Workshops

Assemble in a Workshop to Develop a Vision

Developing a vision on your own is always a challenge. However, you may find the effort to be a rewarding experience. It requires making the time to do some research and reading and above all finding time to do some reflection and writing. A long walk in a quiet setting can be a helpful aid to reflection. It may help to share ideas with friends. The process of articulating your ideas to others helps you clarify your own thinking. I believe that engaging in conversations with others about what is important to you will lead you on a path to your own vision.

Joining with others in a facilitated, safe space at a workshop can be a great help. Though you may be working on an individual vision, having others around you to have conversations with can be a great stimulus to generating ideas. If you are joining with others in order to create a collective vision, then being at a collaborative workshop with them will make the work much easier to accomplish and certainly create a more enriching experience. It will foster the kind of collaboration and network that will be needed later on to plan for and implement the vision. If you have not already done so, this is an opportunity to invite in the stakeholders who you will need with you to be successful.

I have run visioning workshops using a variety of different approaches tailored to the needs of the particular group. A one-day workshop held in a pleasant setting ideally out in Nature away from one's usual busy life can be a significant step in achieving a vision. A two-day workshop with an overnight will allow for some soak time for reflection and will also provide the opportunity for some team or network building. Currently, the Innovation Lab or Hackathon approach has appeal to people. It allows for making progress on an issue in a shorter span of time while allowing for interaction. I have developed a design for an Innovation Lab which helps participants move through the necessary steps to arriving at a vision.

In developing a vision, it helps to be clear on what you want to change - individually or as a group. The group SITRA from Finland suggests offering categories for people to think about: Clean Water and Air, Sustainable Food System, Future Cities, Material Cycle, Transportation and Industry; and then within these to think of both small and large challenges to solve. You could also use the Oneplanet Living Principles for this. Using the Oneplanet Principes will enable you to post your plan on that site.

Whatever the approach, a vision workshop will place you further on the path to implementing your sustainable future.

 


Translate Your Vision To A Plan

Moving from Vision to Plan

Now that you have develped a vision, it is time to translate your vision into a concrete plan. You may have already found that you have already begun to live your vision. This is one of the advantages of having a vision. The act of developing a vision helps to build it into your life quite naturally. Now you will be moving further along the path to implementing your vision. You may be doing this based on an individual vision or a collective vision with friends, co-workers or members of your community.

Developing a Plan

With regard to developing a plan, I have found that Oneplanet.com offers a good deal of help in this regard. It also provides a place for you to publish your plan with some useful graphics. This can be of value to you as you keep a record of the plan and make changes as time goes on. It can also be of value to others who are involved in developing a plan. I know that I have benefited from looking at the plans of others posted on Oneplanet.com. In fact, the plan for Project Earth was published on the Oneplanet.com site. Other plans and their descriptions can also be found on Oneplanet's parent site, Bioregional.

The Oneplanet.com site will first ask you whether you want to set up a plan for an Organization plan, an Area-wide plan or a Project plan. I opted to use the Project Plan for the Earth Project. You can also invite people to become members in the development of this plan. (You will have to consult with Oneplanet.com in terms of whether this is a free or a paid functionality.) The Oneplanet format allows you to develop Outcomes, Actions and Indicators and to create links between them. I use the links to both illustrate the relational connection among members as well as the logical connections among different aspects of the plan. This can be illustrated graphically or set out as a pdf written document. A way of viewing all of this as a table is also available. The entire approach on Oneplanet.com allows you to color code any of these elements based on one of the Ten Principles of One Planet Living if you so desire.

Helpful Resources

If you have registered with Oneplanet.com as a user, you can log in and access detailed planning documents such as "Implementing One Planet Living," and "One Planet Goals and Guidance for Communities and Destinations." I found the later document particularly helpful. It has a good deal of detail on the Ten Principles of One Planet Living. For each principle, it provides a description and examples of related goals, key performance indicators (KPI), indicators and possible targets.

Holding a Planning Workshop

A collective plan is best developed at a facilitated workshop where the relevant stakeholders can be involved. Goals and outcomes can be established. Activities determined. Roles can be established in terms of who will be responsible for which goal or activity. Timelines will be set out. You will determine how you will learn and adapt based on feedback that you receive along the way. As important as anything else, at a workshop you will continue to build the trust and the network needed for successful implementation.

 

 

 


Building a Successful Conversation Through Diversity

Whether engaged in a conversation about sustainability or developing a vision or plan, building diversity into our sustainability efforts is an important principle that will lead to success.

I take a broad view of diversity. It applies to the individual, the organization as well as the wider society. It includes demographic diversity, certainly. It also covers diversity of thought, perspectives, disciplines and the diverse realities that reflect each of our separate existences. It covers one additional important area that I will discuss here.

Applying Diversity to Individuals

How this principle is to be applied is the critical question. Diversity applies on an individual level. There are many different ways in which we approach the world, and they may sometimes appear to be in conflict. For example, there may be the part of us that likes structure and the part of us that may like things to be more free and easy. There is likely the part of each of us that wants to "do" and another part that is happy to just "be." There is the part of us that is a member of a capitalist, market economy and the part of us that may be quite tired of the consumerist culture. There is the part of us that firmly knows we must act to save the environment and the part of us that may be reluctant to make the necessary changes. You cannot divorce yourself from either one of these internal polarities or tensions. It may well be healthier for you to facilitate your own internal dialogue amongst them. Through such a process, all aspects of yourself will feel acknowledged and heard lessening defensiveness. A natural integration will result which will facilitate your awareness of what you truly need to flourish. You will be able to bring more of your full, rich self into your interactions with others.

Applying Diversity to Organizations, Society

The same is true with organizations and societies. They also have many different aspects to them some of which may appear to be in conflict with one another. We can facilitate a conversation amongst them and the people who hold them. As in the individual case, such a dialogue between seeming opposites is one way of enabling both to be acknowledged and heard. The human psyche will do its natural job of seeking integration both on an individual and organizational level. The result will be a healthier and more flourishing society.

We can helpfully build this diversity into our workshops, our conversations and our communities and facilitate the necessary interactions. To ensure each perspective is fully heard, listeners should try to see the world through the experiences of the person who is speaking. We should provide a safe space to support each in sharing their views.

Expanding Beyond Privileged Narratives

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There is, however, a trickier part. We may think that we have factored in a diversity of perspectives even while we are steadfastly following an historical story, narrative or discourse that has been with us for a long time. As a result, we end up privileging that discourse while ignoring other ones. These other ones represent different ways of learning, thinking and even being in the world.

Here are some examples that represent other ways of thinking and being in the world.

"First Nations people in western Canada see the forests of British Columbia as sacred spaces. People from a European background see them as resources to be used or developed even if for leisure. The giving of land back to First Nations people in Canada elicited the complaint that they do not "do" anything with it. The idea that sometimes the point is to "be" rather than to "do" seems to have proved very hard to communicate." (Cata, Myers, 2011).

"The indigenous people of the Amazon understand their world through a different sort of songline.  Indigenous people know how to "think" the forests, know that the paths through this wilderness are songs, the song that each plant has. Song makes a thread of light, a path of the mind; each song tells of one plant's relationship to other plants and not only differentiates one plant from another but distinguishes between the uses of for example, stem or leaf or root of the same plant. There is practical wisdom here but also psychological wisdom; you find your way and learn how to live unlost not through the wild forest but within it. The songlines harmonize people with environment. There is no divide." (Griffiths, 2009)

Joanna Macy in "The Greening of the Self," provides another example. She discusses the Chipko "tree-hugging" movement in north India where villagers protect their remaining woodlands from ax and bulldozer by interposing their bodies. One of her students comments,

"I think of the tree huggers hugging my trunk, blocking the chain saws with their bodies. I feel their fingers digging into my bark to stop the steel and let me breathe....I give thanks for your life and mine and for life itself."

Joanna comments in turn,

"What is striking about Michael's words is the shift in identification. Michael is able to extend his sense of self to encompass the self of the tree. (The) tree is no longer a removed, separate, disposable object pertaining to a world "out there," but intrinsic to his own vitality. Through the power of his caring, his experience of self is expanded far beyond that skin-encapsulated ego."

Each of these stories represents another perspective, a reality that may be quite different from our own.

In discussing the First Nations story, Cato and Myers comment:

"What is important here is the unsettling of a previously privileged discourse, an historical embedded discourse from a "civilized" culture of pioneers, conquerors and colonialists, who on initially encountering First Nations and indigenous Peoples' way of life considered it inferior and yet now value their wisdom as contributing to a different understanding of life and collective reality. In the context of the sustainability crisis, this awareness of an alternative perspective acquires added salience." (Cato, Myers, 2011)

 


Breaking the Gordian Knot in Approaches to the Climate Emergency

image from images.app.goo.gl
In our current efforts to respond to the Climate Emergency that we all face, it may be useful to address what appears to be a dialectical relationship between the two major strategies.

On the one hand, some assert that the way forward can be found in the street protests organized by Greta and the School Strike movement and Extinction Rebellion. This approach seems to be to challenge politicians and governments throughout the world to take action. One does assume that participation in these protests through the power of cognitive dissonance motivates participants to take individual action. However, this approach primarily seeks action at a top-down, national and global scale though motivated by grassroots activities.

Others believe that the way forward is based on individual actions. In this view, if each of us were to reduce our carbon footprint, the collective impact would be significant. If one includes corporations as individuals here then the impact becomes significantly greater. This is reflected in approaches such as the Circular Economy and Industrial Symbiosis. There are many such "individual" actions all around the world, each with its own orientation - its view of economic activity, the nature of progress, the role of humans in our Earthly ecosystem, a definition of wellbeing. Here, progress is seen as based on the combined impact of individual and corporate action.

I admit that in my own efforts, I live out the same quandary wondering which is the more efficacious approach. Where should I and others put our efforts? I also wonder whether the better approach would be to strive for a vision of an ideal future or whether the pursuit of many smaller efforts in time would have the potential of coalescing into a more overarching vision.

In an ideal world, there would not be such dilemmas. Motivated governments and motivated individuals would all be taking action, thus, ensuring an encompassing, comprehensive response to this Climate Emergency. Since we do not live in such an ideal world (which would already have responded to Climate Change many years ago), there seems to be a push-pull as to deciding where to put one's efforts in moving forward. We are wondering where to invest conference space, media focus, available resources and our personal energy. The metaphor that came to me is that of a Gordian Knot which defies habitual methods of untying. The message in the Gordian Knot parable is that there is a simpler, higher level approach that will resolve what in retrospect can be seen as a false dilemma.

Though there are likely many ways of approaching this Gordian Knot dilemma, I would like to suggest one in particular.

I am reminded of a play by Luigi Pirandello entitled "Six Characters in Search of an Author." My recollection is that in this play established characters living out their dramatic lives are searching for an author to provide them with added context and meaning.

I am wondering whether in our current world of sustainability actions and futures, we are not in effect creating individual characters still lacking that underlying essence that will provide them with meaning. Without that "authorship" the dilemma is a self-perpetuating one constantly fueling a Gordian Knot existence.

If one looks back over the history of the United States, one can find many events, individuals and motivations leading to the foundation of the Republic. Over a period of about 150 years, what arose to author the future was a consensus around the core ideals of self-determination, freedom and "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." This obviously did not happen over night and encompassed a great deal of societal discussions, debates, newspaper articles, books, speeches and assemblies.

This authorship became embodied in America's founding documents, the "Declaration of Independence" and the "Constitution" and "Bill of Rights." All of these were based on philosophical themes with antecedents throughout history. One can look at these founding documents as an epochal turning point in which a new paradigm was firmly established. Another historical example of a world-changing paradigm around which a consensus developed is the Enlightenment.

It seems to me that our efforts in sustainability are lacking this consensus having to do with what we are about based on a philosophical, biological, ecological, scientific, ethical etc. foundation. We lack a consensus around our "author."

Our additional challenge is that we do not have 150 years to sort all of this out. We have less than twelve years. At the same time, many exciting ideas already abound based on work over many decades. There are countless books, internet posts, articles, events, where ideas are being set out on topics ranging from Biomimicry, to Ecological Economics, to Natural Capitalism, morphogenetic change and regenerative economies. Many posit interrelationships among different disciplines and perspectives among which are ecological, economic, social and cultural ones. Some go as far as asking for a new unifying though heterogeneous narrative for our Earthly ecosystem.

We do seem to be gradually seeking a new paradigm that will author all of our efforts. I believe that it is the current lack of a consensus around such a paradigm that creates the Gordian Knot dilemma that we are experiencing and which makes our work that much more challenging. A common paradigm would provide an authoring concept to which we could organically relate our various activities.

We cannot force the emergence of such a paradigm. We can, however, act in a facilitative way to create a fertile ground for its emergence based on our learning from history. The following ideas are not intended to develop fixes, solutions or isolated actions. They are focused upon the development of a philosophical and ethical basis for a new narrative for all creatures and elements of nature that have a place on this planet including we human sapiens.

  • We can support each new idea as a seed worthy of germinating, paying attention to, adding to and reflecting upon each with openness.
  • We can support new ideas with resources.
  • We can provide in-person and virtual venues where interchange and synthesis of ideas can occur in a spirit of collaboration and respect.
  • We can utilize all modalities open to us to express ideas including the vehicle of the arts: music and song, painting, drama, dance, poetry, performance art.
  • We can read, share, talk and dialogue about ideas and share our new learnings.
  • We can offer a library of ideas which the School Strike, Extinction Rebellion, Green New Deal and others can draw upon.
  • We can ask our friends in all of the different movements to distill and share the philosophy underlying their many activities. We can ask the same of participants in any given workshop.
  • We can frame each new synthesis as an experimental basis for a new paradigm to be pursued - to see where it goes, adapting and letting go of it as necessary.

In doing this, we will be using our collective authorship to rewrite the basic narrative of life on this planet.