Step 1: Institutional policy

We work together
Remember that an institution is its team. If you are not part of management, do not wait for regulations coming from ‘above’, start collecting observations and information. If you are in charge of an institution, do not provide your team with a climate emergency announcement accompanied by a list of guidelines. Let’s work together, support institutional eco-agents, green teams and their initiatives. If such a team does not exist in your institution, create one (see: GREEN TEAMS). Together with members of the green team, collate activities from all departments that aim at responding to climate challenges in different ways. Collect the needs that individual employees indicate as important to be included in the work of the institution. Organise an all-staff meeting to present the conclusions. Showcase activities already undertaken by individuals or entire departments. Present examples of good practices from other institutions and organisations. Talk about motivations.

Good start
Give yourself and your team a good start. Gather existing practices, smaller and larger, to appreciate initiatives taken, irrespective of how advanced, complex, cross-sectional or systemic they may or may not be. It is better to avoid shaming or accusing people of doing too little or of not doing things well enough. Take a diligent look at what is already being done and on that basis set the directions for development.

Common lessons

It is important that the need for action is understood by all employees. Taking care of equal access to knowledge by allocating working time for joint education, discussions, reaching conclusions, and then equal participation in initiating actions and changes, regardless of the positions held or differentiation into departments, will strengthen the team and contribute to building collective knowledge. Sharing various sensitivities, dilemmas or limitations will enrich the institution’s operating strategies. Organise a series of lectures and workshops, invite experts, specialists and artists who will feed your collective knowledge.

Nature trips
Almost all studies, sociological and psychological interpretations show that regular, direct contact with nature deepens the awareness of ecological changes, makes people more sensitive to the world of nature, and also brings psychological and emotional relaxation. Regular work trips to the surrounding wild corners of nature may turn out to be a good practice. Invite naturalists, people with a passion for hiking and artists to conduct work trips for you, sharing their knowledge and interests. Perhaps someone from the team is fascinated by some area or some species of flora or fauna? Include the practice of regular, e.g. monthly trips into the institutional calendar. This way, you will also take care of the emotional wellbeing of employees. Together you will learn systemic moderation at work and get to know each other in non-professional situations.

Common activities
According to science, direct contact with the soil improves the mood. When organising friendly, neighbourly spaces (see: GOOD NEIGHBOURLINESS), do it as a team, without distinguishing between core, administrative or technical departments. Make sure to reserve time for joint activities. Designate days in your calendar when you spend time outdoors, working together. In every institution there are staff members who are experts on such topics and who can guide the rest of the team in its activities. You can set up a rain garden in front of your building. It is a simple and easy-to-implement project which does not require a large area. During the work, you will become familiarised with the real issues involved in saving the climate. It will also be a message for your audience that you do not just pay lip service to the idea of being environmentally conscious – you talk about climate change in your programme and you take action yourself.

Climate Emergency
Familiarise yourself with reports on climate alarms. The reports of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are the most comprehensively developed and widely recognised by many scientific, academic and activist circles. In the reports you will find extensive evidence that urgent action is necessary at all levels of government and all organised human activity. Cultural institutions must take a stand and prevent the disregard of the deepening ecological and climate crises. Join other institutions, declare a Climate Emergency, as did, for example, Czech arts and culture institutions and organisations. (see: PARTNERSHIPS AND ECO-COALITIONS)

Weronika Zalewska, untitled (Reaction ~~~), mixed media, 2021

Revision of institution’s mission
Open a team discussion on the need to revise the institution’s mission. While agreeing with the diagnosis of the Climate Emergency, assess critically the mission and goals which your institution sets for itself in its strategic documents. Look at the values it lists and consider whether they need to be verified. Also, take a look at how programme activities symbolically locate your institution. Does your institution measure its importance in a vertical perspective, prioritising activities aimed at prestige and success determined by the principles of competition, referring to a globally established hierarchy, i.e. measuring itself against other institutions with a similar profile? Or is the importance and uniqueness of the institution seen horizontally, creating an environment of mutual interests and providing specific tools to improve the quality of life? Think as a team what the current and specific historical moment suggests, where to look for anchors for the institution’s mission. As a group of people who prepared this guide, we say straightforwardly: we must look for anchors and values in the world closest to us, in the policy of moderation, in cooperation, in the policy of commons, in intersectional justice applying to various categories (environmental, economic, social, etc.) as well as in kindness and community.
A very inspiring example of a careful, all staff-inclusive, systemic evolution of an organisation from an ‘ordinary’ art institution to a commons institution is the CASCO Art Institute in Utrecht. It might seem that this transformation is about something else. But as we point out in many places, greening in terms defined by us refers to the complexity of crises and problems that led to the Climate Emergency. In our guide, we look for hints for eco-transformation in various methods, including feminist economics, policy of moderation (in the sense of ‘degrowth’) or commons. The process of evolution that the CASCO Art Institute has undergone is an example rich in inspiring tools and methods of work and cooperation. Interview with CASCO director Binna Choi.