Hope springs eternal

Written by Alesha Younghusband Published 01 Apr 2014

Our Sydney Fellowship Program Facilitator Jeremy Mah reflects on the start of the 2014 Fellowship Program, his own experiences as a fellow in 2011, and the most important factors in success. In addition to his work with CSL, Jeremy is currently exploring how creative practice and the arts can be used to more effectively engage people in sustainability as a basis for a PhD. 

“A crisis can trigger regression and disasters, but also awaken, wake creation, imagination and invention” – Edgar Morin (2009 cited in Kagan 2011)

With this happy thought in mind I eagerly awaited the start of the Fellowship Program for 2014. And it’s an absolute honour to be working alongside yet another amazing cohort of passionate, sustainability leaders ready to challenge themselves, push personal boundaries, and open their hearts and minds to the collective intelligence. I use the word ‘honour’ intentionally, because for me, the program (which I graduated from in 2011) was a transformative experience, enabling me to more clearly see both the potential in myself and the potential in others.

Having worked in the sustainability field for almost 10 years in various roles across the corporate, government and academic sectors, I was tired and burnt out. I questioned why I was torturing myself for what appeared to be of little joy and consequence. In other words, I was looking for answers.

What I found through the program, was not only answers and connections with an amazing group of like-minded and talented individuals, but more importantly… hope.

For some this may sound corny but for someone like me who was very much a sceptic this was just as much a surprise. Interestingly, this is not an uncommon experience for those who go through the program, often describing it as having changed their lives. So how does the program help to “change lives”?

In my case, firstly it reignited my passion for sustainability by exposure to the inspirational stories of trail blazers such as Greg Bourne, Sandy Blackburn Wright, Stuart Hill and Costa Georgiadis, who shared their own life challenges. Secondly, it helped me to redefine my core values by providing a structured space for critical reflection. And this has ultimately put me on my current path, which is more in line with those values. Thirdly, it helped me to understand the importance of the ‘heart space’, in particular empathy and compassion, and its relation to authentic leadership. And all of this was supported by a genuine care for our ‘felt experience’, and processes that embody the principles of creative and affective learning. A combination of diverse approaches, underpinned by collaborative learning that perhaps provides the magical conditions for transformative experiences to occur for both individuals and the group.

Importantly, it is the care, love and dedication to enabling human potential that I believe sits at the core of what we do at CSL. And it is this core that keeps me and others going on the same sustainability journey even in the face of increasing adversity.

Last week I read an interesting article in New Scientist magazine called ‘The secret of success’. According to US psychologist Ellis Paul Torrance, who followed the lives of several hundred high achievers from high school to middle age, the most important factor of success was to “fall in love with a dream” and to pursue it with intensity (Bond 2014).

This is my greatest wish for each of this year’s fellows, that they may fall in love (perhaps for a second or third time) with their dream, and that the hope this inspires will keep their passion for sustainability burning for many years to come.

So it is both a huge privilege and honour to have been a participant and now to be a facilitator of the program. And I feel an equally huge responsibility to ensure that this year’s fellows enjoy a transformative experience like I did, for many of whom this will be a once in a lifetime opportunity.



Bond, M. (2014), ‘The Secret of Success’, in New Scientist magazine, Reed Business, Vol. 221, No. 2959, pp. 31-34.

Kagan, S. (2011), Art and Sustainability: Connecting Patterns for a Culture of Complexity, Transcript Verlag, Bielefeld, Germany.

1 comment

  1. Alex Graham 1 year ago

Thank you for this piece. It inspires me to know that so much heart is poured into CSL. The fellows are very fortunate to have such dedicated and self aware facilitators. As an alumna, I also found my experience to be transformative, an experience that has shaped my approach to so many things. In particular, CSL fostered a confidence in me to stand up for what I believe in. I wish this year’s fellows a thoroughly rewarding experience!

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