15 minutes with…Christian Hudson
With the first CircularFutures programme now finished, we wanted to find out what our participants thought of the circular economy leadership programme and how the experience has impacted on the personal and professional lives of those who took part. In this series, we spend 15 minutes with some of our circular economy changemakers. First up, Christian Hudson…
Christian Hudson works for the EU, helping them to drive forward progress on the circular economy, sustainability and resource efficiency through G7 and G20 co-operation. His work is significantly focused on exchanging information to help create change.
Describe the challenges you are facing in your job today
“My role is about accelerating positive changes to avoid environmental catastrophe. To make that change fast enough, we need to get a lot of people on board, faster than we are doing at the moment. Often, people work in silos. We naturally tend to associate with people who are thinking the same way as we do, because they’ve got the same goals or they work in the same institutions. Finding a way that to bring a diverse group of people together, so that they can see how their different projects can reinforce each other is the only way that we can accelerate change and get it going in the right direction.”
How did your CircularFutures experience change you?
“Before CircularFutures, I appreciated the role that effective leadership played in creating real change but I didn’t appreciate that I could have the set of skills to to go into rooms and demonstrate the leadership needed to get the right people working together. I am quite a modest person, so having the confidence to take any leadership role is not something that comes naturally. The invitation to join CircularFutures was like a godsend, giving me training on exactly the skills I need now, enhancing my ability to network, and the understanding of where and how I could fit into different communities. The mix of participants has really helped me to understand the perspectives of others: entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs – and by understanding that, you can work out how best to bring others together, or support them and help them go forward with their agendas. For me CircularFutures has been about being able to develop my skills in a safe space and then having the confidence and the knowledge that I can do it. You need to get your personality out there and be authentic.”
How has your view of creating systemic change evolved?
“It’s about effective information exchange and the best way to do this is by demonstrating the right form of leadership. The content of the information is clearly important, but getting the content to the right people in the right situation in a way that inspires them and helps them change their behaviour means bringing people together. You need to get the right people in the room so that they can spark off each other and let them exchange the right information so that everybody can learn from it. This involves understanding who people are and helping them exchange information and to feel inspired and supported. This is partly about communication, but so much of that is only effective when people have this notion of inspiration or community. We are awash with information, and it takes more than just sending round content to get people on board.”
You talk a lot about the need for new leadership – how does the concept of ‘weaving’ fit into this?
“I appreciated the need for that kind of new leadership before I joined the course. The way people conduct policy discussions, particularly in organisations that I’ve been part of, don’t build the bridges between different groups in a way that allows things to move forward. What I discovered from 7 years working outside the European Commission – in think tanks, research institutes, consulting with the UN – was that there was a real need for weaving. I’d been trying to develop the skills that would allow me to become a weaver, but being able to come to a place where there is some explicit training around this, led by people with an extremely clear concept of how that skillset plays out in different areas of entrepreneurship or social entrepreneurship has been really valuable.”
What barriers do you see in promoting the idea of weaver as leader?
“There just aren’t enough people with these skills and there aren’t enough roles for people with these skills. A lot of jobs out there are focused on getting concrete stuff done, even if that doesn’t actually achieve great results in terms of bringing about change. The metrics of success just don’t reflect real impact. A lot of roles focus on internal results – the organisation just doesn’t see beyond its own goals and the cooperation factors are not necessarily there. That’s true of both the public and private sector. So, many of the problems which currently need solving are systemic: a lot of different things need to happen at the same time and people need to be brought together to cooperate in new ways. That’s what it is to be a weaver. For these most difficult problems, the ones that aren’t getting solved, there isn’t necessarily this kind of leadership – it’s just not well recognised or valued.“
What has helped you to become a weaver?
“The course and the network of people that I developed allowed me to make a leap forward in my sense of self. I now feel I can deploy my abilities much more effectively. I felt held back a little by how much energy I was putting into things. Now I feel like I have the knowledge and confidence to do everything that is necessary and to overcome more resistance, because of course when you’re trying to bring about change there are a whole load of people who want to carry on doing things the same way. Now I feel I have so much psychic support and I know where I fit into the world because I’ve met a bunch of people who are doing similar things and supporting each other. I trust myself to be able to deliver on the things which previously I would have had a fear of doing. There is an internal aspect to the idea of a weaver – it’s not just how you appear to the outside world, but it’s also about how you feel in terms of your role and ability to effect change.”
How are you applying your skills as a weaver?
“The change has not only been professional, but personal. It’s been a massive liberation. Having a community of people who are doing the same thing and appreciate what you’re trying to do because they’re doing it too is really powerful. In terms of concrete examples I’m now using skills I developed with CircularFutures to help bring together a coalition of state and international corporation actors at G7 level so we can make change to corporate metrics and reporting. As a weaver, I feel I have a much greater chance of success.”
INTERVIEW BY JIM PLAYFOOT