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Aligning Around Intent…

November 20, 2009  |  Graphic Facilitation

I (Sita) spent this past week working with an organization that focuses on public health and eduaction – and wanted to share a few things that are on my mind coming out of this event.

Above you can see a portion of a knowledge wall that I created on Sunday, in preparation for the session. This was an exercise in synthesis for me, and in a sense was a first run of a larger more content-rich wall that we will prepare for our session in Copenhagen. I spent all of Sunday skimming through UN reports, statistics, and through all the scribing that The Value Web (and others) have done on the looming climate crisis (see my last post on COP15 here), or any related topic. It was interesting to look back on scribing from our session at the World Forum on Enterprise & the Environment (web output here), and to see that over the past few months – everyone has been talking about the same things. It would be very easy to remove any mention of company/organization/group – these images (visual records of the conversations) are almost completely interchangeable between sector/client. This is, on the one had, very exciting – because it means that there is a growing awareness about what needs to be done. On the other hand, it’s positively frightening – because none of the big players seem to be taking radical enough action. And it is increasingly clear that we need to take action – all of us – now. Not in 10 years time.

To sum up some of the commonalities that I’ve been noting – here are some of the big issues that keep coming up.

1. Public/private partnerships are key in meeting the challenge. No one sector/organization/government can address this challenge in isolation. Working effectively across sector/industry is more important than ever, and indeed our ability to do this well will determine our fate. There are certain organizations and funds that are approaching partnerships in a new way (i.e. actually developing effective partnerships), but much more needs to be done to facilitate and broker these partnerships so that they are designed to be sustainable and have maximum impact.

2. In line with this – we need to focus our efforts on shareable solutions – which means addressing (head on) things like IP…not an easy thing to take on, but a necessary one. (The WBCSD is already beginning to do some work with large multinationals in this area. Read about Eco-Commons here, and I am sure there are many others working on this as well – see the Creative Commons site here. )

2. We need to revisit and redefine our values on a fundamental/core level. The systems we have in place are not sustainable. To read more about this please see the work of Muhammad Yunus here. Also – Otto Scharmer and the Presencing Institute at MIT are doing some interesting work on transforming capitalism.

3. Similarly, we need to redefine what we mean by “growth.” This is directly tied to our values. You can read about redefining growth all over the web – here is a link to one article I read recently: Wirearchy article.

4. Linked to all of the above – we need to think/act much more holistically. We would all benefit from revisiting Jay Forester’s work on systems dynamics.

5. Another key focus is on bringing design thinking into the way we work. Design thinking is embedded into the work we (The Value Web) do. It is what guides us in our thinking and in our approach to complex problems. It was refreshing, during this event with the public health organization, to hear one of the participants mention to another (this was overheard during a coffee break), “there are a lot of organizations now that are using the principles of design to guide their thinking – this is something I would like to bring into my work, on a day to day basis, as well. It’s very valuable…” It’s wonderful to see that this conversation is no longer happening only in the design field. Our friend Arne has started a thriving design thinkers community site on Ning- it’s great to see how rapidly it is spreading. Also – there is a new book out (Warren Berger with Bruce Mau) called Glimmer about design thinking, and of course, Tim Brown’s new book, Change by Design. There are many others as well…of course…but will save that for another post.

Keep in mind that the challenge is not in identifying these issues (many of you will be nodding and saying, yes, of course…we all know these are important…), the challenge is really in the doing – which is where we (The Value Web) see a wide open space. I am hoping that The Value Web (and all the other organizations that are well versed in the language and processes of facilitating collaboration) can step up and fill this space, to try to being people together and mobilize around some clear actions – mobilize people and groups around plans that are designed for outcomes. We are currently in a state of pause. It feels a bit like the moment before the first person gets out on the dance floor. We need to stop being so tentative, and to move into a carefully designed action phase…Step one of this new movement needs to be aligning around intent. This is already happening – but in a highly dispersed way. Forces seem to be drawing groups together around intent – but there needs to be more intentional bridge building between organizations and individuals that are working towards the same ends. It was refreshing to see this process started with the Berlin Civil Society Center – an organization that we support, based in Berlin, that is aiming to align all the large, global CSOs. We recently supported the first of what I can assume will be an annual event – Global Perspectives – Decisive Action in Times of Crisis. You can see the web output here.

So – the how – that keeps seeming to come up. I sent my mother (who works in public health and is currently living in Kabul – her blog, which is quite interesting and relevant is here) the link to the output from the Berlin Civil Society Center event, and got this response back from her:

What I am observing here (Kabul), in this conflict ridden place that the government tries both valiantly to regulate businesses and then the other hand takes bribes. For the uneducated population survival is what’s it all about, while they mess up their own nest, unknowingly, in small ways as well.

Where to start indeed?

The place is filled with substandard medicines that either not cure people or kill them, that contaminate the environment in the making and the taking and the discarding.

Indeed, where to start?

The summaries were good, the scribing was maybe meaningful for participants, but for me left me hanging with the question, where to start, It’s too much….

Indeed. Where to start…this seems to be the question so many are asking. It’s a question that we need to answer, and soon…

If you are interested in The Value Web’s support in designing an effective event or dialogue around this topic, please get in touch. We are ready to help shift.

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1 Comment


  1. Thanks for spreading hope and urgency around sustainability matters. I dream that the value web network can tune the waves of change so that they amplify, and soon.

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