We all want to build a better future as we recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Inspired by Infrastructure NZ’s Vision Week, my vision for that future is that Aotearoa New Zealand is a Learning Society.

Find out the What, Why, Who, How, Where and When of learning our way to a more sustainable and equitable world:

  • WHAT is a Learning Society?
  • WHY a Learning Society?
  • HOW do we build a Learning Society?
  • WHO does the building of a Learning Society?
  • WHERE can you see examples of strategic training?
  • WHEN shall we start creating our Learning Society?

Read on below – or go straight to the 1-minute and 30-minute videos.

It’s all about Learning for Life on Earth.

The stakes for humanity have never been higher. Are you ready to give it a go?

See the 60-second promo of my Learning Society Vision here.

Bureaus, event managers and conference planners, download the speaker sheet for my new keynote presentation on “How professional environmental associations can save the world!”

It was one of Infrastructure New Zealand’s VisionWeekNZ thought-starters.

Watch my 30-minute presentation here.

Want to learn how YOU can build this critical transition to sustainability?

Call me on +64 21 631 843 or email me for a no-obligation chat.

And here’s a navigation path for the 30-minute video:

  1. Introducing me and my vision of Aotearoa New Zealand as a Learning Society: 0 minutes 0 seconds
  2. The Fortune 500 story – bad at environment = bad at everything: 2 minutes 20 seconds
  3. Environmental training helps build a Learning Society: 3 minutes 38 seconds
  4. Stiglitz and Figueres on the massive payback from green stimuli: 5 minutes 06 seconds
  5. A “just transition” that turns every job into a green job: 6 minutes 55 seconds
  6. Mapping a capability strategy for every sector – a worked example: 9 minutes 01 seconds
  7. Measuring the extraordinary value of environmental training and its outcomes: 13 minutes 59 seconds
  8. Impacts of poor environmental training on productivity: 14 minutes 50 seconds
  9. Peter Senge and Michael Porter on the Learning Organization: 19 minutes 06 seconds
  10. The Trajectory of the Learning Organization: 24 minutes 20 seconds
  11. Aligning and measuring outcomes of environmental training: 26 minutes 06 seconds
  12. How Aotearoa can crack the Raworth Conundrum – my challenge to Visioneers: 28 minutes 29 seconds

Want to become convinced of the need for environmental training as a pathway to becoming a learning society that delivers a wellbeing economy and a better world? Read on…

WHAT is a Learning Society?

My definition? “A learning society is a society that supports the joyful journey of life-long and life-wide learning of every individual and organization. A true learning society can learn itself into achieving anything it wants.”

The concept originated in the early 1960s and is now an educational philosophy advocated by the OECD and UNESCO, and, as I realised after I thought I’d thought of it – luminaries like Joseph Stiglitz.

WHY a ‘Learning Society’?

Two powerful factors influence my choice of learning as a pathway to building the better post-pandemic world that most of humanity wants:

  • because the pandemic has shaken us into a realization that government recovery stimuli must deliver environmental and human as well as economic wellbeing, or we will simply accelerate recovery of the environmental and social harms of the past; and
  • because we know that growing green skills delivers benefits across all three wellbeings – and green skills require great environmental training.

And we know these things from our own experiences of our more nature- and people-friendly environments during lockdown, as well as from leading commentators:

  • Christiana Figueres, UN Lead Negotiator For The Paris Agreement, says (1) that ‘the world will lock in rising emission levels if changes aren’t made now. The $10-20 trillion being spent on economic recovery packages around the world will not be repeated. We thought this was the decisive decade for climate change. No. Forget it. This is it. Those 10 years we thought we had have been shrunk into basically anywhere between 3-18 months – because by the end of those 18 months all the decisions and most of the recovery allocations will have been made’;
  • ethical investors, 70+ stock exchanges and influencers like Larry Fink of Blackrock (2) know such firms deliver higher social, environmental and financial returns; and
  • Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says (3) that based on his analysis of 50 countries’ recovery from the Global Financial Crisis of the 1980s, green stimulus outperforms all other tools for economic recovery.

So why a Learning Society? Because Joseph Stiglitz found that industry training is the vehicle for creating a learning society, and this delivers measurable economic benefits.

Here’s what he says in his 2014 book Creating a Learning Society, Columbia University Press:

  • ‘Creating a learning society should be one of the major objectives of economic policy.’ (p6); and
  • ‘The transformation to “learning societies” … appears to have had a greater impact on human well-being than improvements in allocative efficiency or resource accumulation.’ (p18).

So we have a Nobel Prize-winning economist giving us our license to drive and a road map to steer our way towards becoming a Learning Society! And if we want to build back better, we need great environmental training right now.

HOW do we build a Learning Society?

By transforming every job into a green job – to reset our extractive and consumptive economy into a wellbeing economy that regenerates people and places.

That means setting up environmental training in every single sector of the economy so that people can change their job – every job – into a green job, and fast.

Around the world we’re seeing massive government investment in jobs and training schemes, including for environmental jobs (4). So how well does such green investment work?

After the Global Financial Crisis, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and renowned climate economist Lord Nickolas Stern analysed the success of the recovery efforts of 50 nations using the following criteria (3):

  • the speed of the recovery the investment triggered
  • the return on investments – dollar return per dollar invested
  • how long the stimulus effect lasted for in the economy
  • how much it contributed to reducing carbon emissions.

Their findings showed that “massive investment in green technologies are the best way to both revive virus-hit economies and shift the dial on climate change”. Despite fears that green investment would make for a slower economic recovery and a more difficult path to recovery, green investments outperformed the others in every respect.

And the benefits are enormous: in my 30+ years of environmental management and training, I’ve seen first-hand the extraordinary business benefits of good environmental training – how it can change people’s lives and turn companies around.

This single step – rolling out much-needed environmental training – has the power to transform us into a learning society – a society that can learn itself into true sustainability, after which anything will be possible!

WHO does the building of a Learning Society?

Every sector of every economy has its trade and professional associations. By working smart with formal education and training institutions and learning & development professionals, these associations offer the fastest and most cost-effective route to environmental best practice amongst their members.

We can mobilize the untapped power of sector associations to maximize the returns on investment from the money governments are pouring into economies all around the world.

And how can sector associations do this? By using my unique strategic approach to mapping sector-specific environmental capability needs, gaps and opportunities and ensuring the best mix of education and training in universities, technical training institutions and workplaces.

WHERE can you see examples of strategic training?

To see a quick worked example, go to about 9 minutes and 40 seconds into my 30-minute video, where I demonstrate an example of a training strategy that shows the seamless interweaving of professional, vocational, indigenous and community learning.

To see a full example, check out the documents about stormwater education, training and sector development that re now open for public consultation on the Water New Zealand website.

And go here for a potted summary of why this strategic approach to environmental training is the solution to a problem you never knew you had!

WHEN shall we start creating our Learning Society?

Now. We have no time to lose.

We need to use government recovery funds as green stimuli while the money is still available and to make fast and equitable turnaround on the significant threats posed by climate change and ecosystem degradation.

The faster we can conduct a strategic environmental training analysis across every sector, the faster we’ll be able to learn our way into transforming our extractive and consumptive economy into a wellbeing economy that regenerates people and places.

Want to learn how YOUR organization can help build this critical transition to sustainability?

Call me on +64 21 631 843 or email me for a no-obligation chat.

References cited (all links re-accessed on 1 July 2020)

  1. Christiana Figueres, head of the UN climate change response that led to the Paris Agreement in 2015, was interviewed in June 2020 by Radio New Zealand investigative Guyon Espiner, along with Simon Upton, New Zealand’s Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment and Achim Steiner, current head of the United Nations Development Programme. The podcast is called ‘After the virus: the environment’. Listen at https://www.rnz.co.nz/programmes/post-covid-podcast/story/2018748032/after-the-virus-the-environment
  2. See for example https://www.blackrock.com/corporate
  3. Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize-winning economist, was interviewed in May 2020 by Radio New Zealand’s Kathryn Ryan. Listen at https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/audio/2018748008/nobel-prize-winner-joseph-stiglitz-lessons-from-the-gfc
  4. See for example https://www.doc.govt.nz/news/media-releases/2020-media-releases/investment-to-create-11000-environment-jobs-in-our-regions/.

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