Realizing the Deeper Shared Purpose — What We Are Learning from BUILD UPON Cambridge, Madrid, and Brussels

In this 2nd of a series of 4 blogposts, we share what we are learning, as co-investors with BUILD UPON and the European Climate Foundation, about: (1) co-hosting collaboration; (2) realizing the deeper shared purpose; (3) measuring impact resilience; and (4) scaling impact.

REALIZING THE DEEPER SHARED PURPOSE

The potential we saw. To achieve its goal of “cutting Europe’s energy use, reducing the impacts of climate change, and creating buildings that deliver a high quality of life for everyone,” BUILD UPON believes that, “changing the way we work together will lead to strong, well implemented renovation strategies over time. Success is therefore about establishing and maintaining innovative platforms for cross-sector collaboration and partnership.  Europe’s renovation revolution can only be achieved if governments, businesses, NGOs and householders come together: individually, our resources are insufficient to meet this challenge, but collectively we can achieve the impact needed to make our buildings the best they can be.”

“The process gave me the tools to progress in a direction that I intuitively felt was needed to build widespread support beyond the energy efficiency community. We need to engage with stakeholders that don’t yet see a direct benefit to their respective causes or objectives. This will happen most effectively by finding common ground, which starts with understanding their values and perspectives. We have seen good examples of such leadership in the campaigns and coalitions we have been supporting, demonstrating that successful engagement and alignment with a wide variety of stakeholders increases the overall impact of our advocacy efforts.”

— Patty Fong, Programme Director of the Energy Efficiency Programme, European Climate Foundation

To collaborate at this level, the BUILD UPON leadership believed it was critical to invite in a broad set of stakeholders, representing many different facets of the built environment and energy systems across Europe to see what the deeper shared purpose that could unite them might be.  To facilitate this broad set of stakeholders, 32 leaders from the BUILD UPON and European Climate Foundation communities went through a advanced leadership capacity-building process  together 3 weeks before, in Cambridge UK (link to previous blogpost in this series), to build capacity in how to co-host collaboration.

What we did.  At the BUILD UPON Madrid Leaders Summit, the co-hosts, two to a table, co-hosted ten other leaders representing other stakeholder perspectives throughout the energy efficiency, renewable energy, and building renovation communities across Europe.  The co-hosted conversation inquired into the deeper purpose they all shared that brought them together.  This far-ranging conversation covered very different topics at each table, depending on the stakeholder perspectives at that table, and they all converged on the importance of a set of four social impacts they all shared (increasing economic development, decreasing the environmental and health impacts of energy and buildings, and increasing affordable housing), supported by a coherent set of strategic impacts in regulations, financial risk sharing, social capital, and technical innovation.

“Stakeholders are important for the process, but if they are not involved and do not feel that they are taking part in the process, they will not grasp the importance of their role and their added value. This is what co-hosting brings to the table: a chance for everyone to be involved and take part in the process of exchanging ideas and thoughts.  No matter which function someone held (minister or junior project manager), people took the time to listen to each other (with the help of co-hosts).”

— Alan Perl, BUILD UPON Project Manager, Croatia GBC

A table conversation in the BUILD UPON Madrid Leaders Summit

What came out of that process.  Out of that process in Madrid, we synthesized the input from the 16 tables, including 150 stakeholder perspectives, into one “Common Vision” statement.   

The following systems map captures the core elements of this synthesized statement and how the elements fit together as a coherent set.

How to read the systems map.  In essence, the variables in green represent the social impacts that the group of many stakeholders identified in their deeper shared purpose, through the co-hosted session in Madrid.  To be determined a success, the work must have an economic impact of generating more projects for companies and more jobs for individuals.  It also must lead to an environmental impact of dramatically lowering greenhouse gas emissions.  And it must have a positive impact on the health of its citizens and make housing more affordable.  All four social impacts must be achieved.

The variables in black represent the strategic impacts of the BUILD UPON work, all of which are needed together to renovate the building stock, in a way that generates the four required social impacts.  The economic impact depends on the activity of renovating buildings.  The environmental and health impacts depend on the resulting stock of renovated buildings. As described by the groups in Madrid, the activity of renovating buildings depends on supply and demand.  Increasing supply strategically is primarily a function of lowering financial risk and increasing demand, the combination of which will lead to more companies providing renovation services and building sufficient capacity to meet any demand.  Decreasing financial risk depends on sharing risk across multiple stakeholders, not just the investors, and on stabilizing demand by generating regulations that require renovation.  Both of these factors are strengthened by the generation of policies and regulations requiring renovation. Increasing demand strategically requires the people knowing that they have to renovate because of regulations requiring renovation, that people see that everyone else they know is renovating–it becomes a social norm–, it make more sense to renovate because technical innovation provides cheaper, smarter solutions, and because renovation is a good thing to do, since evidence shows the proven social benefits of renovation.

The variables in blue represent the process impacts that leverage each local renovation effort across member states and across Europe by working on (1) cross-sector, cross-member state collaboration, (2) showcasing the thousands of cases of positive deviants in technical and social innovations they find locally, (3) the creation of a clear, generalizable and at the same time specific message of how renovation is becoming a social norm, and (4) the creation of a social-engagement movement that supports the deeper shared purpose.

“While applying the ‘O Process’ methodology, we enhanced our collective capacity to read and approach systems, as such, to support the systemic change projects that we deem essential to ignite a renovation revolution. Energy efficiency, though, is a means to an end. Better, to a set of interconnected ends. Systemic change affects where a system goes, what it does, who influence it and, crucially, how it works. With respect to this, we learned to outline shared purposes (Why), to identify together possibilities and probabilities (at an early stage, What), and to upgrade effectiveness through collaboration (How). The corresponding distinctions and relationships between social, strategic and process goals and metrics become clearer, thanks to the overall process we’ve been experiencing, led by the ISC team.

The systemic nature of the challenges we’re facing requires us all to establish collaborative multi-sectoral platforms on local, national and international levels, consistent with the very nature of the Green Building Councils and of their networks. Moreover, those platforms should be connected towards a collective effort, local to national and national to international. That appears to be the biggest process innovation, broadly considering many diverse countries.”

— Sebastiano Cristoforetti, International and Certification Manager, GBC Italia

What we came to call the “Common Vision,” while still in process, now integrates in one shared, deeper purpose, many different stakeholders, who have come together to achieve a coherent set of social impacts, through a process in the built environment, that meets many strategic impacts.  This depth and breadth was achieved in one morning, because of the skill and process of co-hosting collaboration.

We tend to believe that if we are in the same space or work together, we are collaborating–the assumption that networks equal collaboration is not true.

We thank our colleagues at the European Climate Foundation (ECF), the BUILD UPON team, the co-hosts (link to previous blog in series on “co-hosting collaboration), the Madrid participants, the Institute for Strategic Clarity, and Vibrancy—all co-investors in this process together.

Co-hosting Collaboration — What We Are Learning from BUILD UPON Cambridge, Madrid, and Brussels

In this 1st of a series of 4 blogposts, we share what we are learning, as co-investors with BUILD UPON and the European Climate Foundation, about: (1) co-hosting collaboration; (2) realizing the deeper shared purpose; (3) measuring impact resilience; and (4) scaling impact.

CO-HOSTING COLLABORATION

The potential we saw.  In the spring of 2016, in dialog with BUILD UPON and European Climate Foundation (ECF) leadership, we saw the potential for both communities to benefit from greater collaboration amongst their many members, within each community and across them.  Together, we thought that introduction to a proven collaboration-building process, like the “O Process,” (see figure below) could facilitate much greater collaboration, across the networks, by clarifying a deeper shared purpose, the need for diverse positions, and the ability to integrate the unique perspectives these diverse positions bring to the possibilities that can be seen and the commitment to actions that could be taken, together.

To foster this greater collaboration, we decided (BUILD UPON, ECF, Vibrancy) to co-invest in an advanced leadership capacity-building process with leaders from each community, building up their capacity to “co-host collaboration,” through the O Process, and then having them apply the newly acquired skills together at the BUILD UPON Leaders Summit and on their own in their own local organizations.

What we did.  In April 2016, we met with ECF grantees, inviting them into the process. Over the late spring and summer, individuals from the ECF and BUILD UPON communities were invited to participate in the co-hosting collaboration process.  In late August, 32 leaders from ECF and BUILD UPON met in Cambridge, UK for a 3-day advanced leadership capacity-building session.  Three weeks later, we all met in Madrid to apply what we had learned together in a long, morning session during the BUILD UPON Madrid Leaders Summit.  In mid-January 2017, we met in an on-line lab to share experiences and to provide peer-to-peer learning by discussing what we had learned from our work together and in our own settings, in co-hosting collaboration.

 

Cambridge Advanced Leadership Capacity-Building on Co-Hosting Collaboration and the O-Process, 29-31 August 2016

BUILD UPON Madrid Leaders Summit, 20-21 September 2016

Online Lab on Sharing and Peer-to-Peer Learning, 12 January 2017

The evidence we saw.  The 32 leaders who self-selected into the Cambridge advanced leadership capacity building  were able to connect and understand the fundamental skills of inquiry and co-hosting within one day, which allowed them to begin to co-host on day two a difficult exploration of challenging topics with stakeholders holding sometimes-conflicting positions, such as whether there is a deeper, shared purpose for why we all work in the space of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and building renovation, and why each perspective in that greater mix matters.  This showed the speed with which high-impact resilience leaders can learn to co-host collaboration.

“When I went through this process, I began to see the intense value that comes from understanding voices from other actors within our field. I began to understand the value that they can bring to what I want to achieve, and the O Process itself, with the way it is structured, allows guided conversations, which certainly, before I took the training, I would not have been able to do at a roundtable discussion or with a group of stakeholders whose values are not the same as mine.”

— Adrian Joyce, Director, Renovate Europe Campaign (0:35 – 1:08 – https://youtu.be/wIpZU73wEiQ)

One of the key difficulties in co-hosting collaboration is the passion and process for including the wide diversity of stakeholder perspectives necessary to achieve the identified deeper shared purpose.  It is far easier to work with the same, friendly colleagues as usual.  It is far more challenging to actually want to and to be able to honestly make a space of trust for the voices that are necessary and usually not included.  This is a process of deeply valuing “the other.”  These 32 leaders showed that they were able to take up this process, both in repeated practice in Cambridge and in a live situation together in Madrid.

We thought it would be best for the many stakeholders coming together in Madrid to be co-hosted by their peers.  This proved to be much more powerful than having the session facilitated by a group of experts external to their community.  The long tenure within the community, the credibility from many successful, large-scale projects, the passion for the aggressive goals of dramatically reducing the adverse impacts of buildings in Europe, and the respectful attention to co-hosting diverse perspectives led to a wide-ranging, efficient process for eliciting and integrating a deeper shared purpose, as expressed in the BUILD UPON “Common Vision.”

It was critical to develop these co-hosting collaboration skills in the context of a direct application together to a topic and community that directly influenced all participants.  The immediacy of the application, coupled with the capacity-building process, made the feedback from co-hosting peers ever more critical.  Approaching the whole process through the principles of transformative learning, we repeatedly hypothesized what we would do, tried it, reflected on what happened, gave ourselves and each other the feedback, adjusted, and tried again, learning and evolving along the way, together.

“Immersed as we all are in our very particular lives, we usually are not aware of how much collaboration, true collaboration, can transform our lives.  In fact we don’t even know what collaboration means to start with, so most of our work in BUILD UPON has been to try and give a sense, and a meaning, to it just by doing it and involving others in it, probably not knowing much at the beginning, but believing in it.  Through the process we have seen how powerfully this idea has opened new dimensions in all our minds: it is not only that work with–instead of work against–each other could be much better, in a linear way, so to say, what happened was that new, unforeseen possibilities would unfold right before our eyes.

Thanks to the help provided by the Institute for Strategic Clarity, through the Cambridge-Madrid-Brussels experience we’ve come a long way, from our initial rudimentary way of listening or, rather, thinking we were listening, to a much more profound listening attitude, which is the base of true collaboration.  I believe we are only at the beginning, but fully motivated to go on progressing, learning from others and from ourselves, learning from all ‘nos-otros’. Thanks”.

— Emilio Miguel Mitre, GBCe, BUILD UPON Coordinator

Finally, to continue to develop in their capacity to co-host collaboration, bringing people from across Europe together to collaborate, requires more than one workshop (Cambridge) and one application (Madrid). It needs continuous reflection and conversations in leadership-tangibilization circles (online/in-person).  We experimented with one such online experience, in a webinar in January, and an in-person experience together in February in Brussels.

“The ‘co-hosting collaboration experience’ gave me a new framework and skills for problem-solving. Some recommendations provided by our guides and other members of the team sounded a bit obvious at the beginning of our joint collaboration, but over the time became a ‘check list’ of all discussions I run. It helped me a lot especially in debates on sensitive topics such as ‘organisational values’.”

— Antoni Bielewicz, European Climate Foundation, Poland

We thank our colleagues at the European Climate Foundation (ECF), the ECF grantees network, the BUILD UPON team and network members, the World Green Building Council, the co-hosts, the Madrid and Brussels participants, the Institute for Strategic Clarity, and Vibrancy—all co-investors in this process together.

Guest post — Consciously Choosing Abundance-driven Agreements

by Christoph Hinske, ISC Contributing Fellow, and Eyal Drimmer, Certified Vibrancy Guide

You can download a PDF of this blogpost here.

 

Abundance and Scarcity-Driven Agreements

The problem with most agreements is that we don’t see them.  They just are.  Most often we are not aware that what is happening around us is based on an agreement that one could potentially change.  It seems that life is “just that way.” In our day-to-day interactions, either at work or at home, we are engaging in a set of agreements and relationships, whether we realize it or not.  Sometimes the agreements work, resulting in vibrant experiences and great outcomes, and sometimes they do not, leaving us feeling depleted, fatigued and disappointed about the lousy outcomes.

In addition to shifting agreements in everyday experiences, many of us work to shift agreements in large-scale social change issues, such as renewable energy, food systems, poverty, climate change, and social justice.  Decades of attempts to address these big and small challenges with approaches rooted in scarcity have proven insufficient to the task.

Research at the Institute for Strategic Clarity (ISC) has identified many groups that are finding success in addressing these issues, starting from a very different perspective, one of abundance in human potential.  Ecosynomics, the social science of abundance, offers robust frameworks that take what we have learned in scarcity-based agreements framed by economics and puts it within the much broader, much healthier context of abundance-based agreements.

But how can agreements be made consciously so that people can choose self-determined higher vibrancy in their agreements?  We present a case study from Europe where we are in the process of guiding a group to abundance-based agreements. In doing so, we follow the Vibrancy Living Lab approach, which combines a guiding process with scientific research and social-impact creation to enable a positive contribution to the group and the community where it is embedded.

Starting from a Collapsed State

The example concerns a Community Supported Business (CSB) in a village in Germany; nine people comprising two families and many associates. While the main focus of their work resides on their CSB, they are also engaged in local education and regional politics.

Despite a great vision, the group found itself over the last years in a critical state: the financial situation was getting precarious, the group underwent some hard and energy-depleting times and some were on the edge of burning out. Furthermore, they had already started to lose belief in the meaning behind their venture and to unconsciously accept their scarce reality as given and unchangeable. With those agreements, practices and mindsets they were not able to ensure their private and professional successes.

Based on initial conversations about ecosynomic research, in early 2014, the founders of the community invited us to support them in overcoming their scarcity-driven practices by working out their own abundance-based agreements. 

Raising Awareness for Agreements and Interdependencies

Our first step was to empower them and bring back the feeling of self-determination. We chose two different approaches for this. The first was to stop “just doing” and to start observing. The second was the kind of relationship we entered. In this we decided to step into an unusual role. In addition to being external coaches and consultants, we also agreed to become full members of the group. This gave us more possibility to deeply resonate with them by still being able to mirror them in their dynamics.

The goal of both approaches was to raise the awareness of whether they would rather act out of scarcity or abundance-based agreements and to assess the benefit-cost of devoting resources into the development of abundance-based agreements. The first step into this direction was done through a collaborative Agreement Mapping. This exercise allowed them to understand their unconsciously accepted agreement system and (unintentional) practices leading to perceived scarcity. They were able to do so by tapping into the wisdom of four seemingly very distant fields that humans have used for millennia to understand their interactions, experiences, and produced results:

  1. Resource or economic lens: “How much do we have, of what, to achieve our goals?”
  2. Allocation or political lens: ”Who or what is in power, and who or what decides and enforces?”
  3. Value or cultural lens: “What criteria do they use, and what is important to them?”
  4. Organizing or social interaction lens: “What rules do they apply and how do they organize?”

These currently very distant fields have been integrated by ecosynomic research, allowing a group to understand if it is “stuck in scarcity” or “boosted by abundance.” Why did we do this, and why is this relevant? ISC research conducted in 95 countries proves abundance to be a desired state for any social system. While this seems obvious, direct measurement of this abundance is not. Without measurement, the group could neither take strategic decisions nor convince possible capital providers and shareholders of the importance of “all this fluffy abundance stuff.”

Mapping out the quality of their agreement structure allowed them to create a first understanding of how their embedded and interwoven assumptions shaped their interactions and how those interactions created the basis for the quality of their experiences and results. Understanding that, they started to see that their unpleasant experiences and poor results were a direct effect of the agreements they made on a daily basis in the four fields by (unconsciously) answering the related questions in completely opposite directions. They also started to see that by changing their embedded and interwoven assumptions and agreements they would directly change the experiences they have and the results they produce.

SIDEBAR
Measuring the benefits of and capacity for abundance gets its inspiration from the quality movement. Initially nobody knew how to assess the benefits of quality programs; this made investment decisions difficult. The innovation was to assess the cost of “no quality.” The insight was that the benefit of quality had to be at least as big as the cost of no quality. Likewise, the benefits of abundance are at least as big as the costs of scarcity, which is straightforward to measure.

 

After having this higher-level awareness of themselves and their context, we employed embodiment and systemic practices to open up concrete pathways for change.

Consciously Choosing Abundance-Based Agreements

Let’s have a closer look at the groups’ interrelated agreements and practices, as we saw them the day we started to be engaged with them.

guestpost_aemapcase_111416b

After raising awareness of the current situation, the group collectively agreed to allocate resources into the development of abundance-based agreements and to explore practices that would allow them to intentionally start from abundance and collaboration rather than being unintentionally stuck in scarcity and antagonism.

Outcomes and Summary

Through raising awareness, we managed to close the gap between their wishful thinking and currently shared reality–that is, the difference between the espoused agreements and practices in contrast to the ones in use.  Some concrete outcomes are:

  1. They entered a mindset of “we do have more than enough of anything, we just have to find ways of how to manifest the potential we see into results benefiting our business and community.” They are now successfully innovating on their business model by exploring new markets, management, and leadership behaviors.
  2. They have a high-level AND in-depth understanding of their structures and how each individual drives them. Building on that, they realized the interdependencies between the different parts of their “system” and the importance of alignment within it. Both aspects are essential preconditions to relate in an effective, efficient, and abundant way.
  3. They have the awareness that with their scarcity-driven agreements they would by definition neither be able to have the kind of “healthy experiences” nor produce the kind of outcomes they envision.
  4. They are much more conscious and mindful in their daily patterns, leading to more thoughtful interactions. “We now know that we are not yet able to have everything we would like to have, but we also know now what the ground is we are standing on.”
  5. “I learned to respect my own needs and to share them with everybody in our community.”

Engaging with them, you can now a) see and feel the higher-level awareness of “why do I experience what I experience and how I can change it” and b) see and feel the positive energy and motivation to grow into the possibilities they see, which is completely different than the original drive to simply escape scarcity. They are able to do so since they experienced what it is like to work with abundance-driven agreements. Yes, they are now able to work out of this understanding and feeling, rather than just pushing away from something they do not like.

Furthermore, they not only regained trust in their own abilities and goals, but also started to reframe their shared purpose, as well as each individual’s unique contribution to the group.

We think the key learning of this case study is to take time to understand the agreements that (un)consciously drive the behavior of your business. Understanding your agreements builds the basis for lasting success and vibrant interactions, thus, having great experiences and producing above-average outcomes. Awareness, collaboration, and alignment seem to take a lot of time and energy, but there is a massive return for every minute of this investment. During our process the Japanese proverb “If hurried, go around” evolved as our guiding principle, because the fastest way is often not the straightest.

A Common Object-ive Is Not a Deeper Shared Purpose — How to Know the Difference

A common object-ive is completely subject-ive.

My colleagues and I find that most people who tell us that, in their group, they have a common objective they are all working towards are actually working at cross purposes, at best.  What most people call a common object-ive is completely subjective–they are actually working on their own subjective understanding of what the means and ends are.  This common object-ive is not a deeper shared purpose, and here is why the difference between a common object-ive and a deeper shared purpose matters.

To co-host collaboration, we start with uncovering, understanding, and naming the deeper shared purpose that pulls a group of people together and guides their interactions.  We are trying to find out why these people come together to work together towards something they hold together.  A common object-ive does not answer this question.

When most people say they have a common objective, they are actually saying that they are each working on something that influences the same distant object.  Group A works on building schools in poor regions, so that kids can go to school.  Group B trains bilingual teachers, so that kids from different cultures can have access to a basic education.  Group C provides free lunches as incentive to parents to let their kids go to school.  All three groups are working on a common object-ive of giving kids an education.  When the leaders of Groups A, B, and C came together, they told us that they were clearly working on the same object-ive, educating children.  And, it was clear that they were not working on a shared deeper purpose, as they were not working on these three seemingly interrelated dimensions of access to education together, as they were often not even working in the same regions of the country.  Yes, there were schools, with no teachers or students.  Or yes there were teachers, with no schools or students.  And, there were students, with no schools or teachers.  The three groups were not working on the same, deeper, shared purpose.  Working apart, from different perspectives, in different areas, towards a common object.

Seeing parts and a common object does not make a system of interrelated parts towards a common purpose.  Moving different parts at a common object is not leveraging a system of interrelated parts towards a shift in systemic behavior.  By a deeper shared purpose, we mean working together towards leveraging a system of interrelated parts to shift a systemic behavior–showing up in the same place, in a coordinated fashion, to provide schools and teachers and students with access to an education.  This coordination requires a different kind of theory of change, one that we have called a theory of impact resilience.

How do you know whether you have (1) a common object-ive or (2) a deeper shared purpose?  I suggest you immediately have three pieces of evidence you can use to triangulate to determine which you have.

  1. Language.  Start with the language of what the groups holds to be common.
    • If it is a common object-ive, it might sound like, “We work on X to get Y–building schools to educate kids.  We do W to get Z–developing bi-lingual pedagogy to give bi-lingual children access to schooling.”  Each is working on a means to what looks like a common object.  No mention of working in a coordinated way with other means to that same ends, as a system.  For similar examples, see our Guatemala project.
    • If it is a deeper shared purpose, it might sound like, “We are working with the groups that develop all of the required dimensions of the educational system for kids in this region, all of which are necessary to provide equitable access.  We are trying to figure out together how to shift our work, together, to get a different outcome for these children, in the same place at the same time.”  For similar examples, see our Guatemala project.
  2. Experience.  Describe what it is like to work within this group.
    • If it is a common object-ive, we find that most groups describe an experience of competition amongst the different members trying to achieve the common object-ive or low levels of co-operation amongst the members–often competing to get funding from the same sources.  These often feel like the inner to middle circle of the vibrancy experience, tiring and an endless struggle.
    • If it is a deeper shared purpose, we find groups usually describing an experience of collaboration amongst the different members, inviting and inspiring each member to make their best unique contribution.  This is often described as the outer circle of the vibrancy experience, invigorating and life-giving.
  3. Expectations.  Observe what the group and the members of the group expect of each other’s contributions to the group.
    • If it is a common object-ive, we find that most groups either (a) do not have clear expectations of what you could or should contribute, or (b) see the contributions as interchangeable–if you won’t do it, we can find someone else who can.
    • If it is a deeper shared purpose, we see that most groups are very clear on why you are specifically invited to make your unique contribution to the group–you are needed and your contribution is unique and critical–you are not interchangeable with anyone else.

As you look at your own group’s “common goal,” here are three guiding questions, which frame the process we call the harmonic vibrancy move process.

  1. Do you have a shared unifying objective for the whole system?  We call this the deeper shared purpose.
  2. Do you have a shared unified theory of how all the parts fit together and influence the dynamics of the whole and how to shift the dynamics of the whole?  We call this the systemic view of why the different voices are required.
  3. Do you have a unified theory of intervention for each perspective’s best contribution to collaboratively and collectively shifting that behavior efficiently?  We called this systemic leverage.

Guest post — What Does It Mean to Be a High-Vibrancy School?

Guest post by Annabel Membrillo Jimenez and Jennifer Berman, members of the emerging global Vibrancy community

Do you know a school where something special happening is happening?  Do you feel inspired and fully engaged in the interactions you have with teachers, staff, and students?  Are students fully seen for who they are?  Is their inner potential unleashed?  Does the school re-define what it means to be an outstanding school in service to students and the future?  If you have answered yes to these questions, then you most likely know a high-vibrancy school.

So how do you know if your school or any other school really is a high-vibrancy school? After working with several high-vibrancy schools, we have noticed a few common characteristics.  The schools we have worked with are a mix of public, private, urban, and rural schools with socioeconomic and racial diversity, but in each school you can feel and see a set of core agreements that drive decision making, structures and behavior.

INNOVATIVE LEADERSHIP STRUCTURES IN ALL LEVELS

  • School leaders explore and implement innovative leadership structures and engage in transformation from a place of abundance and possibility.
  • School leaders feel ownership of and responsibility for student and whole-community development.  Department/group leadership supports evolving practices.  There is a culture of respect and support for leaders at all levels (principals, teachers, staff, and parents).
  • Leadership can come from anyone. Actions, ideas and proposals flow from every conversation, including those with students.

A DEEP SHARED PURPOSE WITH CLEAR STRATEGIES

  • Schools are centered on student development.  The whole community (internal and external) supports each child in realizing his/her full potential and development.
  • Schools are mission-driven, with a vision that evolves over time as needed– i.e., explicitly supporting children to be active, engaged human beings with supportive programming and structures.
  • Clear pathways exist to achieve that vision, including structures to help assess what is working, what is not, and what new solutions exist.
  • There is evidence of extraordinary results (success indicators coming from tangible results in the school and larger community).
  • There is a strong emphasis on stakeholder development and a deep shared purpose embraced by the wider community. 

 PERMANENT EVOLVING CULTURES/COMMUNITY

  • There is a strong culture of learning, collaboration, trust, respect, and transparency among students, parents, faculty and staff.
  • High value is placed on community engagement in the life and structures of the school. The school community is engaged in transformation at all levels (personal, group, school, external community).
  • Leadership and others have a high level of awareness of what is happening within the community.

INNOVATIVE EDUCATION MODELS AND EVOLVING CURRICULUM

  • There are continuously evolving education models that meet the needs of students and creatively support students to achieve their highest potential.
  • Stakeholders think systemically about what factors influence children’s growth and education.
  • Alliances with groups outside the school leverage whole child development.
  • Every event with the students is clearly related to the curricula and there is a shared understanding of its educational value (class, festivals, community and parent engagement)

Are you one of these schools or do you know one of these schools? If so, share your story with us. Most likely, you are already looking for other like-minded colleagues with whom you can share and explore.  We would love to help you find each other, so that together we can help co-design the next generation of schools that this world needs.

Differentiating and Integrating the “We” — What We Share and Why We Work Together

People show up, in support of each other, to achieve together what they cannot achieve alone.  This happens every day, everywhere.

Sometimes, to take on really audacious issues, we need other people.  In many cases like this, someone often says, “They won’t come talk with us.”  Agreeing, someone else says, “Even if they do show up, they will not agree with us.”  Someone else then chimes in, “Even if they agree with us, there is no way they will be able to do anything about it with us.”  The invitation is dead on arrival.  I hear some version of this at the beginning of almost all “multi-stakeholder” processes.  And, so far, in over two decades of attempts, it has never been true.  People will show up, agree, and act together.  It depends on the invitation.

I see the invitation as an issue of differentiating and integrating the “we”–what we share and why we work together.  Here is a recent example from my work in health.  What we share–a passion and deep commitment to healthy community.  Why we work together here now–to address the disparities in health outcomes in vulnerable communities.

Technically, we can differentiate between a higher-order, overall purpose (the ends) and an immediate, local purpose (the means).  The higher-order purpose, our deeper shared purpose, provides the context for what we see, the field of our Yes!  I find that when we get clear on the deeper purpose that we share, what we really care about, then the invitation gains a life of its own.  I often hear from folks coming together, often for the first time, “I didn’t know, after all these years, that you cared about this too.”  It seems that we tend to observe the intermediate goals of others and assume their deeper purpose, which it turns out we usually get wrong.

The immediate, local purpose provides the specific within the general–the specific game within the rules of the game.  This is the problem we are coming together to address, within a bigger  opportunity envelope, the game we are going to play in the sandbox.  When we can agree on the sandbox, and we can agree on how the immediate, local purpose connects to the higher-order purpose of the sandbox, we can begin to play together.

This distinction between what we share, described with the higher-order purpose, and what we come together to do, described with the immediate, local purpose helps us delineate the general from the specific, any game we might play together from this game we are agreeing to play right now.

What does this look like in practice?  In our work in Guatemala, everyone wanted a healthy, safe Guatemala.  We worked together on understanding the dynamics of generating self-determination for every Guatemalan.  In Vermont, everyone wanted sovereignty for Vermonters in deciding their own energy future.  We worked together on how to realize a 90%-renewable-energy portfolio across electricity, heating, transportation, and efficiency in the next generation.  For Food Solutions New England, everyone wanted an equitable, healthy food system.  We worked together on how to get half of the food consumed in New England being produced in New England, a 5x shift.  In the World Green Building Council, everyone wanted to redefine access to healthy buildings.  We worked on the dynamics of experiencing regenerative buildings for everyone everywhere every day.  In our organization Vibrancy, we want a world where everyone has more vibrant experiences every day, achieving better results every day.  We are working together to figure out how to leverage everyone’s capacity to do that, starting with our own research and services.

There are many processes available for exploring these two “we” questions.  One that frames how I work with the question of “what we share” acknowledges a hierarchy of values in a conversation.  We each have means to the ends we want to achieve.  We each have values that guide these means and ends.  Many of these values, means, and ends overlap with those of other people.  Approaches to values hierarchies structure these overlaps, showing what is common in what we want, either along the way to an ends or the ends itself.

For framing the question of “why we work together,” I often work with the behavior over time graph to determine what problem behavior we want to understand and shift.  In mapping out this behavior over time, we begin to see the dynamics that generate that behavior, leading us to insights into the dynamics needed to shift that behavior.  I use these insights to see how the interactions of whose perspectives influence both the current and desired behaviors, and how shifts in the interactions of these perspectives might lead to the desired behaviors.  This lets me know who needs to be in the exploration and how I can invite them to work on a problem together, which is why we work together.

I find that people will show up, in support of each other, to achieve together what they cannot achieve alone.  It can happen every day, everywhere.  It is an agreement.  The invitation to an agreement is a choice.

Guest post — A Vermont Case Study: Getting to 80% renewable energy by 2030

Guest post by Jennifer BermanContributing Fellow at The Institute for Strategic Clarity

[Jennifer Berman is the former Executive Director of the Maverick Lloyd Foundation and was the coordinator of EAN from 2009-2012. This case study was written in December 2012.]

In 2008, the Maverick Lloyd Foundation stepped back from ten years of philanthropic giving to explore how the foundation could be a more effective driver for change. Despite a significant investment of resources, the trustees knew that their giving strategies were not creating the impact they knew was possible—and necessary—if the state of Vermont was to address the urgent reality of climate change.

Inspired by the success of RE-AMP, a network of 144 non-profits and foundations working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in eight mid-western states, the foundation began to envision a social change process that could help catalyze large-scale coordinated action around a bold new vision for Vermont. The result of that early vision is Energy Action Network (EAN)—a powerful network of business, government and non-profit leaders who are aligned around the goal of meeting 80% of Vermont’s 2030 energy needs from renewable energy and increased efficiency.

Read the case study of the project (click here, revised 19March2017).

Comment by Jim Ritchie-Dunham.  Jenn Berman and I worked together on the EAN project through 2010 with our colleagues at GEP.  You can read more about the EAN project from an Ecosynomics perspective in the book Ecosynomics.

Radio Interview — Creating Vibrant Organizations to Drive Performance Through Ecosynomics

Past-cast Series — Seeing relevance in earlier publications

ISC President Jim Ritchie-Dunham, ISC Contributing Fellow Christoph Hinske, and World GBC senior advisor James Drinkwater were interviewed on the radio today about how to drive performance through vibrant agreements by Maureen Metcalf. You can access the 1-hour interview from Maureen’s Internet-radio talk show “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” at (http://www.voiceamerica.com/episode/86848/creating-vibrant-organizations-to-drive-performance-ecosynomics#.VcPBswmazIM.facebook).

Help Us Find Amazing K-12 Schools

Do you know an amazing school?  We, at the Institute for Strategic Clarity, are looking for “high vibrancy” K-12 schools.

By K-12. we mean kindergarten through 12th grade, from ages 4-5 to 17-18 years old.  Primary and secondary education.

By “high vibrancy,” we mean a school community that is energy enhancing, where people experience a high level of vibrancy, every day, where the school achieves surprisingly amazing results on a sustainable basis.

The Institute for Strategic Clarity is a 501(c)(3) non-profit research and education organization committed to understanding and sharing what drives high vibrancy, abundance-based agreements, so that everyone everywhere can choose such agreements every day.

If you know of such a school, we would love to know about them.  We want to (1) understand what makes them amazing, (2) support them in understanding this as well, and (3) connect them with leaders from other schools who have also figured out how to live this way every day.

What can you do?  Take a brief survey (click here) to describe the school and why you think it is amazing.  We would like to thank you for identifying the schools by offering you a free electronic version of my recent book on abundance-based agreements Ecosynomicsyou get to choose which version you prefer of the e-book or audiobook.

What we will do.  Based on what you share with us, we would like to contact the amazing schools, get to know them, and invite them to meet others like them.

Guest post — Ecosynomic Forum on Large System Change and Sustainability

Guest post by Prof. Dr. Martin Welp, Chair of Socioeconomics and Communication, University for Sustainable Development Eberswalde, Head of the International Master Study Programme Global Change Management, and Christoph Hinske is Vibrancy European Lead Steward and Contributing Fellow at the Institute for Strategic Clarity.

The 1st Eberswalde Ecosynomics Forum on April 2, 2015 focused on large system change. Exploring collective efforts for a transformation towards sustainability was the overarching theme of the one-day event. It provided a collaborative space to think together about necessary conditions for change and the systemic embedders of such changes. Furthermore the event was a hub to develop ideas for shared action, research and consultancy.

Participants were researchers, practitioners, business owners, activists and students, with great diversity in terms of educational background and work experience. Their reflections on the topic and the keynote speeches by Steve Waddell (NetworkingAction) and Petra Kuenkel (Collective Leadership Institute) are available on video 

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The event was hosted by the Eberswalde Universcreenshot-15sity for Sustainable Development (University of Applied Sciences) and the International Master Study Programme “Global Change Management”. The study programme focuses on how to speed up learning processes regarding global change in different kinds of organisations and the society at large. The event was a great source of inspiration both for the education of change agents in Eberswalde and for research on a sustainability transition.

The idea for the event in Eberswalde grew out of a five-year cooperation between the university and the Institute for Strategic Clarity. The ecosynomic perspective on the kind of agreements that shape our organisations, our working together and even our economies has been part of teaching in the Global change Management study programme since then. Starting in the fall 2015, a new curriculum integrates ecosynomics more directly.

Martin: In my personal view, as the head of the study programme, the Forum showed how people who share the same passion for change and a sustainability transition can quickly team up and have fruitful dialogue, which is intended to be continued in the 2nd Ecosynomics Forum. With the help of video documentation, we can build on the outcomes and findings of the 1st Forum. I am looking forward to seeing the forum grow into a series of inspirational events on ecosynomics, change management and sustainability.

Christoph: Being a European lead steward for implementing ecosynomic research insights, my main inspiration to approach Prof. Dr. Martin Welp with the idea to co-host the 2015 Ecosynomic Forum is rooted in the excitement about the innovative study program Global Change Management. To me, a study program that focuses on training systemically thinking and holistically acting Agents of Change is a perfect place to start the series of global events, highlighting groups and approaches that successfully transcend the agreements of scarcity/economics.

As Martin already mentioned, the group of around 40 people was very diverse. We had people from all sectors in the roomscreenshot-12. To me it was interesting that, despite the very different perspectives, everyone agreed that abundance-driven collaboration is key to a healthy and successful transition towards more regenerative societies and economies that are rooted in the understanding of planet earth as a living being.

Direct outcomes of the event are major action research possibilities, new consulting contracts, and thesis topics for the participating students.

As with the 1st Forum, the next forum will be hosted by nominated organisations around the globe and supported by the hosts of the 1st Forum. The topics and content areas, connected to the interests of the next host, may differ widely.

While nominations for the 2016 Ecosynomics Forum open soon, we welcome unofficial requests referencing this blog post.