Community Action for Rapid Transition to Sustainability
The story so far:
Reporter Max Wahlter has been visiting the sustainable city of Porena (see earlier journeys). Yes but .. you hear this a lot....how are you going to get people to cooperate to transition a community to sustainability? THAT is the challenge. Max is participating in such a process. He already discovered a new way of working based on focusing only on behaviour and only on what can be done today. Today he finds how to take that forward one step to getting people to volunteer.. Don't believe it is possible? Then read on ...
The assignment is to go to a place where people come together in groups to cooperate to find solutions to sustainability issues across all aspects of a particular administrative area. I would like to visit a place that demonstrates a methodology for it. We have covered working together toward sustainability from several aspects, but just this aspect has not been covered. It would be great if we could do that, especially using Imagestreaming.
Ok - tape's on. I want to go to the follow up of the previous workshop about the methodology for co-operating in a community to address sustainability challenges.
They pointed out the need to wait – it's been two days. If I remember, we got as far as generating solutions and documenting them on one A4 paper which was posted on the internet.
I close my eyes. I am in the departure lounge; the guy who came with me last time turns up and takes me to the same lift. We enter. I see traffic down below. Up we go …fast. The rock face looms close as we ascend. The lift stops with a bang, doors opening onto a walkway that has a high fence which arches over, presumably to stop people climbing up. Cars move on the road below.
'Come on!' the guy with me says.
I stop at the door as the area seems to be closed today.
'It's OK it's a special session for us today,' he says.
We walk over the cobbled square to what looks like a Town Hall. As we enter we see people wandering around drinking tea and coffee and studying the solutions which are posted up on the walls. I get offered coffee and a bun and welcomed.
'Have you looked at the solutions since last?' someone asks.
'No,' I say rather surprised. (How could I do that this is a fantasy? – The thought goes through my mind but not onto the tape.)
'Tut tut tut, you are meant to do that!' she admonishes.
I reply 'yes, well I couldn't … I …oh never mind, I saw nothing anyway except I saw something of the growing food at home shop idea'.
'Maybe you would like to join that group?' she says.
'Thanks I'd love too.'
People group up. The tables are numbered, one per solution. A list on the wall shows which table is which.
I ask someone: 'is there one table per solution or issue or what?'
He replies, 'don't worry just work at your table and it will become clear'.
I see our table, and join the group. We sit at a round table, with chess-like pieces, or markers like the ones you use for the board game Ludo, laid out on it.
A large paper worksheet sits on the table I cannot make out what is on it. First, introductions to the group participants. We have the horticultural college, someone from the garden center, gardening enthusiasts. I look for the guy who did the image stream. It is not necessary to have that person along, but it turns out he is sitting just across from me.
He laughs: 'I'm not necessary! The image stream really gives voice to what we already know'.
This is a leader –less activity, and I am itching to get in and LEAD the proceedings. I resist the temptation and wait.
'Shall I start?' says the guy opposite me.
He starts off with a summary: partly to reduce transports, partly to increase the amount of locally grown food is the idea to grow food at home. The behaviour is to grow food at home more with an increase of 10%.
'Ten percent do you really think that is reasonable?' I wonder.
'Yes it is,' comes the reply tersely.
Some of the solutions called for Garden Centres offering grow food at home solutions. The agricultural college would help. These people are here to contribute. Other solutions from the image streams were growing cabbages etc in the garden more. The behaviour was to plant more.
These solutions are described on the large worksheet in front of me.
The guy from the horticultural college says 'I could…produce a brochure'.
That gets written down on the paper in the centre on an activity list. Someone else's I could is ..sell all the things needed to do it at home from the garden shop. The enthusiasts say they could run a few study circles. I could work on the figures, how many people we need to engage and the spread. Someone else will write the stakeholder list. I ask who else will do an I could. I am warned not to try to get ahead of the game.
'I could put up web pages,' someone pipes up.
All 'I coulds' are now captured. The markers are put into an 'effort required' space in the column next to the activity column. Some activities have three, some one. Effort in time is meant here to cover the next week specifically. If it is independent of other activities it has a yellow marker in the next column. There is a connection between the brochure and what comes in the shops so no marker next to those. The activities are then grouped into different time blocks. I ask how the spread of home grown food is going to happen, all I see is these volunteers and you need to reach a good proportion of households, I would guess.
'You won't know until you have worked it out. And you only have to work with assets so we take these three steps. The commitment that is needed is already secured.'
'It IS this simple,' someone else says; 'you are trying to complicate it!'
'Why don't you go and look at the other groups?' a group member suggests.
I wander off to the air pollution group. Again I see the blue, red, yellow markers. Red for effort, yellow for dependencies and blue for grouping. They have quite a large group, about a dozen, with several experts. A driving instructor, driving enthusiasts a transport group. They have decided in what order they are going to do things. 1) They are going to find bottlenecks where traffic stops. 2) Cycle paths and walking paths are going to be documented.
I walk over to the facilitator to ask more questions. He doesn't seem to be doing anything. My first question is about coordinating between groups. All results are documented so each group sees the other's results and can check for overlaps, synergies etc. Second: the next steps. The group will continue to meet regularly once a week for a couple of hours to carry on the work. All in the same room to allow coordination and create momentum. Third: The follow-up. 'For the follow up - you should attend one to see how that works. You have seen how we go from analysis to working group. The Imagestreaming creates a quick solution. The focus is on implementing as fast as possible. The preparation is done deliverable-based as much as possible. When the preparation is done - you are prepared to go to the next step when the research is done and the deliverables are there. We need one or two weeks more to get the preparation done.
Delegates will now just go home and post the results of their work on the project site. Some will have the task of coordinating between groups. What is not voluntarily offered is not done. If they do not get enough volunteers it just does not happen. It is all based on will. No-one would offer to do something if they were not prepared to do it. In some cases you need to go back to the asset responsible to get commitment for their time, and get it confirmed to engage assets. Assets are either engaged or not.
I ask about how the whole thing was developed.
'Is that important?' he replies.
'No,' I say. 'How do you train people to do this?'
'You just do it. People come along and hang in there. We have a facilitator group who develop the methodology. Then we monitor progress. That is OUR Imagestreaming, OUR planning. We use the same methodology.'
I move into borrowed genius mode. I merge with him and look through his eyes. I see he has at this point basically nothing to do. Everyone is working away so he wanders around to look for co-ordination needs and synergy. He goes over to the fizzy drink consumption reduction group. The expert group is now dispersed into the action groups. The work the experts do is pre-budgeted for these activities. Each group member's time is budgeted. People here are very careful about budgeting their time. In the case of the fizzy drinks, they are entering into voluntary agreements about displaying fizzy and still drinks together. The markers were also used to estimate impact of each activity. The paper has a line for questions; these are researcher activities, treated in more or less the same way. The invitation to these sessions was sent out widely.
Transparency is achieved through everything being made available on the Internet. We can have a reporter here to do a piece for the local newspaper. Through the eyes of the facilitator it is very simply about getting people to get to the behaviour quickly. And the genius is skipping a load of unnecessary steps. The reason for the approach where people and organizations pre-commit their time and then offer to do activities is that it requires less management. In the beginning it is difficult to sell in. Once you have done it people find it fun and everyone wants to continue. People enjoy it and it is not a lot of work. A lot of what is happening in the workshop has to do with people's responsibilities at their work anyway. Because the experts are present there is never any waiting for information. And they are good.
I release the facilitator. He rings a bell for the five minute mark. People are photographing the papers to put onto the web. The follow up meetings will happen once a week and then the implementation. Something for the next visit. I look round for the guy who brought me here and realize it is the facilitator.
End of session for today.
What surprised me
I am surprised by my own reaction. These exercises are like a novel I can't put down. I am dieing for the next step like dieing to turn the page over! Is it just me getting excited about new ways of collaborating?
I'm not sure that you can describe activities without more planning.
How to invite to a session. I should have asked about measurements.
Practical uses seen already
I like the idea of a board and markers.
How do you implement all this. Having good ideas is one thing. Turning it into a plan of action and then doing it is another. We old cynical hippies get a real shock as Max sees it all come together before his very eyes.
Can't wait for next week? Want a really cool Christmas gift for someone who CARES?
Then go buy the book on-line here.