Jess Miller of A New Normal Sydney

11 Dec 2023

Introducing one of our esteemed speakers for next year’s highly anticipated TRANSFORM event, Jess Miller.

Not so long- ago Jess was one of the youngest serving councillors in the City Of Sydney and Deputy Lord Mayor. Now, she is just under 12 months into the ideation and execution of A New Normal, Sydney.

Naturally, we were excited to know what A New Normal is all about ahead of TRANSFROM, and to give you all a taste of what will be on offer.

It was just over a year ago that Jess Miller wondered what was really needed to make Greater Sydney, and indeed any city, not only survive but resiliently thrive in a rapidly changing climate.

 How do we evolve from ‘think tanks’ to ‘do tanks’?

 For Jess, it wasn’t about reinventing the wheel, it was about putting into action what others had successfully implemented elsewhere. Luckily, she came across Ross Harding at Finding Infinity, and the teams transformative project, A New Normal, Melbourne.

“We’re really quite excellent at setting really ambitious visions and policies, but what often lets us down is our ability to implement these excellent ideas in a way that is efficient, cohesive, cross-sectoral, and fun while giving us the tangible outcomes that we need to hit out net zero goals,” said Jess on her catalyst for bringing A New Normal to Sydney.

“Fundamentally it’s about transformation and not working in timelines that are beyond the realm of conceivability. 2030 is really not that far away so we have to get on with it. And we must do that in a way that works on a ten-year or less payback period. It’s got to stack up financially,” said Jess. 

Jess Miller
Jess Miller,Collective Impact, Urban Policy & Communication Strategist

Building upon what was learned in Melbourne, A New Normal Sydney is about presenting the business case for these transformations, and clearing identifying the policy tweaks that would achieve impact a scale, based on learning from prototypes and pilot s projects.

But change is often hard to initiate and pursue, even change we know urgently needs to happen.

So how do we make people comfortable and invested in change that is better for them and the planet? In Jess’ experience, people don’t make decisions based on reports, even when we wish they would.

“People make decisions based on a whole range of sensory stimulus, so I think the difference between the new normal approach versus a report is that we’re tapping into all of the senses. So, when we take these big concepts and bring them to life as prototypes you can expect to smell what it’s like, see what it’s like, feel what it’s like, touch things and even taste what a new normal can be. It’s about connecting with people on all of the levels and that is totally different. I can’t remember the last time you could taste a policy recommendation,” said Jess.

New Normal Sydney brings together the private sector, the public sector, culture and experts. To get the work off the ground, 12 project briefs provide teams with a clear scope of work. Teams interpret the briefs and provide place-based concepts. These concepts are translated into prototypes that can be experienced, and then become real pilot projects.

“There’s nothing radical at all in any of those project briefs. They’re things that have been written into policies for probably more than a decade, yet even something as simple as net zero or an energy efficiency retrofit, I think we still struggle to point to specific examples of what that looks like.

“The briefs were chosen because they’re very normal, but also, it shows them as a collection of problems because when you solve them together the outcome is radically transformative.

“All of a sudden you have examples, and you’re empowered when arguing for a better future because you can point to real examples of what’s possible – that is a very persuasive tool and one that is sometimes lacking. It’s the ability to be able to show the outcome rather than just talk about it, it’s compelling” explained Jess.

The intent remains steadfast, and essentially non-radical: to ‘normalise’ the change we need.

To hear more from Jess and about these sensory provoking briefs, that are the realisation of not-so radical ideas with radical and realistic outcomes, join us at TRANSORM in 2024 for Jess’s session. Rethinking the boundaries - doughnut economics and the New Normal", alongside Leonora Grcheva from the Doughnut Economics Action Lab. 

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