Tuesday at kyu House

Notes on coalitions, activism and collaboration.

All photos: Hiiiya for kyu House

Tuesday Dec. 5 at kyu House saw panelists from several continents sharing their notes on coalitions, activism and collaboration, among other topics. A special kyu House Lates featured noted oceanographer and explorer Sylvia Earle in conversation with Will Travis of Elevation Barn.

Session Recap

What We Heard

From Intention to Impact: Building Coalitions that Work

“Building trust is key when creating coalitions,” said panelist Taylor Goelz, Program Manager for the Aspen Institute Energy and Environment Program. 

By way of example, she cited the extended pushback she experienced attempting to work with the Maritime Shipping industry. It took time, but the Institute eventually helped form the Zero Emission Maritime Buyers Alliance (ZEMBA) earlier this year alongside fellow founding members Amazon, Patagonia, and Tchibo. ZEMBA will reportedly enable freight buyers to deploy zero-emission shipping faster and help minimize maritime emissions. 

The assembled panelists, representing several continents, agreed with Goelz on trust, but added that there are also other ingredients needed to create a strong coalition. 

MiZa Investments General Manager Mark Lawler shared that his past experiences showed him that successful coalitions need a clear vision and an understanding that results likely won’t happen right away. 

“You have to take a long view. It really has to be a commitment to that coalition all the time,” said Lawler. “Even though we had different interests as people, we had a shared ambition and were able to get results.”

Juliana Uribe, Founder and CEO of the citizen engagement laboratory Movilizatorio, recognized that her fellow Colombian and Latin American citizens needed to be innovative when striving for democracy in a country affected by war for decades. Her efforts resulted in a 2018 International Peacebuilding Award but she learned that it takes both time and plenty of persistence. 

“For years, we were not allowed to enter COP,” she revealed. “Today, one of the members of this alliance is the Minister of Indigenous People of Brazil. That’s the power of collective action. That’s the power of organizing.”

Coalitions also need a careful sense of balance and awareness: Even though a group may be in it together, the chips won’t fall the right way every time. More still, there also comes a time to recognize when they’ve outlived their usefulness. 

“The best advice I’ve heard is that the moment you start thinking about a coalition, plan your death,” says SYPartners’ Nicolas Maitret. “Draw a line with birth on one side and death on another and ask each member where they would put an X on the timeline. The results make for a very interesting and strategic conversation.”

Highlights From Tuesday

Leveraging AI for Smarter Urban Design 

Dr. Victor Santiago Pineda stopped walking as a child due to a weakening of his skeletal muscles. By his late 20s, Pineda required a ventilator 24 hours a day. Undaunted, the 45-year-old published a book, became a global speaker and even created his own foundation. His book, Building the Inclusive City, explored global ideas based around disability rights. Utilizing several concepts from the book, Pineda also spent years working with the Saudi government on the Dubai Disability Strategy, which “inspires an entire change in the way that a city allocates resources and policies,” he explained. “It ultimately engages people to build the life that they value.”


Neighborhoods in Bloom

Luisa-Marie Neubauer isn’t happy about how the world is addressing climate change. The 27-year-old decided to do something about it in her native Germany by creating a “school strike for climate” movement, now known as “Fridays for Future.” 

Neubauer described the three best ways to be an activist:

  1. Take action! – “In Germany, we mobilized 1.5 million people to sue the country. We created the space for people to align their actions with their intentions.”
  2. Be positive – “We always act as though the justice space is a better party, always. We want people to know there is a good side to this.”
  3. Work together – “You need teamwork. When I want to speak to the car industry, I take Sebastian Vettel, the Formula One driver. There are some people who can speak better than I can and we depend on each other in the best possible way.”

Deep Collaboration for Social Innovation

Collaboration is part of everything — because water is part of everything, says Henk Ovink, Special Envoy for International Water Affairs, The Netherlands. Ovink has had plenty of experience in difficult situations: New York after Hurricane Sandy, and seven-and-a-half years shuttling between Gaza and Israel while negotiating water treatment rights and security. “We went through two wars and they came back to the table every time,” he shared. “Creating these safe spaces is where everything is left at the door.”