Engaging for change – refreshing our strategy for the next two years

IIED's new strategy update will sharpen our focus on how we tackle the challenges of climate action, global social justice and sustainable development over the next two years. 

Andrew Norton's picture
Blog by
9 August 2017

Andrew Norton is director of IIED

IIED aims to contribute to the achievement of change which benefits poor people and the environment. The institute's strategy for the next two years has been published (Photo: Mike Goldwater/IIED)

IIED aims to contribute to the achievement of change which benefits poor people and the environment. The institute's strategy for the next two years has been published (Photo: Mike Goldwater/IIED)

IIED was formed in 1972. Our founder, Barbara Ward, in her seminal book 'Spaceship Earth', observed of those times, "all the irresistible forces of technological and scientific change are creating a single, vulnerable human community." She also highlighted the challenges involved in trying to "devise functioning worldwide institutions to civilise the vast energies of change" – and the threat of disaster if this was not achieved.

Both the challenges and the threats are still with us.

Over the last two years we have seen great progress towards a truly global understanding of sustainable development, and its adoption through Agenda 2030 and the Paris Agreement on climate change.  

These texts are, to a remarkable degree, in line with Barbara Ward's vision. But we still fall short of the 'functioning worldwide institutions' we need to underpin achievement of the twin visions of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement.

There is progress, and the direction of change is irreversible, but the pace of change is not adequate to realise either the ambition of the SDGs, or the stabilisation of the planet's climate within safe boundaries. And for all the progress we have seen in civil society, business, local government and many parts of the international system, there have also been setbacks – notably the United States' withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.

Powerful voice

IIED has always been a powerful voice for social and environmental justice, and we have a particular focus on linking local priorities to global challenges.

We do not believe that the global multilateral system can work as it should if it is not strongly connected to local realities. We believe this contribution is now more important than ever.  

To align our strategy to the great global challenges of climate action, global social justice and sustainable development, we have refreshed the focus for the coming two years in a strategy update.

Research focus

We have retained the four long-term strategic goals that orient the work of our research groups:

  • Increased investment in locally controlled land and natural resource use
  • Cities that work for people and planet
  • Fair and equitable solutions to climate change, and
  • Sustainable markets that work for the many, rather than the few.

In addition, we will focus our efforts across IIED on three broad ambitions for change, reflecting the character of the organisation and the special contribution we seek to make:

  1. Making the Paris Agreement and the SDGs work
  2. Building resilient and thriving local communities through partnership, and
  3. Bringing local realities and innovation to national and global policy.

The strategy update also outlines what we learned from the valuable process of our external review and the ways we will be seeking to strengthen our systems for institutional learning and our intervention model over the next two years.

IIED’s mission is to build a fairer, more sustainable world using evidence, action and influence in partnership with others (Photo: Mike Goldwater/IIED)

The challenges are considerable. The world is not remotely on track to achieve the safe boundaries outlined for climate change in the Paris Agreement. Finance is not flowing adequately to the poorest people or the poorest countries to enable them to build their resilience to the damage climate change is already causing to their communities and livelihoods.  

The rights of poor communities to the natural resources on which they depend continue to be eroded. Unsustainable economic models are exhausting natural capital and depleting the planet’s precious biodiversity. And our world is urbanising without the necessary systems to ensure safe, just and healthy environments for all as our cities grow.

IIED's resolve to tackle these global challenges is greater than ever. We see these uncertain times as a trigger to find new ways of working and different ways of doing. And as we develop and strengthen our partnerships, we will draw on their energy, expertise and experience to find solutions and drive change together.  

IIED's strategy update is our map for the next two years – as we seek to strengthen action to meet these challenges, working to our strengths and with our partners.

Andrew Norton (andrew.norton@iied.org) is director of IIED.

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