Guyana: Forging the Transition to a Green Growth Economy

What is an SDG Lab

The idea for global Sustainable Development Goals1 Laboratories (SDG Labs) emerged from the Transformation Labs (T-Labs) pioneered by the Stockholm Resilience Centre, an example of the ‘change labs’ concept pioneered by Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Design Labs, Stanford University’s ChangeLabs, and The Bridgespan Group and Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience Social Innovation Labs.

The concept is that for many complex and rapidly-evolving challenges, the usual ‘strategic planning’ model for problem-solving has not been very successful. In contrast, ‘Labs’ seek to provide a more flexible framework for diverse groups to work toward creative, imaginative solutions, and to test and refine them through iterative ‘prototyping’. The SDG Lab sponsors hope that these key considerations, and a focus on the role of innovation in contribution to transformations to sustainability, will be central to the work in all hubs.


Why Guyana?

The Guyana ‘Green Growth’ SDG Lab 2017 was proposed through a joint initiative from amongst Iwokrama (IIC), Biomimicry Roraima and University of Massachusetts Boston, and was selected as one of ten SDG Labs awarded out of over 300 applications for funding by Future Earth (an international NGO promoting sustainable development) and the Stockholm Resilience Centre. Since 2008, Guyana has made international headlines with the development and implementation of its Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), a joint initiative between the Government of Guyana and the Kingdom of Norway. Under this novel and innovative 5-year agreement Norway will provide US$250M to Guyana in exchange for rainforest protection. A new Government of Guyana was elected in May 2015 and the new President David Granger is seriously protective of Guyana’s 85% forest cover. President Granger has also embarked on a development journey for Guyana’s Green Growth Development.

These serious and committed efforts to pursue low carbon development has generated a good deal of interest in the international arena in how Guyana will manage the process of creating and transitioning to a national economy based on ‘green’ principles, while working toward realizing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).The May 2017 SDG Lab is designed to be a follow-up activity to the 2016 series of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) meetings on Guyana’s green development goals, and will complement that process. The UNEP meetings produced a draft Framework of the Guyana Green State Development Strategy last month (March 2017). This document outlines what a green growth economy for Guyana might look like. After further discussion and refinement, the UNEP Framework is intended to help “guide Guyana’s economic and socio-cultural development over the next 15 years.” Assuming this process moves forward successfully, Guyana could maintain its recognition as an important model for other small developing states interested in growing their economies in ways that protect the environment and increase the quality of life for all their citizens.


What are the goals of the SDG Lab?

In the May 2017 SDG Lab, our main goals are to identify the key challenges of transitioning Guyana to a Green Growth Economy, discuss its potential opportunities and generate actionable ideas for moving forward in implementing the Framework vision.

Where UNEP met with representatives from individual sectors to develop consensus viewpoints, the SDG Lab will build on this consultation process using a cross sectoral approach by bringing different sectors (public sector, private sector, local indigenous communities, NGOs, civil society actors, academia, etc.) together to discuss diverse points of view.

Our aim is to provide a forum for open discussions, to pose key questions and solicit new ways of thinking of how Guyana may successfully achieve the transition for the benefit of the society and country. We hope that all participants will speak freely about their goals, intentions and concerns for the process of transforming and building Guyana’s green economy.

A secondary, but equally important goal of the May 2017 SDG Lab is to lay the groundwork for seeking further international funding for a programme of interdisciplinary research and action to support the changes Guyana’s citizens would like to see over the next years and decades.

We will work closely with the related Government of Guyana agencies to ensure that these workshops also provide valuable information as they implement Guyana’s Green Growth Strategy.


What is the approach and possible outcomes of the SDG Lab?

Our approach is to prepare, design and facilitate the workshop to first gain an understanding the current Guyana’s context and its vision of the future Green Growth Economy. We will use an open, flexible approach in the facilitation process while adopting a few key methods from the social innovation labs and other transformation approaches. By bringing a cross-section of diverse stakeholders, we intend to initiate an exchange of ideas on the challenges, opportunities and paths of the transition.

Possible outcomes of the process are recommendations on how to approach this ‘sustainability transition’ at a national scale given the lessons learned from the previous LCDS, what are the priorities of the seven Framework themes2 outlined; what systems, policies, capacities and resources may be required and how should the transition be governed and communicated. Another outcome of the discussion could be a consideration of the known and the unintended consequences of the transition, such as who may be the winners and losers and how this could impact livelihoods and the economy in the short and long term. Identifying what may be some possible pathways to the future Green Economy could be an important potential outcome of the SDG Lab.

These learnings and outcomes are intended to be shared with the framers of the Green Growth Economy Development Strategy as input into their planning process and transition strategy. A draft report will be provided to all SDG Lab Guyana participants and the Government of Guyana for their review and endorsement prior to wider circulation. The final report will be presented at the Ideas and Innovation Forum of the International Sustainability Science Conference in Stockholm, Sweden in August 2017.

Univ. Massachusetts Boston, Iwokrama International Centre for Rain Forest Conservation, Biomimicry Roraima
Georgetown, Guyana
Lab project lead
Reinmar Seidler, University of Massachusetts Boston