping weeks bring together specialists on a topic, for a series of online workshops exploring challenges and successes, and defining a specific approach we can then go on to design and test in the second half of the week.

In the next one we’ll be exploring the role that civic technology could play in enabling a fair (or just) transition to a world that’s reducing climate risks and harm. In particular, we suspect it might make sense to focus on employment in the UK. I’ve shared some thoughts on this below, and we’d be grateful for different perspectives on what the scope of this work could be.

Perhaps we’ll test solutions to skills shortages that are critical to a fair transition, like the desperate need for more multi-trade home retrofitters to tackle the UK’s leaky housing stock. Or we might explore a way to enable empowered career change for workers in high carbon industries. Or maybe build on the growing recognition of undervalued and unpaid labour, such as care work, and related ideas like a 4 Day Week, Universal Basic Income and insourcing.  We’ll take our inspiration from the people in the room – so if you’d like to get involved, please fill this short form to express your interest and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

We know that some people may be excluded from attending these sessions for financial reasons. If that applies to you, we can offer, to a limited number of participants, a gift card or payment of £20 per hour of your time as thanks for your participation.

What is fair transition?

The idea of a fair transition in the context of climate is open to a range of interpretations, because the concept of fairness itself is contested. Within mySociety our Climate Programme, Climate Action Group and Anti-Racism Group provide opportunities to discuss and develop our own understanding, and we’d love to hear your thoughts on this too.

Environmental justice is a related concept that I’ve found useful. This is the idea that environmental degradation and damage tends to disproportionately harm those who are least responsible for causing it. This pronounced pattern can be observed over time and spatially, across a range of issues. For example, polluting infrastructure is often located in communities that are already highly exposed to structural oppressions like racism. Busy roads often cut through communities where car ownership is low. Places created by these injustices are sometimes described as sacrifice zones, and are discernible from local to global scales.

A question we’re grappling with is whether to focus on addressing environmental justice within the UK, or internationally. When I campaigned for clean air in Bristol, I was swayed by an excerpt from the Universal Manifesto of the Emmaus movement that appeared on the wall of their charity shop: “Serve first those who suffer most.” On that basis there’s a compelling case to focus on supporting those constrained in their ability to adapt to climate change, in parts of the world already experiencing the most devastating impacts.

But for a UK-based organisation there are also risks of perpetuating patterns of colonialism. While not wanting to think too rigidly or shy away from working on a decolonised approach, the #DIYAfrica theme of 2021’s Civic Tech Innovation Forum reminds us of the importance of initiatives that are rooted in place: “We are interested in African DIY democracy – how we are co-creating meaning, identity and solutions in and for Africa.”

Another way of accelerating a global fair transition could be to focus on decarbonising the UK as quickly as possible. The UK has a huge historical responsibility for creating climate change and is very capable of action, so as a minimum contribution towards the UK’s global fair share we should reduce greenhouse gas emissions faster than most other nation states.

Our approach so far is in line with this, relying on a theory of change that identifies local government opportunities. And while our services so far have been designed for the UK context, we know that local governments elsewhere in the world are often at the forefront of climate action and hope that by sharing our work openly it will be picked up and reused.

We can also apply a fair transition lens within the UK. This allows us to incorporate the extreme inequalities in UK society when considering pathways towards our global fair share. In 2019 IPPR’s Environmental Justice Commission launched its final report – Fairness and opportunity: A people-powered plan for the green transition. More recently Autonomy’s Toll Gates and Money Pumps report suggests a policy that could spur climate action while redistributing wealth. And their Data Unit is brewing up a multidimensional job database to enable practical planning and implementation of a fair transition. 

On top of this, the intergenerational and racist dimensions of climate change are of real relevance. Friends of the Earth published an emergency plan on green jobs for young people in 2021, responding to the impact of economic scarring on “Generation Covid”. The report also references work by The Resolution Foundation highlighting that structural oppressions often compound injustices: “Evidence from autumn 2020 showed that young and black, Asian and minority ethnic workers (BAME) workers were far more likely to be made unemployed after furlough ends.” These prototyping weeks offer opportunities to put mySociety’s Equity, diversity and inclusion policy into practice, in particular through a “commitment to our projects and services supporting the pursuit of equity for minoritised groups, and being accessible and inclusive – designed with, and used by, diverse communities.”

We’re trying to figure all of this out as we go and we’re lucky to have the luxury of these prototyping weeks to invite and support people from outside of mySociety to be involved. Please do express your interest if you’d like to help shape our work – we’d love to meet you!

Photo: iStock/sturti