The Last WaveFront: Alan AtKisson takes on a new role at Sida

May 17, 2018

On May 14, Alan AtKisson sent out the last issue of the newsletter he and his AtKisson Group colleagues have been producing for the last 15 years. Here’s the story of his change in position, and the launch of the new name for this 26-year-old network.

The short version: I have a new job. I am stepping down from my role as a consultant and President of AtKisson Group, which will continue as an independent network with a new name. WaveFront newsletter is ending, after 15 years. So if you want to keep hearing from the Sustainability Accelerator Network — the new name for AtKisson Group members around the world, who use the Sustainability Accelerator and promote a systems-based approach — please click here.If you want to receive an occasional personal newsletter from me — news about my writing and music, and reflections about my continuing work in sustainable development — click here.

Note: if you do not sign up actively for either of these newsletters, this is the last email you will get!

Now here’s my letter about “The Last WaveFront”, and some links to people and information you might find useful. Note that I am no longer available as a consultant or workshop leader; but I have many wonderful colleagues who can help you.

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Fifteen years ago, I sent a letter announcing a new, free newsletter, called WaveFront, that was “designed specifically for people dedicated to making change for sustainability.”

It may be hard to recall just how different things were in the global sustainability movement, back in 2003. There were many fewer people working in sustainability jobs. Policy and practice were still rigidly divided into “environment” and “development” and other categories. WaveFront was originally intended to fill a gap, helping “change agents” — a phrase not then in common usage — filter the sustainability-related news to get a more holistic picture, and to find evidence and case studies that would help them drive positive change.

It is a very different world today. The challenge of sustainability transformation is now a widely shared, global vision — complete with 17 universally adopted goals and 169 specific targets, the “SDGs”. Putting the brakes on greenhouse emissions, ramping up renewables, ending poverty, achieving gender equality, halting biodiversity loss and many other aims of the sustainability movement have been endorsed by governments, companies, cities and educational institutions around the world.

Many people — including many of you — worked very hard over the years to create that wave of change. Since WaveFront started, being a “sustainability change agent” has gone from being a little-understood, poorly-supported, push-at-the-margins activity (see the opening page of my book The Sustainability Transformation for a “job description”) to being a mainstreamed role in corporate and government management teams. Many thousands of people are trained in these skills every year, earning professional certificates, Masters degrees and PhDs.

The challenge of transformation is still very real. If anything, it is even more urgent. But a decade ago, I was still writing (and dreaming) about the need for a global “army of change agents” to tackle our problems. Today, that army exists: there are millions of people who think of themselves as working for sustainability, in some way, formally or informally, at all ages, and in many different fields and professions.

And the shape of our challenge has changed: we’re no longer at the stage of introducing this innovative practice called “sustainable development”. We’re in the process of implementing it, at scale, globally. And we need to scale up fast.

Which is why I am excited, and honored, to be moving into a new position, working at Sida – The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. Sweden commits about 1% of its GDP every year to aid and investment for sustainable development and poverty eradication. Sida is a principal channel for that work: it supports the realization of the whole sustainable development agenda, focused on countries that are in most need of that support. I’ll be joining Sida’s leadership team as Director for the Department of Partnership and Innovation, working with civil society organizations, research institutions, professional training programs, and collaboration platforms with Swedish companies, investors, and other agencies.

Of course, it’s a big change, for me and for the small, global network I founded 25 years ago. My own company will become inactive. But the AtKisson Group — the pioneering social enterprise / international network that links firms, organizations, and university centers, who all use the Accelerator tools — will continue as the Sustainability Accelerator Network (SusAccel.net), managed by my long-time colleague Robert Steele and his associate Watkana “Nong” Thongrueng, at Systainability Asia, based in Thailand. Please contact them for sustainability and systems-thinking advice, or for help in contacting others in the global network.

The Accelerator tools themselves — the Sustainability Compass, the Pyramid workshop, the Amoeba model of change, which are all described in my books — will continue to be available (of course!) in both the free “AcceleratorLite” version and the professional version. One important note: money from the sales of these tools goes to the non-profit organization Compass Education (not to me), and especially to their youth development programs, to help create the next generation of “sustainability change agents”.

Axel Klimek, my co-author on Parachuting Cats into Borneo, will continue the work we did together via the Center for Sustainability Transformation. Please turn to Axel and his colleagues for Master Classes in sustainability and change, and for general organizational change and professional development support, including the development of coaching skills for individuals and groups. (Axel is a master at all that.) If you want to get on the Center’s new, GDPR-compliant mailing list, click here.

My books and music will also continue to be available, and I will continue writing and posting on social media. In fact, I am working on a new book now, which I plan to write partly in public, via a new blog. I am also happy that my little book Sustainability is for Everyone continues to find new audiences: Swedish, Indonesian, and French translations will soon be available, for free download. Please let me if you want to be actively informed about my writing and music life, by clicking here. (Or just follow me on Twitter.)

It has been a remarkable 25 years since I founded AtKisson Group, in Seattle, in late 1992 (the Stockholm office opened in 2001). I have received amazing help along the way, from far too many people to list. Together we reached people in over 50 countries, with tools, training, research, consulting support, transition leadership, keynote speeches and more. I feel very confident that the impact will continue to spread and multiply, via my wonderful colleagues, clients, students and friends. And I am deeply grateful for that feeling.

Thank you for reading all these years, for following this journey. Goodbye from WaveFront! And let us know, by clicking the links, if you want to stay in touch via the other channels I described.

Click to stay in touch with the Sustainability Accelerator Network

Click to sign up for Alan’s personal email newsletter

Sustainably yours,

Alan AtKisson