Editor’s Note: This article has been published as part of S&S’s partnership with Brightest Young Minds (BYM), a 17-year-old non-profit company that aims to identify, connect and mobilize Africa’s most innovative young people.
Following the announcement of an official partnership agreement between Brightest Young Minds (BYM) and Harvard University’s Sense & Sustainability (S&S) platform, BYM alumni are being strongly urged to prepare articles for publication on S&S. This presents an excellent opportunity to the more than 1700 BYM alumni who are incredibly diverse in terms of their backgrounds, nationalities, education, expertise, skills and interests. In this article, Ken Fullerton gets some background and inspiration from S&S’s Editor-in-Chief Joseph Chatham on the sorts of topics that BYM alumni can write about.
Articles must be between 500 and 1000 words in length and should align with one or more of S&S’ five focus issues: Business & Economics, Energy & Technology, Health & Human Capital, Environment & Ecosystems and Regulation & Governance. Chatham comments that, “In selecting our focus areas, S&S deliberately sought to redefine sustainability away from the buzzword it has become and towards a more comprehensive, cross-disciplinary perspective prepared to address 21st century challenges.”
Under these focus areas, BYM alumni can decide to write about different aspects of the theme. It could be a particular policy, program or initiative that they are personally involved in, or they are supporting, or a combination of the two. It might be at a local or community level, a state or provincial level, national level or even an international or global level. With limited resources and a multitude of actors and organisations competing for funds and resources, it is important to efficiently address multiple issues. “One thing we’ve always worked to champion here at S&S is moving away from the traditional approach of focusing narrowly on certain aspects of, for instance, climate change or environmental management. Instead, we feel it’s critical to understand such issues holistically, across society, from community stakeholders and local officials to intergovernmental organizations and multinational corporations”, notes Chatham. By learning about the existence of other projects, programs or policies, others are able to potentially build on what has already been done, adapt their own programs to cater for their unique environments and maximise their impacts.
S&S’s mission acknowledges that, “The challenges of sustainable development are many – and urgent. The work of crafting lasting solutions, however, has only just begun.” The establishment of an official partnership between BYM and S&S reflects this statement but now needs to be developed further with multiple BYM alumni preparing articles, sharing their findings and helping others to learn from policies and projects that are both successful and unsuccessful. It is intended to encourage people and organisations to share their views and beliefs, get out of the silos in which they may operate in, and directly and indirectly support others. The need for increased partnerships is also reflected in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 17 which calls for ‘Partnerships for the goals.’ Commenting on partnerships, Chatham says, “For the past few decades we’ve seen immense growth in the number of sustainability–oriented organizations and governmental and corporate practices directed towards the same – but many of these efforts have been siloed, leading to duplicative or even conflicting policies. What this shows us, then, is that it’s not enough to have a sustainability-oriented platform without considering the roles and influences of similar actors, and that is what I believe Goal 17 draws attention to, and why the partnership between S&S and BYM is so important.”
With its focus on sustainability, S&S believes it important for article authors to extract and share important findings, learnings and lessons. If others are able to use another person, organisation and/or government’s experiences and findings to improve their own work, increase their impacts or adapt policies or programs to ensure they are more efficient as a result of learning from others on S&S this is hugely beneficial. Chatham strongly supports this approach and believes, “This really is key – consider, as an example, how much is needlessly lost when an organization devotes substantial time and resources to addressing an issue another organization has already solved. Now, there is always the question of who gets the credit, but I think at some point we have to realize how much more we can accomplish working together.”
Together, BYM and S&S look forward to receiving article contributions from BYM’s diverse alumni network spread across South Africa, the African continent and other parts of the world. By sharing information and learning from one another, both organisations seek to play a small role in helping make the world a more sustainable place. Chatham sums this up by stating, “More and more individuals, corporations and governments around the world are waking up to the benefits of sustainability. During this critical period, it’s up to organizations like BYM and S&S to help build bridges and connect like-minded leaders, and by working side-by-side we can accomplish more than either of us could alone. In pursuing our shared goal, S&S is excited to partner with BYM and looks forward to a rewarding collaboration, both for our respective organizations and, most importantly, for our readers.”