Movement building has become a buzzword. There's a common misconception that movements are about creating a critical mass on social media around an idea, desirable for corporates and non-profits who want to quickly achieve traction and scale.

However it takes a certain kind of energy to mobilise people on a global scale to act locally on issues. It's not found in Unilever's Project Sunlight or WWF's Earth Hour which are merely marketing campaigns that draw attention to an organisation. I did see a movement growing, however, at UNESCO's 4th World Congress of Biosphere Reserves in Lima. A movement lead by a committed and passionate group of people in 120 countries across the globe.

These are the people who for 45 years have been making sustainable development a way of living around the world. They are dedicated to putting sustainability into practice, drawing on culture, knowledge and science to solve the biggest challenges of our generation.

Over four days they met to prioritise the Lima Action Plan - a meaty strategy that will guide the UNESCO Man & Biosphere (MAB) network for the next decade. It features commitments to expand their influence and knowledge beyond the borders of biospheres. To implement new ways of governance that empowers local people to take responsibility. And to inspire others with ideas and stories of sustainability in action.

Within had two roles at the conference:

To support participants in the European biosphere reserves to find the key priorities for their region. We used a group facilitation technique to bring over 120 participants to agreement within just a few hours on three priority areas and propose first actions against them.

To share our work on the MAB Brand & Story toolkit which includes guidance on creating engagement strategies using the MAB Values. We were particularly interested in testing these values with new regions who had not yet been part of our pilot programme to develop the tools.

Working in mixed groups in English, French and Spanish, participants shared stories of what the values meant to them and how they embodied the values in their biosphere reserves. We heard great examples, including:

- Celebrating life in Madagascar with a festival that connects food to nature

- Empowering people in Peru by inviting the local community to support the management of the biosphere

- Modelling solutions in Namibia through employment opportunities for women

- Belonging together in Romania-Moldova-Ukraine by connecting people and places through local products produced in the transboundary biosphere reserve

This exercise emphasises the shared behaviours that an organisation will have, no matter where they operate in the world. The big shift for this network will be in building stronger relationships with all stakeholders in their regions. The pressures of programme resources, apathy, and competing priorities are very real for MAB. Understanding that their "brand" is about a shared sense of identity will help them build belief in what they do and build a movement that sparks change across the world.

Our work continues as we test and iterate the UNESCO Brand & Story toolkit with the new pilots who have stepped forward!

If you are interested in building meaning into your values and culture, get in touch. We can create a programme together that builds on our learnings from our work with global brands like UNESCO, Mondelēz and Raleigh International.

Written by Jeff Melnyk on Mar 15, 2016