“I think there is hunger for change but we need to work hard and listen more to make things more diverse and open”, Emmelie Brownlee.
What is your job about?
The Schumacher Institute was founded primarily as a research organizations, the idea was for it to provide practical research around EF Schumacher’s ideas of social justice, environmental justice, small scale solutions, simplicity and people centred development. The founders started it by developing research activity. Since we were founded we found that research wasn’t the only thing we wanted to do so we wanted to put it into action. We created learning courses, primarily looking at systems thinking for sustainability, and developed a consultancy arm promoting systems thinking and sustainability for strategic planning. The Schumacher Institute is about systems thinking and we believe that is the more positive way forward to create solutions to the social, and environmental problems that we face.
What issues do you address?
- We are very much focused on environmental and social justice and the inextricable relationship between the two – we don’t think we can tackle one without the other.
- It is also very much about people centred action with an understanding of the environmental systems which we live in.
What moved you to take action?
Ian Roderick who is our director had lunch with the Chair of the Schumacher Society. Ian said if there is anything I can do… and Richard St George (Chair o of the Society) took that to mean Ian wanted to help found an Institute. I think at that point the Schumacher Society wanted to start looking at practical application of its work and the ideas of E.F. Schumacher. The Schumacher Institute is set up very differently from the Schumacher Society. The Society was a charity and they were just in charge of lectures, they had a membership. The Institute was founded initially as a company limited by guarantee and we became a registered charity in 2011. Our remit was very separate from theirs. We do research and look at how that can be put into action with year long activities, including events and learning courses.
What were the obstacles that you had to overcome?
- The main one which we touched on is working in a field with limited funding and limited public support to a certain extent.
- You have to rethink how your career will work, and it can feel very unstable working I this sector. You never know how long funding will last, or if you will find new funding.
- One thing which made me wary is sometimes you find that things aren’t diverse as they should be – you see the same faces at events etc. I think there is a hunger for change but we need to work hard and listen more to make things more diverse and open.
What helped you keep going in hard times?
It’s a sector full of incredibly, passionate, motivated and inspiring people who are dedicated to making the world a better place in all kinds of different ways. Whether that is seeing and working, the diversity of attitudes or approaches is very inspiring.
What first prompted you to become interested in environmental issues and when was that?
- When I was about 17 I watched a Horizon programme on Global Dimming. After 9/11 when all the planes were grounded they found that the temperature went up by 1 degree because the pollution wasn’t reflecting the sunlight back out. I was aware of global warming, but it all seemed very distant. I dint think I really realised the reality until I saw this programme. The reality was very scary.
- Then I got involved in the zero waste initiative in Chew Magna. I wrote newsletters and things.
- When I contacted Ian at The Schumacher Institute I really started putting it into practice.
On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being very happy) where would you rate how you feel about your life?
8 – I’m fairly hopeful about the future.