Ultimately, all it takes to achieve a brighter future for the planet is a shifting of our collective thinking and actions as a human family. But where to begin? Author and activist Cindy Forde is starting young by enlightening children about important environmental issues and how they can be mitigated and fixed.

In doing so, she is helping to prevent the burden of despair that can come with being born into a world that is facing possibly the most challenging periods of human history. Cindy’s book ‘Bright New World’ takes a child’s hand and guides them through the kind of world we can have.

In this Global20 interview she talks to our Group CEO, Ben Morton-Wright, about operating in line with the planetary boundaries. Explaining how intervention and digital innovations can be supported by philanthropy and radical collaborations, Cindy’s interview is extremely powerful and instills hope for a more optimistic and positive future.

Ben Morton-Wright 0:00

It’s a real pleasure to have Cindy Forde today with me. Cindy, welcome to Global 20. Huge admirer of everything you’ve done in terms of your innovation and environmental work, which we’re going to talk about in the next 20 minutes. I’m going to list off some of these things that you’ve done, which are so long, I could probably spend the full 20 minutes recounting your incredible career to date. But you’re the Co Founder of Planetari, was the MD of the Blue Marine Foundation, which is part of the Great British Oceans coalition, CEO of the Cambridge Science Centre, you’ve got an MSc in Sustainability & Business Practice, you’ve got works that you’ve produced we’re going to talk about today in terms of published works, including a number of children’s books, which I believe are getting all sorts of awards at the moment, which is wonderful. And you really work around the climate issues and innovation, which is the main theme for today. And your newest book, Bright New World, which I have a copy of actually, because you kindly gave a signed copy for my daughter to have a read, so here we go – this the first plug, has had huge acclaim and has just come out. So we’re going to talk a little bit about that, but also about other environmental innovation. So your CV, I could go on, is quite remarkable. But this common theme is innovation in the environment? Is that a fair comment, Cindy?

Cindy Forde 1:28

Yes, that’s absolutely right, Ben and it’s absolutely wonderful to be here. And I really appreciate you inviting me on today’s programme.

Ben Morton-Wright 1:35

Not at all. The pleasure is all ours. We’ve done a bit of a run on environmental themes for Global 20 and it is part of our commitment to shining the torch on environmental issues. So we did a couple back, which was with the head of the Natural History Museum, Doug Gurr. And he talked about the sixth extinction moment, which is definitely worth looking at that Global 20 interview and how we avert it, and what we can do about it. And that whole interesting area of biomass, biosphere, and biodiversity, which is huge themes in that space. You have actually been very involved in innovating in the environmental space over the years and we’re going to talk about a couple of examples of that. Another environmental issue that we talked on the last Global 20 was Planet Tracker, which I don’t know if you’ve come across but that’s another philanthropically funded initiative, which I thought was fascinating. And it kind of weaves in right from the idea of the sixth extinction moment, which we’re going to try and avoid, through to how we track the planet and see how it’s doing. Not so well, according to that interview, right into actually what do we do about it, which is today’s discussion. So welcome. Hopefully, we can theme it on this innovation and environment. In actual fact, one of your roles, as many that I mentioned, is around that. I don’t know if you can share that particular role in terms of developing innovation and sustainability?

Cindy Forde 3:03

In philanthropy or in sustainability?

Ben Morton-Wright 3:05

In sustainability. Yep.

Cindy Forde 3:07

Yeah, well, I think I’m involved in that in a number of ways, because I think what we’re looking at innovation for sustainability is really systemic change. So some of the projects I work on are systemic changes to education, that’s the one of the companies I founded called Planetari, some of that is around systemic changes to how we behave and how we value what we place a financial value on. And that’s reflected in an organisation, and other organisations I’ve co founded, called Kando. I’m also involved in, you know I wear various hats, and one of them is advisory to the Environmental Funders Network, and one is a trustee of an environmental, philanthropic organisation. And even when I reference those in innovations in sustainability, because I think innovations in philanthropy have a big role to play in how we face this existential crisis that Doug Gurr referred to as the sixth mass extinction in the interview that you’ve just referenced. I think the role of philanthropy is also a place where innovation can really be extremely powerful in painting a much more optimistic and positive future for us.

Ben Morton-Wright 4:24

And it’s a growth business as well, which is why we’ve shone a torch on it. I was just looking at the stats and globally, I think it’s only about 2% of all giving around the world, but it’s 5% in the UK, and hopefully growing. All the signs are that this is really growing. We had our last Talking Philanthropy where we had an environmental session where we talked about why you would give to environmental issues. That was now nearly two years ago. And one of the things came out is how do you actually relate to it? How do you relate your philanthropic intervention to helping environmental and climate change? And I think today’s conversation is some great examples about perhaps, and philanthropists out there, how they can actually work with you in terms of making intervention, but also the interventions that you’ve seen that have worked and the innovation and that discussion, it was very much about, you know, this is so overwhelming. What do I do about it? How can I do anything about it? And second to that, you know, surely it’s government but of course, we’ve seen government goes hot and cold on this subject. So the role of philanthropy, I think you’re quite right, is just so critical in how we address some of these challenges.

So let’s go straight into the book. We want to talk a little bit about Kando. And we’ll talk about that next. But first, let’s talk about the book. So as I say, my daughter who’s 11 loved the book. She’s already on the older side of the reading spectrum, but she absolutely loved it. And as I say I’ve got a copy here, which she’s even put little stickers in bits that she likes. So we’ve had a good chat about it. You’ve had a good critique review, which has gone very well but tell us a little bit more. Why did you write the book and what is the book about?

Cindy Forde 6:05

Well, thanks, Ben, I’m so glad that your daughter loved it first of all, that’s brilliant news. Yes, well, I’ve worked in the sustainability, the climate change, the net zero space, if you like for, you know, for over 25 years. And I’ve worked at the level of the UN, with governments, with large corporations and I think there’s really valuable work happening there. But all the time, the thought that comes into my mind or has come into my mind over those years is, what about if we had this generation of human beings that really got this stuff? So instead of sticking plasters over disasters, if you like, or fixing things up at the end, or learning how to do less bad, we teach our children from the word go, how to do more good, no matter what they want to be, whether it’s astrophysicist or hairdressers, they do everything in line with the planetary boundaries. So you have regenerative organisations, you know that these things can be mitigated and can be fixed, rather than landing on this planet at this really difficult moment of human history and being filled with despair. You actually have the tools in your hand to build this pathway to the brighter future, which we all know is possible. So I’ve worked in children’s education and I just thought, you know, the time has come to really put this into a book so that children’s schools, families, you mentioned that 11 is at the older reading age, I would say no, 111! And it really is this blueprint to how we build a brighter future. And there’s nothing fantastical in the book at all, it’s all based on the real science that we have now, on the solutions that we have now and the innovations that we have now. I guess my biggest leap of faith, if you like in the book, is that as a human family we shift how we think and we shift how we do things, because that ultimately is all it does take to get to this brighter future. So I thought it’s vital to put this knowledge into children’s hands so instead of despair, they have this blueprint for hope. And they know that they can be part of this transformation and be a part of co-creating the kind of world that we all want.

Ben Morton-Wright 8:20

I mean, I absolutely love it for so many reasons and it’s mainly what you’re saying about positive and optimism, about these are the problems and it’s very kind of scientific, isn’t it, there’s a lot of science in here. These are the issues, this is how we can solve it and actually there is a positive outlook. I think with COVID, with all the difficulties that a lot of young people have been through and challenges, there is maybe this tendency just to think that it’s all so overwhelming, there’s no kind of bright future here. So the idea of turning that on its head and actually explaining the environmental issues, find some of the strains and stresses that the planet’s under at the moment, and actually suggesting ways that we can actually act as humans to resolve those issues in a positive way, I think it’s so powerful. So I’m not surprised it’s won all sorts of accolades, awards, I’m sure if not already, it will do. I know it won some best book reviews recently. But it really is fantastic, so well done. And what other feedback have you had from it from the public now it’s been produced?

Cindy Forde 9:22

I think it is getting really good feedback. Yes, I was delighted it was picked as one of the top new children’s books by The Guardian. It’s been reviewed this week in the New Scientist. It’s won awards from different organisations that can see it as a really vital tool in enabling us to understand how we can make this transition. Because I think making something that’s childlike, if you like bright, beautiful colours, delightful an invitation to explore, is so much more accessible than some of the really is ,there’s no denying that this is a challenge. But I think if people feel overwhelmed by how much there is to do and how difficult it is, how depressing it all is, then they feel paralysed and they can’t act. But when you’re given an invitation; hey, look, this is the kind of world we can have, it looks like this, that’s what the book does. Each section looks at the different pressures currently on our system, the main pressures on our planetary boundaries, like our food system, our transport system, our energy system, how we treat our carbon sinks, our oceans, our rainforests. And it shows if we did things differently, it speaks back from the future, hey, look, here we are, we did things differently, not if, we’ve done them differently, we’ve got here, it’s fine, we’re safe, we can do this. And then it looks at where the problems are. And then it takes children, teachers, families on this journey to how we can get to that bright place in the future. So it breaks it down into relatively simple concepts but leading always with we’ve done it, we made it, we can do this. And so it really leads with that positivity, which I think is missing in a lot of the dialogue around the crisis that we face. And I think that’s much more powerful and much more motivating than saying, Oh, God, isn’t it awful, we’ve only got eight years. It’s terrible. We can’t do anything about it, you know, game over. Or even too hard, too difficult.

Ben Morton-Wright 11:15

Too hard, too difficult, yeah. And I think when we spoke, I was teasing you and said, well, it would be brilliant to get this into every single bookshop and every single child’s classroom, actually. I’m sure it’s probably in most book shops now but in terms of child’s classrooms, I think you said that would cost about £250,000 to get it into every classroom in the country. So if there’s anyone out there that wants to get this incredible book, and sponsor it and put it in all the schools in the country, this is one of the biggest philanthropic opportunities I’ve seen. Great value, you never know, never know, there might be someone out there Cindy that can do that.

Cindy Forde 11:51

Thank you Ben, that’s an ambition for the book with some of the organisations I’ve worked with, it’s to get it into all schools in the in the UK, so that children and schools that wouldn’t necessarily be able to afford the book can have access to what’s in it. I’m doing workshops with schools, really happy to go in and work with the schools, whether they have the book or not, but to really enable that to find that place in the curriculum and in the daily life of schools. And the schools that it’s in are doing incredible things, not just because of the book, but because the teachers really understand the importance of equipping children to be able to take on these challenges. And every time I go into the schools, I’m amazed by how much they get it, and how much work they’re doing. Beautiful work. So yeah, we are trying to expand that and get it into schools across the country.

Ben Morton-Wright 12:42

I’m sure that this will happen. I’m sure with your perseverance. So why don’t we move on now? The same theme, it’s really innovation and how you lead innovation in terms of climate awareness and intervention? And also how can philanthropy back that innovation. So there is this incredible app concept that you’ve developed and I want you to explain it! When you explained it to me, it was like light bulbs going on, all at the same time. I mean, I think it’s absolutely phenomenal. So take us through this new app and what’s in store for some more technology? Because we’ve gone from good old style books in schools to the other extreme, which is using technology to intervene. So tell us a bit more.

Cindy Forde 13:26

Well, thanks again, Ben. The app’s called Kando and in its shortest form, we’re referring to it as ‘Uber for the planet’. So instead of your side hustle, being going and driving a taxi, you can go on this app, and you can find jobs that are regenerative, climate positive that help Earth regenerate in your area. And you can do them. You can do them. When I speak a lot people come up and they asked me and say, Well, what can we do? What can we do? And you can list off things. But here we can actually put this app into people’s hands so that they can, they can do this, they can be involved in this work.

And at the heart of this, of Kando, is radical collaboration because we’re bringing corporates together, we’re bringing conservation organisations together like Earth Watch or Nature Watch or Surfers Against Sewage. And we’re bringing philanthropist together so that they we all have a piece of the puzzle. Some people can do things, some people can fund things, some people have the work and the skills to know what needs to be done. So on this app, we bring everybody together. So the jobs are funded by corporates either corporate subscriptions because they can subscribe to the app. So their employers, their employees can be part of the amazing force that do this work and it also helps them to meet their ESG requirements. There’s also a for profit and there’s a not for profit model so the philanthropists fund the work and then the job providers are people like I’ve just mentioned, some people like Earth Watch or any organisations that have these types of regenerative work that needs to be done. So the app. I spoke to a brilliant person, you may be familiar with Project Drawdown, it’s one of the biggest, kind of most-widely accepted metrics of measuring what’s happening on our planet, and which areas of our systems have the greatest effect on our carbon emissions or our biodiversity. And they said, the problem isn’t one of not knowing what can be done, the problem is facilitating it, it’s a facilitation problem, and so Kando facilitates all the different parts of society that needs to be mobilised in the simple app that enables, as I say, the people to do the jobs, the people to fund the jobs and the people with the knowledge and the skills to run the jobs. And in a relatively simple app we can get all this done.

Ben Morton-Wright 15:49

So just to kind of elaborate a bit because I think it’s conceptually so simple, but yet so brilliant. So if I was to play it back, you’re seeking and continue to seek funders to provide capital to potentially reward people that participate on the app as a point of basically encouraging people to do it as a kind of a payment. Is that right? So you’ve got the underwriting of it, to drive, and this is all within the SDG framework, to drive people to actually enable them to get involved. And those that need to be paid can be paid, those that don’t, I think can donate back their pay, is that right? So you got that point. So I want to do something good on the planet, which I do. So I then go on to the app, and I find, I don’t know, a local beach or something that may have an opportunity for me to come and clear up plastic or a forest where I could go and intervene or whatever it might be, soil forests, whatever it might be, which are SDG aligned, I can go and if I choose, I could get paid for that service. Right? So you connect that right? So you’re connecting a service with the person that wants to help. But I could also choose to give the pay back to the organisation so that gets recycled to other people. The organisation is getting that essentially, for free, but it’s getting something that’s helping them fulfil their ESG. But it’s also helping them help the planet. And obviously, if it’s an NGO or charity, that’s fantastic, because they’re trying to mobilise more people and support. Is that a bit simple? Is that kind of how this works?

Cindy Forde 17:21

Absolutely. That’s absolutely right, Ben that’s exactly it. Because also within the app, we are trying as you know, the brilliant you mentioned Carbon Tracker earlier on, there’s amazing there’s Kate Raworth with with Doughnut Economics, there’s amazing work going on really which is shifting where we place our economic value, because where the economic value goes, our human energy goes. That’s the way our systems are designed. But unfortunately, a lot of people will need to get up and do a job in the morning, which is actually more part of the problem than part of the solution, because that’s what they’re paid to do. So Kando also tries to make an intervention here, where we actually start paying people to do the regenerative work that all companies are eventually, that’s why Carbon Tracker is so brilliant, all companies will eventually need to be in business aligned with the SDGs, aligned with the planetary boundaries, or you can’t stay in business, you know, we are in the last era, if we want to have a successful future as a species where our work, the work we do, the corporations need to be aligned. They can’t carry on destroying Earth, they need to be aligned with helping Earth regenerate or mitigate.

So we’re starting to get people paid to do work that is climate positive. And the other thing, the other piece in that is a lot of people in the conservation space, or the volunteering space, is often a very single demographic that can afford, that has the time and the money to do that. So it’s tends to be an older demographic, and it tends to be a middle class demographic and in the global north, certainly, a white demographic. So we’re trying to make this type of work, work that you get paid for, and therefore we can mobilise people at scale. Because if we all did something, the aggregate of that is huge. And part of the reason that a lot of people can’t do it is because they are so busy just trying to survive.

Ben Morton-Wright 19:20

It’s a barrier. I mean this is a brilliant example of bringing technology, almost it’s like a dating app in a way, because you’re kind of getting people to date that want to do. We’ve got a problem that needs to be solved that’s actually is going to help the environment and you got people that want to do something, but perhaps can’t afford it or could do it on a different basis. And that removes a barrier for them to participate and enables that capital flow workflow to come and actually solve the problem. Presumably we’re going to track this in terms of how much impact it makes, is that the concept?

Cindy Forde 19:53

The data piece is really huge. So if corporates are involved, they would get a dashboard which would say exactly where their money went, what their employees did, what that enabled other people to do. As I say we’re aligning it with Project Drawdown so the metrics show aggregated what effect that has had on Co2 emissions, on biodiversity, so that you get almost a scorecard once you do that. And data is becoming increasingly important, as you will know, the New York Stock Exchange just launched the environmental index with so much more aware now that nature has to be on the balance sheet. So Kando will provide the metrics that can enable that to be measured in financial terms as well. So it looks like a very simple app. For the doer, we need it to be simple so that people will be rewarded for doing the work and taking these short courses as well. Bu actually, behind it is this really powerful tool for gathering this data to put nature on the balance sheet.

Ben Morton-Wright 20:55

And it will scale? Presumably, this could scale globally? I mean, there’s no limits, right? Once it’s up and running, it’s sort of global, because the whole planet mobilised around an app, right? In the same way that Uber is, you know, anywhere you go, you get out your Uber and guess what, there’s a car within a few 100 metres, you know. I can imagine this completely scaled up. So two questions. If I’m interested in hearing more about it, where do I go to look, just as a technology piece? Because I think it’s applicable, by the way in lots of other organisations. On Monday actually I’m doing an envisaging with another organisation, I’m going to suggest that they look at something similar in terms of their work. They kind of date but they do it on a very old school basis, you know, filling out forms and picking up telephones, they’re not using the technology to kind of embrace this. But the outcomes aren’t that dissimilar in terms of they’re doing very important environmental work. So, you know, presumably there’s lots of other applications. So for people that are interested in this space, where do they go to find out more about how you’ve constructed this and what it looks like?

Cindy Forde 22:02

So we have our website, which is www.kando.world. You’ll get to a generic info place so you’re very welcome to contact me on my own website, which is cindyforde.world as well. And I will certainly respond to all emails that come through the query.

Ben Morton-Wright 22:19

And in terms of the philanthropy, I mean, I was tongue in cheek, but I was actually been quite serious about the £250,000. But, you know, what is the role of the philanthropist in all of this? Is it just to provide a float to pay the people or is it to build the app? I mean, how does philanthropy get involved in this initiative?

Cindy Forde 22:37

Yeah, as I said, it’s radical collaboration. So we’re working with people at different levels. Certainly, it’s unlocking those philanthropic funds to enable people to do this work, to know to help drive the corporate ESG. But people are coming in in different ways, because they’re obviously philanthropists who are much more, you know, some people just want to put in the funds and know that that’s well being well spent. But some people are actually so intrigued by what we’re doing that they’re actually taking on a larger role in helping us design the projects that are being in our pilots or looking at how, because we’re really keen for this to scale globally. And I think the global south is really important because people get paid so poorly over there to do quite destructive jobs. So how about if you are getting paid to manage sargassum to plant mangroves? So we’ve got philanthropists who’ve got special interests in those areas, and they can really see this as the facilitation that can get that kind of work done. So yes, funds and yes funds and more than that, it as I say it is about radical collaboration. So we’re really interested in speaking to people at all levels of involvement really.

Ben Morton-Wright 23:47

Cindy, I think this is probably a good way to draw the 20 minutes to a close, because we’re running out of time, as usual. But I think what a fantastic, two brilliant examples of innovation, and how philanthropy can drive innovation and how it can lead to behaviour change, and actually help make a massive difference on the planet, I’m quite sure the the app will take off. So I’m looking forward to landing in another country and getting out my app and seeing what good work is going on and how it’s changing the world quite literally, because I think it really will scale up in a way that I think it will be quite remarkable. And it also comes, as you’ll be aware, with Global 20 we’ve done a lot of work around the environmental to try and shine a light. And we’ve had Doug Gurr talking about really creative and interesting applications in terms of what the Natural History Museum is doing. But also this huge threat ahead of us and how we need to work around it. Then we’ve had my last interview, talking with Planet Tracker, about how we’re tracking the planet. And then this interview, I think sits really well in terms of really how we use innovation and philanthropy and new ideas to actually change behaviour and encourage the next generation to think about the world differently and act differently and actually make a real difference. So I think on that note, I’ve probably run out of my 20 minutes. So thank you so much, Cindy, for your time today. Keep innovating, I mean, it’s amazing, don’t know how you sleep at night, all these ideas coming out, ah children’s book! Keep innovating, keep leading, and I hope philanthropy can really play a role in getting these to market but also driving them as an engine. So congratulations.

Cindy Forde 25:28

Thank you so much, Ben. And thank you so much for your role in Global Philanthropic and to all the philanthropists out there who are enabling us to move at the speed and the scale that we need to solve this crisis. So a big thank you to the community as well.

Ben Morton-Wright 25:43

It’s a positive story to end a very positive interview. Thank you, and look forward to talking more in the future.

Cindy Forde 25:52

Absolutely. Thanks, Ben.