Regaining focus, energy and purpose at Climate Quest 2016

Systemic stories

Melanie Jamieson

18 August 2016

On the morning after COP21, a handful of people woke up with ‘The Paris Hangover’.

For the first time ever, a universal climate change agreement had been reached. Amid celebrations across the city and the world, the individuals who had worked to get the deal signed by 174 countries and the EU felt a heady mix of elation and exhaustion.

An almost-impossible goal had been reached – yet they knew that Paris was only the start of the journey. What would it take for them to renew their energy, passion and resilience for the marathon ahead?

Less than a year on from Paris, Leaders’ Quest partnered with We Mean Business to convene 60 climate change leaders and influencers at our Climate Quest in July 2016. Our participants, from business, global institutions and NGOs, came together for a three-day London retreat, held in the spirit of regenerative hope and higher purpose.

The Quest combined a mix of workshop time – to deepen relationships, explore key themes and build shared momentum – with a day of immersive visits with inspiring people who are changing the world around them.

We played wheelchair basketball with a Paralympic medallist who fled Iran as a political refugee, and now works to provide differently-abled people with access to sporting opportunities. We heard the CEO of Barclays UK speak frankly about the 2011 LIBOR scandal, and his drive to implement a social agenda in the bank’s core strategy. On London’s South Bank, we experienced the reality of baring our artistic souls to earn a living as buskers. And in King's Cross we visited Skip Garden to learn about how it’s building a community right in the heart of one of Europe's biggest redevelopments.

These visits, and many more, were interspersed with personal and group reflection, to distil learning, share insights and foster new thinking.

Here’s what participants said:

“The Climate Quest was a remarkable experience and an opportunity to connect on a new level with long-time co-travelers, and to meet new potential collaborators. The surprising moments over the three days are too numerous to list. For me, they spanned a lifetime-first appreciation for Shakespeare, an opportunity to see an iconic building from my childhood in a whole new light before it is changed forever, and the deeply surreal but amazing experience of having to sing in front of complete strangers on London’s South Bank. All testament to the power of exiting the everyday routine and the comfort zone in search of new understanding.”

"I walked away from the time utterly energized by the chance we were given to think about our respective roles and approaches in new ways. The opportunity to deepen relationships with many people I knew, and establish bonds with a number of remarkable people I’d not met before, packed more value and enjoyment into a couple of days than I might get in a given month or more."

“Inside a reflecting environment, without the pressure of getting results, Climate Quest created a space that allowed participants to think out of the box.” 


In the climate change community, we tend not to focus on the ‘software’ of the system – the quality of our relationships or what it takes to be personally sustainable for the long haul. Climate Quest 2016 offered us a chance to do just that, and it’s a direct call to change our traditional mind-set.

We will continue to track the impact of the Quest over the coming months and the outcomes to include:

  • New insights, new relationships and new energy for participants.
  • Increased levels of trust, collaboration and understanding – within and between sector leaders.
  • A group of change agents re-inspired to tackle the complex issues needed to address climate change.
  • A roadmap for complementary and coordinated action.