A talk with Benoît Rolland de Ravel: how to increase the impact of a workshop?

Blue belt, Benoît Rolland de Ravel shares with us the importance of taking the psychological dimension into account when raising awareness of climate issues.

Could you start by introducing yourself?

After 10 years of studying in various fields (Sciences Po, ESSEC, Law School), and various professional experiences in different types of organisations, I left my permanent contract at EDF (Electricité de France, French multinational electric utility company owned by the French state) to found my own firm, ProSense. Why did I do this? To fully dedicated myself to accelerating the necessary ecological transition. How so? By helping others to take better account of the “human and organisational dimension” when transitioning. To improve my impact, I’m constantly learning alongside my professional activities. After training in coaching, I went on to study social psychology. As part of this, I wrote a research thesis on how to better understand eco-anxiety in organisations. To contribute to my professional purpose, and in addition to my involvement with Climate Fresk, I also co-created a workshop on how to craft new stories and tell inspiring futures. One of its aims is to take better account of the “human factor” during a transition.

In your opinion, there's a real psychological dimension that needs to be taken into account when talking about ecological issues and running awareness-raising workshops. What do you mean by this?

I think it’s necessary to use our workshops to help change the social representation of the transition. For example, I’m convinced that for the majority of people today, the decisions we must take to face up to the many ecological and social challenges are tantamount to a “great deprivation”. Since human beings have a cognitive bias towards loss aversion, we need to change this perspective if we aim to accelerate the transition. To do so, I try to combine certain components from the 3rd part of the workshop, including sharing this quote from Jason Hickel: ‘It’s a happy coincidence that what we have to do to survive is also what we should do to be happy‘. At this point in the workshop, I often feel that something clicks for the participants. It offers them a path out of the false dilemma of either being happy but destroying our planet, or being unhappy to preserve the planet. In other words, taking this psychological dimension into account maximizes the chances that they reach a breaking point that will permanently mark their bio. If they don’t, they’re likely to come out of the workshop leaden and go on with their lives, continuing to “look the other way”.

How can we maximize the chances that people who take part in Climate Fresk will indeed stop looking the other way after the workshop?

To paraphrase Jacques Chirac, former President of France: if “our house is burning and we’re looking the other way”, it’s not just because of a lack of knowledge about the causes and consequences of this fire. I like to remind people during my Climate Fresk training courses that my intention when I run workshops is to make sure participants don’t end up feeling powerless and depressed. Schematically, a person in this state of mind is characterized by the “glasses” through which they look at the world: they feel powerless and that their future is bleak. However, as we are not made to be depressed, we have unconscious defense mechanisms, such as denial, which can be put in place at the end of Climate Fresk’s workshop to preserve our mental health if we find ourselves in this situation.

How do you assess the impact of Climate Fresk?

On a personal note, I always end my workshops by asking participants to sum up their state of mind in 1 word. If I’ve succeeded in getting them to “travel to the world beyond” during the debrief part, they share words like “hope”, “set in motion”, “boosted”, and so on. It’s a way for me to make sure that I’ve helped to change their relationship to transition.

In other words, it lets me know whether I’ve helped to cultivate an attitude of “active optimism” in them, enabling the creation of a positive feedback loop: the more I act, the more optimistic I am, and the more optimistic I am, the more I act.

Any last words?

For the future, I think there are two paths that Climate Fresk could follow as an organisation. Either we stay within the paradigm of “making complex knowledge accessible”, and our development will hit a glass ceiling when all people that were already sympathetic to our cause have been Fresked. At that point, pursuing our growth will require deploying the workshop among those already aware in other countries. The other path is for our learning community to evolve towards the paradigm of “empowerment and hope in motion” thanks to the “swarmwise” approach. In that case, Climate Fresk will gradually be able to reach even the most reluctant audiences.

Climate Collage is now Climate Fresk!

We are still the same! We just changed our name ;)