Tête-à-tête with Amelia Brinkerhoff, Vision 2020 Coordinator

The Sandbox
Amelia Brinkerhoff, Vision 2020 Coordinator

Amelia Brinkerhoff, Vision 2020 Coordinator

This summer has been a busy one for Amelia Brinkerhoff. Over the past few months, she has been meeting with stakeholders, organizing events, and planning for a year of action for McGill’s Sustainability Strategy: Vision 2020. Amelia is the Vision 2020 Coordinator at the Office of Sustainability. As such, she is responsible for organizing and facilitating key actors at McGill—students, staff, and faculty—to determine the next set of priority actions (2017-2020) to actualize the Sustainability Strategy. I sat down with Amelia to learn more about Vision 2020 and the woman behind the process.

What inspired you to become involved in sustainability initiatives at McGill?

I arrived at McGill with a strong sense that I wanted to immerse myself in sustainability. I had done a year-long foreign exchange and started exploring my interest in sustainable and local food systems. I was able to complete my degree in Environmental Science at Mac Campus, which allowed me to simultaneously live in a vibrant city and study in a place so connected to food and nature. I highly recommend taking some classes at Mac – it’s where a lot of deep learning happens with wonderful people. I also got to work on a lot of dynamic projects that addressed different angles of sustainability at McGill. Many involved looking at how we can operate more sustainably in term of food and waste operations and how we can be more connected to each other and to the community around us. Students have the power to do tremendous work at McGill – sometimes you just have to ask the first question. I love seeing the different collaborations that happen when students explore questions and values outside of the classroom.

So, what is Vision 2020?
Vision 2020 is McGill’s Sustainability Strategy. It touches five broad categories at the University: Research, Education, Connectivity, Operations, and Governance & Administration. Vision 2020 is also a coming-together of people in the McGill community, with diverse points of view and areas of expertise, all with the intention of answering the question: what do we want McGill to look like in the year 2020 and beyond? Our goal is to build capacity as a community, to prove that progress is about learning and then acting upon “lessons learned”, and to address climate change and sustainability issues that we see in the world by using the resources we have at McGill.

What will the action planning process look like for Vision 2020 this year?

We’re currently bringing together the category Action Teams. These are multi-stakeholder groups consisting of students, faculty, and staff who will meet three times over the academic year to determine how exactly our community can collaborate, implement, and fund chosen actions to make them a reality. These Action Teams will be challenged to think about different, creative ways that McGill can take action to fulfill our Sustainability Strategy for 2017-2020. I want to nudge people to think about what can be done in the short- and in long-term, as well as what dimensions of sustainability have not yet addressed within this community. Our first session is in late September and we’re starting with big ideas! Throughout the year, we’ll narrow down these ideas to evaluate which are both ambitious and realistic, collaborative and representative of McGill. By the last meeting we’ll start planning how these actions will be implemented and by whom.

What’s different about this next phase of Vision 2020?

Well, McGill feels different in 2016 than it did in 2011—when I first came here as a student. I’ve seen and felt how the sustainability movement has changed in the student body. We’re realizing that sustainability is much more than ecological integrity; it also involves things like equity, community engagement, and climate change literacy, which is really cool because it makes sustainability more accessible and relevant to people all across the university. We feel that the original vision and goals are still very representative of McGill, so we’re not going back and rewriting them, but we’re aiming to commit to actions that will lead to more meaningful systems change. We’re also listening to our wonderful partners, who have expressed a need for more direct, pragmatic action planning. This process will do just that.

What makes you most excited about this process?

I’m really excited to work with a huge diversity of stakeholders, partners, and voices at McGill and to facilitate this process in a way that makes involved parties feel effective. I’m thrilled that we’re talking about climate! I’m excited to see budding collaborations between people who never thought they’d collaborate with each other, and to see how we can approach sustainability issues in new, creative and pragmatic ways.

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