COP21 Behind Us, Infinite Solutions Ahead

Whether you are optimistic or pessimistic about the potential of the Paris Agreement to usher in a new era of tackling climate change, the pragmatists among us are asking “What’s next?”.

The commitments made by over 190 states don’t yet add up to the 1.5C target proclaimed in Paris, and many commentators lament the lack of an enforceable implementation mechanism to help government achieve this target. There is also reinvigorated interest and hope for the role of the private sector, but realistically, given the short-termism brought on by corporate charters and structures, can we really expect companies to pivot effectively and lead the charge? The case of Exxon is a poignant illustration of the cognitive dissonance that’s pervasive in the fossil fuel industry--their own scientists predicted the climate weirding we are living in now, and yet have been continuing for over 30 years to drill for oil and spend large sums to discredit climate science and stall action. So where does that leave us?

There is an entire third sector that exists because governments and corporations frequently don’t live up to their promise, and that is the global social change industry -- the global collection of non-governmental organizations, social enterprises, and individuals working on the front lines of change. The blogs and opinion pages are full with heads of organizations across the spectrum of conservation and development efforts reflecting on the meaning of the Paris Agreement for their work. By way of small sample, there are 10 things the The Nature Conservancy wants you to know about the Paris Agreement, while the Skoll Foundation asked social entrepreneurs how they plan to respond, and Oxfam reflects on the shortcomings of the accord in meeting the needs of the world’s poorest people.

So is there a way to assist the most willing actors in government, corporations, and across the social change industry as they respond to the challenge put before us in Paris? Can we accelerate the pace of finding, adapting, and implementing solutions?

At Sphaera we believe this is where technology has a role to play, that we can put the practical knowledge of what works at the fingertips of people working on the front lines of change, everywhere. Harnessing the same peer economy principles that have, dare I say it, disrupted other industries, we believe the social change industry is uniquely positioned to become more effective in 2016, and beyond. Unlike governments and their fealty to election cycles and geopolitics, and unlike the structural short-termism of much of the private sector, the social change industry faces much simpler impediments to its own success--nothing that a little collaboration couldn’t solve. This beneficial disruption starts with making the abundance of solutions (for climate change, for conservation, for human development) discoverable, reusable, and adaptable--for and by all, everywhere.

For example, a solutions portal that the State of Louisiana is putting together to curate and catalyze solutions that increase that state’s resilience is getting interest from practitioners in the UK and Romania.

These are just baby steps for us here at Sphaera, but if there is one place where exponential growth is possible, it’s in the capacity of humans to design and use technology for the benefit of people and place.

~ Astrid J. Scholz, Chief Everything Officer | Sphaera