by Renato Redentor Constantino, ICSC Executive Director

This announcement comes with mixed measures of relief, gratitude, and joy. After 13 years at the helm of ICSC, it is time to step down and make way for new leadership. It is with pride as well that I welcome the institution’s new executive director Angelo Kairos dela Cruz, risen from the ranks after joining the organization over a decade ago as a former campaign assistant, former consultant, former head of the organization’s climate policy team, and most recently, as ICSC’s deputy executive director.

There will be a brief 30-day period to complete the transition, which ends on February 16 – the day I exit my post as chief executive with finality and when Kai fully holds the reins.

Internally, this has not necessarily come as a surprise as the transition process began earlier.

A large part of the transition was driven by the principle that campaign initiatives that do not periodically change leadership, especially those going on their 10th year, court rapid stagnation and steady decline.

With Red and Kairos at the current ICSC office in Quezon City are ICSC Associate for Program Development Maria Golda Hilario, and former ICSC staff, who was there from the start, Reina Garcia-Bolton.

My resignation – and the recruitment of a new E.D. – was announced internally last September during ICSC’s annual retreat, and members of the board were advised earlier. The move was originally scheduled for 2020 but given the implications of lockdown-related disruption, stubbornly proceeding with the formal process of changing leadership during such an uncertain period would have been more harmful than helpful. But two years after, as economies stabilize and societies and communities regain more solid footing, it’s clear the time has come to bring the infusion of new blood back on schedule.

The need for organizational changes not just in management personnel but also pivots in campaign strategy and institutional approaches was first raised in 2018. It was part of wide-ranging reforms seeking to ensure the organization’s effective, long-term campaigning capability is matched by institutional stability and structures. Manic attention to strategy and campaigning that bordered on the obsessive allowed ICSC to accomplish much, but it’s been clear practices and protocols responsive to and reflective of ICSC’s core sense of agency and ambition needed urgent attention. This has also required active, organization-wide participation in the revisioning and rethinking process.

Everyone was expected to contribute, and everyone did. Conversations across teams and staff was carried out and corresponding adjustments in policies and practices led to welcome outcomes. Notable highlights include improved administrative and finance programs, more predictable human resource policies and management, improved campaign dynamism as well as internal accountability, leadership over an array of pioneering international initiatives focused on culture, the establishment of an organizational code of conduct still shaped and led by some of ICSC’s youngest and fiercest feminists, a 4-day work week for all – at full pay, remote working modalities enshrined way before the pandemic began dominating our lives, and the infusion of highly motivated, gritty young hearts and minds eager to lead the organization and make a difference together.

Kai has been central to helping ICSC realize these milestones, along with the organization’s senior management team and board, supported by its founder and former board chair and president Ateng Ballesteros, who stepped down as president and board chair a year or so before the pandemic hit but who has remained a valued advisor on organizational and campaign matters, and ICSC’s current board chair Jasper Inventor.

ICSC was still an initiative named the Green Renewable Independent Power Producer, Inc. or GRIPP when I took on the position of executive director in 2010. It was a resource-challenged project staffed by two people with a verily local scope. Today, ICSC has sunk its roots even deeper domestically even as it continues to blaze new advocacy pathways with a dynamic international agenda that fills critical national and global campaign gaps. ICSC’s role in convening a coalition of advocates to launch, run, and broaden further the Mobility Awards is one example; the Jaime Espina Klima Correspondents Fellowship is another, along with the Solar Scholars Program and the Adaptation Finance Accountability Initiative (AFAI+), energy policy reform, and all the magic coming out of the Agam Agenda kitchen.

What has made this even more personally fulfilling for me was the opportunity to witness the garden of domestic campaigns flourish at the same time as ICSC’s international climate agenda began blooming. Colleagues and friends in other groups have helped steadily generate strong political support for the acceleration of a science and data-driven transition towards climate-resilient, low carbon development, particularly in Southeast Asia and more broadly in support of the 58-government strong Climate Vulnerable Forum and its sister association, the Vulnerable 20 Group of Finance Ministers.

Our work has mattered not just in Manila but also in Majuro, Dhaka, Addis Ababa, and Accra, and Paris, Bonn, Washington DC, and Geneva. We have played a leadership role in helping give birth to the Paris Agreement and we’re active in the drive to comprehensively realize the core goals of the global climate accord just as we’re actively helping generate greater public support for a new, fit-for-climate-purpose Bretton Woods system.

Keeping to specific principles in campaigning has brought us to where we are today, and it’s good to recount some of these: if something’s easy, maybe it’s not for us? Avoid crowded campaign arenas and focus instead on gaps civil society groups are largely not working on or not as effectively as a situation requires while disciplining ideas and ensuring relevance by tethering to and sustaining accountability with social movements; avoid chasing headlines and instead shape narratives; always see the long view but be prepared to take action now; try not to elbow one another as we’re in the same race, though some are competing in marathon and others are in sprint mode or taking on hurdles; celebrate inches won and celebrate with unfettered joy; invest in and test our own ideas and be bold enough to court failure and generate experience points; donuts and ice cream are essential to happiness; and more. I am hopeful ICSC will continue to cleave to these guiding pillars even as it evolves to become far better than what it is today.

From a team of two, ICSC today is a far bigger family of around 50 people, with a median age of 35 years, around 60 percent of whom are women. The organization enjoys the trust and comradeship of its esteemed advisors and young colleagues. As I step down, I expect a cascade of people to step up and move up – this is the reason why ICSC will continue to grow and flourish under its new leadership.

To some extent I hope to remain active in helping raise resources for ICSC and its campaigns while supporting its national and international culture agenda and its energy transition and mobility campaigns. But I do look forward to finally slowing down and taking on a more contemplative mode.

With Red and Kairos in Essaouira, Morocco are Sara Jane Ahmed, founder and CEO of Financial Futures Center (FFC) and writer, painter, and climate advocate Tina Johnson.

I will miss everyone but it’s time to shift gears. I am eager to spend more time leading the Constantino Foundation, and having more time to write, read, create, dwell on a few choice joys, and generally putter around on my bicycle-horse Wyatt Earp while filling the role of full-time tag-along spouse and the goofy dad. This is the retirement from the present campaign scene and campaign mode I had been aiming at for a while and I’m glad it’ll at last be at hand by the middle of February.

This is certainly not a campaign autumn. Maria Popova wrote how I feel at the moment as “I ride into the spring night singing. This, in the end, might be the truest translation of ‘joy’ – this ecstatic fusion of presence and possibility,” a malcontent and troublemaker to the end.