Archives for May 2013

‘How on Earth?’ – A Book for a New Economy

Special Announcement

screenshot from indiegogo campaign vid with headshots of Post Growth's research & writing team

Many of you will be aware that in addition to my work here on Cruxcatalyst, I’m also a co-founder of the Post Growth Institute, a catalyst for exploring and inspiring paths to creating global prosperity and wellbeing without needing economic growth to make it happen.

I’m excited to share that, as part of my work with Post Growth, we’ve just launched a crowdfunding campaign to support development of a world-changing book we’re writing about an economics beyond growth.

I decided to share this on Cruxcatalyst firstly to let those following my blog know more about my involvement in this space and the ideas we’re working with, but also because aside from its campaign purpose, it is a live example of sustainability communication – how the pitch text and video have been crafted, the key messages and how the information is being disseminated.

Notice how both the pitch video and text uses an assets approach up front – what could be (desired state), what is already working. This is particularly important in sustainability communications, where people have been typically exposed to problems-based approaches or those that invoke guilt or fear.

What on Earth is this project?

How on Earth? Flourishing in a Not-for-Profit World by 2050 will be the world’s first book to explore the prospect of not-for-profit enterprise becoming the central model of local, national and international business, by 2050.

Watch the 2 minute pitch video below to get an overview.

If you are able to contribute to this campaign, it would be so much appreciated by me – the funding will support two of my Post Growth colleagues to do the writing. As little as $25 will get you an electronic copy of the book.

Sharing this with your networks would also be a huge help to this team of volunteers who’ve worked hard at building a track record in this area since 2010.

You can find out more, and become a backer for this project, here:

An excerpt from the Indiegogo campaign pitch page is reproduced below. The campaign runs until 27 June.

Why on Earth are we doing this?

Imagine waking up in a world where you feel good about going to work, no matter the nature of your job. You feel positive and motivated, knowing that your work provides you with a livelihood that also contributes to the wellbeing of others in a way that respects the ecological limits of a finite planet.

How on Earth could that be possible?

Welcome to a not-for-profit world, where businesses can still make profits, but any profits are always reinvested for social or organizational benefit, rather than being accumulated privately by individuals.

This world emerged because, around 2013, a large number of people came to the realization that any economic system that centralizes wealth and power is, ultimately, socially and ecologically unsustainable.

People were fed up with excessive executive salaries, a financial sector divorced from the real world, corporations with more say than people, endless spin from politicians and entrepreneurs about the latest technological ‘solution’, and the trappings of mindless consumption.

After the Occupy movement subsided, protesters even started to question whether being fed up was worthwhile.

Then a real alternative emerged. A not-for-profit economy changed the game by decentralizing wealth and power, while maintaining incentives for innovation and increasing people’s desire for meaningful work.

This scenario of a not-for-profit world is closer to the present reality than you might think. Across numerous countries, the economic contribution of the not-for-profit sector has been on the rise since the late 1990s.

In Canada, for example, not-for-profit institutions now contribute 8% of the country’s gross domestic product. This is possible because not-for-profit does not mean ‘no-profit’ or ‘can’t make a profit’. Not-for-profit actually means not for private profit or not for the primary purpose of making a profit. Not-for-profits can make as much or as little money as they want, they just cannot provide payouts to private individuals from any surplus.

Many not-for-profits now understand that generating their own income allows them to fund the good work they do (as opposed to the traditional approach that depends on grants and philanthropy).

Take, for example, BRAC the world’s biggest not-for-profit organization. Since 1972, BRAC has supported over 100 million people through its social development services, but almost 80% of its revenue comes from its own commercial enterprises, including a large-scale dairy and a retail chain of handicraft stores, all of which are run according to a holistic vision of sustainable business.

More importantly, not-for-profit enterprises could regularly out-compete equivalent ‘for-profit’ businesses in the near future, based on a combination of factors, such as:

  • not-for-profit enterprises better utilizing the benefits of the communications revolution on reduced organizational costs;
  • an increasing awareness of the tax concessions and free support available solely for not-for-profits;
  • the trend in consumer markets toward supporting ethical businesses and products;
  • the ability of not-for-profit enterprises to survive and even thrive during years of downturn, given that their sustainability does not rely on making profits, and that profit margins will continue to get smaller as resource constraints impact business costs.

How on Earth are we making this happen?

For a sneak preview of how this book will accelerate the explosive idea of a not-for-profit economy to a point where it becomes unstoppable, see this talk by the book’s lead author, Dr Donnie Maclurcan, at the Environmental Professionals Forum.

To date we’ve penned 20% of the book’s ideas, and plan to publish the final manuscript by December 2013. Chapter titles include:

1. The Power of ‘Not-for-Profit’
2. The Smart Shift to Not-for-Profit
3. Not-for-Profit 2.0: From Charity to Enterprise in a Digital Era
4. A Not-for-Profit Eco-nomics
5. Prosperity Beyond Growth is Common Cents
6. How on Earth: Accelerating the Trend to a Not-For-Profit World

The ideas behind the book have already influenced the creation of new businesses, such as Joostice, and other businesses continue to report that they have been inspired to shift from a ‘for-profit’ to a ‘not-for-profit’ structure.

Our team is working hard to crunch data, getting out and about to workshop the ideas, and researching all we can find in associated books and journals. We are looking at work like Tim Jackson’s writing on prosperity without growth, Peter Victor’s modeling of a zero-growth economy in Canada, the foundational thinking of Herman Daly and others on ecological economics, Roo Rogers and Rachel Botsman’s insights on the rise of collaborative consumption, Michel Bauwen’s theories on peer-to-peer production, Marcin Jakubowski’s work in open source community manufacturing, Dan Pink’s observations on purpose-based motivation, Gar Alperovitz’s commentary on co-operatives, Michael Shuman’s research on community economies, and Jenny Cameron and Katherine Gibson’s writing on asset-based approaches to economics.

With enough funds, we also plan to launch a supportive web platform for the book ( that will provide information on how to start, scale and sustain not-for-profit enterprises in countries around the world, as well as showcasing businesses that are making the shift to a not-for-profit structure.

How on Earth can you help?

We need your help to bring this pioneering idea to the world. There are three ways you can show your support and get involved:

1. Contribute financially

Please see for the pledge levels, and the perks (rewards) for each.

2. Share the campaign with others

Please share this campaign as widely as possible. There are share tools under the video at the top of the Indiegogo page which make this easy, or you can use the following examples:

Twitter: Crowdfunding campaign seeks to outline an economics beyond growth: pls RT

Facebook: Check out the Post Growth Institute’s campaign to outline a not-for-profit economics beyond growth:

3. Share your expertise

We welcome any offers of help with this project. What’s your passion? Research? Promotions? Publishing or web development? Find out more about how you can get involved here.

Who on Earth are we?

The Post Growth Institute is an international group with volunteer co-directors in Australia, Canada, Greece and the United States. Our team has extensive experience spanning economics, banking, international aid, community development, engineering and sustainability. Two of us have already produced three books with commercial publishers, including the award winning Green Washed: Why We Can’t Buy Our Way to a Green Planet.

Collaborating via typed Skype meetings since 2010, our projects include:

– Free Money Day: An annual global event where people hand out their own money to strangers, asking people to pass half on, in order to inspire economies based on sharing;

– The (En)Rich List: A parody of the Forbes Rich list, showcasing 100 inspirational people who have made enriching contributions to truly sustainable futures; and

– The Post Growth Challenge: A competition offering $100, consultancy and promotional support for the best world(view) changing idea for deep sustainability.

Our work makes a real difference. Free Money Day has so far touched the lives of people in 200 locations and 31 countries worldwide, including NigeriaThailand, Argentina, Russia and New Zealand. The (En)Rich List earned us the Best Non-profit Business award from Treehugger, and the Post Growth Challenge launched the exciting, distributed manufacturing initiative Helioforge.

On a self-funded, shoestring budget we’ve managed to get substantial international coverage for our work, including articles in the Huffington PostTreehugger, and Fast Company as well as the personal support of Stephen FryNoam Chomsky and Vicki Robin.

Now we need your support to take things to the next level!

Please connect with us via:


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Leadership on the Line: The Heart of Danger, The Faces of Danger

leadership on the line book cover

This is the first of a two-part post on this book.

Do you consider yourself a leader? If you’re intent on creating change, you already are!

One of the most useful books I’ve read that has helped my work is Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive Through The Dangers of Leading by Martin Linsky and Ronald A. Heifetz of the John F Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. It was recommended to me by a colleague who had participated in the Governor’s Leadership Foundation.

What makes this book worth a spot on the change agent’s bookshelf is best summed up in a review by President Emeritus of Harvard University, Derek C. Bok:

This is not a conventional book about how to inspire and lead a large organization. It is a much more ambitious work that describes the personal challenges and tactical problems that arise in trying to exert a constructive influence in all kinds of organizational settings.

Leaders are typically engaged in adaptive rather than technical challenges – technical challenges are where there are known solutions and processes, and where people’s routines and behaviours need to change. But adaptive challenge is where there are no ‘known’ ways to resolve complex issues, and when change in hearts and minds is needed. The authors caution leaders about being pressured into treating adaptive challenges as technical.

Leadership on the Line provides insights into why change-work and leadership creates challenging professional and personal situations in ‘The Heart of Danger’, and the varying ways in which the forces of resistance will attempt to neutralise efforts for change in ‘The Face of Danger’. It then sets out five challenges for adaptive leadership, and also approaches and techniques for self-care.

The Heart of Danger

When we are seeking to create change, we are often in the position where we must tell people what they need to hear rather than what they want to hear. When we are pushing people to question long-held values, beliefs or habits, this makes us appear dangerous to people.

How do people typically respond to danger? Fight or flight. Possibly more familiar to leaders in this day and age as resist or avoid!

People do not fight change per se – they want to avoid perceived loss. We expect our leaders to be the heroes and have ready answers, rather than raising questions that go to the heart of how we think and behave. We expect our leaders to protect us from the pains of change.

Yet as Linsky and Heifetz point out, the chances of successful change depends on people internalising the change, not being sheltered from it or having it resolved for them.

The dangers of exercising leadership derive from the nature of the problems for which leadership is necessary. Adaptive change stimulates resistance because it challenges people’s habits, beliefs, and values. It asks them to take a loss, experience uncertainty, and even express disloyalty to people and cultures. Because adaptive change forces people to question and perhaps redefine aspects of their identity, it also challenges their sense of competence. Loss, disloyalty, and feeling incompetent: That’s a lot to ask. No wonder people resist.

Effective leadership lies in the capacity to deliver disturbing news and raise difficult questions in a way – and at a rate – that people can absorb, prodding them to take up the message rather than ignoring it, or killing the messenger.

The Face of Danger 

man in suit holding a black face mask over his face, having just taken off a similar white face mask

There are many different manifestations of danger that may present themselves to the change agent. The objective of these manifestations, which appear in a range of guises, is to neutralise those who are exercising leadership in order to preserve the status quo.

According to Linsky and Heifetz, the ‘masks’ danger can present itself in are:

  • Marginalisation

Leaders should endeavour to orchestrate conflict – that is, managing the range of different interests – rather than embodying it. The authors warn that becoming the embodiment of an issue under your authority is dangerous, as it ties not only a leader’s success, but very survival, to that issue.

  • Diversion

Been promoted unexpectedly? Had some enjoyable or important tasks handed to you? Finding yourself lost in others’ demands? Take pause and consider whether this is a tactic to divert you from addressing an uncomfortable issue.

  • Attack

An attack on the person with the message wastes the currency of leadership – attention. Linsky and Heifetz note that no one criticises when you have good news or rewards, they do so when they don’t like the message:

The spectacle of attack…creates a drama and moves people away from underlying issues…By personally responding to attackers, leaders are colluding with the attacker in distracting the public from the real target.

Hence it is critical for change agents to be aware of ego states, and know how to handle personal attacks.

  • Seduce

This mask is about losing your sense of purpose, and happens when your guard is down, when defence mechanisms are lowered by the nature of the approach. It can emerge from those opposing you, or from within your own supporter base – for example, are you finding you are keeping those close happy at the expense of a broader group?

These masks are intended to neuter the disturbance created by change leaders, maintain what is familiar, and protect people from the pain of change.

Leadership requires the ability to recognise the manifestations of danger, and also the skills to respond effectively to them.

In part two of this post next week, we’ll examine Linsky and Heifetz’s responses to leadership challenges.

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Changemaker Profile – Dana Pearlman

This is the fourth in a series of Changemaker Profiles, which introduces the work of changemakers I know and admire, and offers insights into their approaches to communication and change work.

Dana Pearlman is co-founder of the Global Leadership Lab, bringing together systemic change-makers to transform our world towards a thriving ecosystem through leadership, community and project/venture acceleration. She is co-author and publisher of The Lotus: A Practice Guide for Authentic Leadership Towards Sustainability. Please see Dana’s longer bio at the end of this post.

headshot of dana pearlman

1. Tell us about the work you are involved with:

In modern society, we have become fragmented and disconnected from many aspects of our true selves, disconnected from one another and from our deep human need for community and from our planet. My work is about reconnecting people to their true selves, to their values, to one another and to our greater global community.

I host conversations that matter and design and deliver learning experiences that enable transformation at the individual and collective levels.  My work aims to support capacity building in change-makers to help them become more effective in their work through collaborative and authentic leadership development as well as venture acceleration that aims to change the world for the better.

Oftentimes, world-changing ventures do not get the support they need to make an impact. We are building an ecosystem of systemic change-makers to support these ventures and giving them the attention they need to thrive.

2. What motivated you to be doing this work?

A number of years ago I went through a period of great discontent. I was no longer satisfied with my career and life path. I felt called to do something much more meaningful and I needed to be part of the healing of our planet.

I ended up attending an amazing graduate program in Sweden, and obtained a masters degree in strategic leadership towards sustainability. I actually ignored the fact that the word leadership was in the title, and while attending the program realized the huge global deficit in the kind of leadership that is needed in our world is also at the root of our current modern day challenges.

The success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervenor.

Bill O’Brien (from the book Theory U by Otto Scharmer)

During the Swedish program my colleagues and I had a webinar with Otto Scharmer and he shared this quote. This sent a few of us into an exploration of what is the ideal interior state of the intervener?

We began speaking to a myriad of leaders working in transformational spaces and encountered a massive leverage point for change: Leaders that are authentic, and use their personal learning experiences enable vulnerability in those around them, it is these encounters that enable change. This simple yet profound realization is game changing. If you create spaces of meaning and vulnerability, healing will take place.

During this exploration we also synthesized 9 capacities authentic leaders find essential in their work (these include: being present, compassion, personal power, suspension and letting go, intention aligned with higher purpose, whole self awareness, whole system awareness, having a sense of humor and holding paradoxes, ambiguities and multiple world views).

Further, we explored the practices that enable the development of these capacities, such as yoga, meditation, dialogue, peer learning. aikido and many other practices. There is a freely downloadable guidebook here.

3. What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?

It is all rewarding. Even the struggles. The human experience is a complex, juicy and relentless journey and in my work I am constantly being invited to deepen my own self-awareness in order to hold space for others to do likewise. I am reminded daily of the profound beauty that exists when I am able to be present with another human being and that when I really take the time to listen to another person there is an entire new universe to understand and connect to.

The work I get to participate in in our world vastly surpasses what I could have ever hoped for.

4. What do you feel is your biggest communication challenge?

I work in human complexity. When one thing is out of alignment (in ourselves or in our relationships) it blocks movement and transformation is stunted. At any given moment, a plethora of human dynamics are at play between our relationships to ourselves, and with one another.

I am constantly building capacity in myself to recognize these blocks and to address them compassionately and fearlessly. On some days better than others!

The key is to express yourself and be with those that invite this!

5. How do you handle a situation when you find yourself in conflict with someone about your work or ideas?

The pattern is typically to react. However, the goal is to navigate these moments with grace and a heightened sense of awareness. The practice is to notice the arising reaction and to take a breath. Recognize what is happening in the present moment and really focus in on hearing their perspective, or taking some space until I am able to really hear them.

In this work, it is not about agreeing with one another, it is about the willingness to listen to another human being for the simple fact that they are a human being and deserve to be heard and recognized. That is where real transformation occurs, when we can deeply care enough to listen. That is where social trust unfolds and begins to heal ourselves and our planet. It is in these small gestures of caring for another that healing occurs.

6. What’s your best piece of advice for change-makers and activists?

Rule number 6. Don’t take yourself, others and the world so f%#$ing seriously. When we were researching authentic leaders, the capacity that was essential for this kind of work was having a sense of humor. Without lightheartedness we will forget to enjoy the journey of deeply caring for our planet. Remember to take time for yourself, to reflect and remember why you are doing this work and to source your work from your deepest values and cares.

Oh, and if you don’t already have your tribe, find them! We need to be around each other doing this work!

Dana Pearlman designs and facilitates action learning experiences. Her academic background is in clinical psychology and strategic leadership towards sustainability. She uses participatory facilitation processes, frameworks and powerful questions to enable deeper wisdom at the individual, team, community and collective levels. Her sweet spot is at the intersection of authentic leadership, tapping into other ways of knowing (beyond cognition) the world, collective healing and community building in order to accelerate the profound transformation that is needed in our world. She co-authored and published: The Lotus: A practice guide for Authentic Leadership towards Sustainability. Dana is also co-creating a start up, the Global Leadership Lab, that is bringing together systemic change-makers to transform our world towards a thriving ecosystem through leadership, community and project/venture acceleration, working with ventures that will impact 1 billion people or more. 

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Why We Need Climate Crises To Avoid Catastrophe

cartoon of 'sun' labelled 'CLIMATE ISSUE' and politician in stovepipe hat facing away, clutching a paper headed 'election', thought bubble 'don't look at it directly'

Cartoon by Tom Toles of the Washington Post

Here are three fundamental political truths relevant to many campaigns: first, politicians aspire to be in charge and remain in charge.

Second, it is universally recognized that the first duty of government is to maintain public safety – from the integrity of the nation down to the safety of the individual.

Third, little sharpens the political mind like being held responsible.

The climate is now plainly lurching into a state of dangerous extremes: record floods are followed by record droughts, storms, heat waves and fires. Seasons are warping and nature, farming and cultures are impacted. Livelihoods and lives are threatened.

People have noticed it is changing, and they don’t like it. For instance the recent post Climate Change, Energy and Values: Surveys from Five Countries and the paper Climate Change, Energy and Values reports that 87.4% of Brazilians and 88.8% of Indians agree ‘I have noticed that the climate seems to be changing’ and 92.6% in Brazil and 85.1% in India agree ‘pollution should be controlled to limit climate change’.

No Crisis of Responsibility

Yet the impacts created by the new climate extremes tend to remain ‘disasters’ not crises. Why? Because there is no crisis of responsibility.  Scientists may inch towards closing the gap on attribution – being able to say that this or that disaster, hurricane, flood, heat wave etc, was caused with X% likelihood by human-made climate change as a whole – and that is all well and good but it will not make a big difference until politicians (or others, eg coal company shareholders) are held responsible for climate impacts.

Of course there have been attempts to attribute social and legal responsibility for climate impacts, for example to oil companies, going back to the early 1990s.  More recently leading climate scientist Myles Allen proposed it in 2005, and there have been campaign experiments like Climate Justice, but by and large the climate itself is too big to connect to individual events and individual politicians. Attempts to find a legal locus for victims such as low lying island states to sue emitters of greenhouse gases, such as the work of FIELD (Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development) are noble and desirable but beset with problems, such as, in the words of Edward Cameron a former Maldives adviser, ‘Which court? Which case? Under which law and against whom?’

Most of all these attempts make little difference to the politics. Indeed they tend to reinforce it, suggesting that victim states may sue transgressor countries, and implying that the result will may be that Mrs Average of Pennsylvania will have to pay out for damage in a foreign country.

We need instead, to start from the other end of the politics: with domestic safety, in those countries most able to exert the biggest influence, through hard and soft power, on politics, industry, technology and even but probably last, international law.

If there was a comprehensive, inclusive, watertight international political climate regime and a universally accepted World Atmospheric Authority, things would be different. Just as in an office building where the heating system developed dangerous runaway tendencies, it would be apparent who was responsible and who needed to act. But there’s no such system, and although the UN ‘Climate Convention’ staggers on, even its most enthusiastic attendees must now realise that it is a depository of commitments, not a driver of events.

It’s Your Job To Keep Us Safe

What’s possible instead is to stimulate the politics of local and specific responsibility for safety in the face of climate impacts.

Campaigners and advocates do not need and indeed should not attempt to put forward comprehensive chain-of-causality arguments or analyses, any more than it is necessary to track down the exact source of an outbreak of measles or bird flu before a government Health Ministry feels, and society demands, that it should act to try and keep the public safe from the impacts. Upstream, there are things that can be done, and need to be done, such as vaccination policy and services, and health education, and vaccine development, or changes in animal husbandry and international trade pressures that lead to conditions which lead to animal viruses jumping species to humans.

Analogously, upstream from the hurricane swamping a shore in northeast USA, or a wildfire destroying a settlement in Australia, or sustained and unseasonal extreme cold caused by blocking highs in Europe killing livestock on European farms, there are national and international policies on energy, transport and emissions reduction which need changing, and much more.

The key to initiating the politics that demands this is a public expectation of safety, of protection against the acute impacts.  The extent to which politicians realise they cannot deliver on that from their own resources, will determine the extent of their desire to cause and contribute to higher level change.  How such demands can be articulated will vary from place to place but articulated they must be if disasters are to become crises of responsibility.

Time To Get Basic

What we need is not more of the ‘high minded’ Pioneer values politics of universalism and ethics but more of the basic Settler politics of the right to survival and safety, for us and our families, and the starting-out Prospector aspirations material improvement and a chance of ‘getting on’, of bettering themselves.

Extreme weather impacts shatter hopes and dreams and undermine lives and economies: from the integrity of the local flood defences, to compensation for crop losses to storm-hardening of essential transport links and utilities and protection of sports fixtures against weather cancellation, to provision for dealing with ‘climate refugees’ and guarantees of food and water supplies or household insurance, politicians need to be held responsible for safeguarding voters and citizens against the current impacts of climate change.

With climate impacts perceived to be occurring in real time, the politics of climate can be real-time, personal and local too. What would be the bigger political crisis, the fate of future generations, or a food shortage tomorrow? The future extinction of a third of the world’s biodiversity or a housing crisis this year?

Once they have a crisis to deal with, politicians will start to look more seriously and more quickly, for the most effective solutions.

headshot of Chris Rose

Chris Rose is an ecologist and communications and campaigns consultant based in the UK, a former director at Greenpeace, campaigner with WWF International and Friends of the Earth, author and host of Campaign Strategy, a free campaign planning website.

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Ecoversity – Engagement for Campus Sustainability

Eco, the blue-tongued lizard mascot of the Ecoversity program, next to the program banner at an outdoor campus event

Image credit

Last year, I received an intriguing invitation from The University of Adelaide’s ‘Ecoversity’ Program, an initiative of the University’s Office of Sustainability.

Ecoversity’s mission is ‘to develop a campus culture that values and applies sustainable practices’.

The invitation I received was asking me to be a judge on its panel assessing applicants to the University’s Green Project Fund.

The Green Project Fund is a pool of $100,000 offered annually to foster innovative sustainability programs and projects across various aspects of campus operations. Any student, staff member or operational group (faculty/school/institute) may apply.

The Green Project Fund supports projects that:

  • improve operational environmental performance,
  • contribute to University Sustainability Targets, and,
  • demonstrate the viability of best practices, research and technologies.

Projects can be ‘hardware’ (improvements to capital and infrastructure), ‘software’ (awareness and promotion) and innovations in campus systems and processes. Savings from the projects are reinvested into the fund, creating an ongoing source of support for future green projects on campus.

Now while many campuses have sustainability programs of various levels of sophistication, and the concept of the Green Project Fund itself exists in one form or another in a range of organisations, what made me decide to include it as a case study on Crux is the process the University used to decide how the funding was allocated.

The usual modus operandi of this kind of initiative is to invite submissions that are completed on paper or electronically, decided on by a committee of people in a room, and then announced. It works, and it might even be transparent, but…it’s not very interesting and it squanders a golden opportunity for engagement.

Ecoversity put out an initial call for expressions of interest that were screened (eg. is there someone else already working on this that the applicants should be speaking to?) and that met the evaluation criteria:

  • Feasibility: Is the project likely to succeed? Have contingencies and major obstacles been well accounted for? Does it use funding efficiently and effectively?
  • Environmental Impact: Does the project measurably reduce waste, pollution or other aspects? Does it improve environmental performance or result in positive impacts?
  • Community Impact: Does the project lead to increased understanding, greater engagement, or sustainable behaviour change in the university community?
  • Economic Impact: What are the financial benefits? What is the cost-savings, return on investment, or payback over time?
  • Institutionalisation/Scalability: Can the project become embedded in the University’s routine operation? Does it need only start-up funding to then sustain itself over time? Can it be expanded campus wide, if successful? Will it yield valuable regional, national, or global results?

Here’s what The University did next:

  • they asked applicants (individuals and teams) to ‘pitch’ their idea in person, to present their concept and its benefits at a showcase event
  • they invited people from beyond the University, with sustainability expertise in one or more areas, to provide immediate feedback as members of a panel during the showcase
  • they included the wider University community and gave out ‘voting cards’ to the audience, who could then cast a vote for their favourite idea

Add in some nibbles, drinks and networking time, and all of a sudden you’ve transformed what is usually a very dry process into something dynamic, a story that can be captured and disseminated.

What are the benefits of going to all this effort?

  • the applicants’ proposals can be strengthened in response to feedback from the panel, which may include offers of further contacts and resources; everyone is witness to, and learns from, the feedback given
  • all of the applicants are made aware of other efforts being pursued across the campus, which builds the ‘sustainability circuitry’ of the campus brain – knowing who is doing what helps strengthen everyone’s efforts, and also contributes to realising this as a collaborative effort of many
  • shows the University community that the initiative has interest from beyond the campus, and also feeds the story of the initiative back out into panel members’ workplaces and professional networks

The power lies in broadening the base of involvement and buy-in – now the effort belongs to a bigger group of people than the ‘sustainability tribe’.

Here are just two of the eight projects that were approved for Green Project Fund support in 2012:

Solar Array at Roseworthy 
Student houses and buildings at Roseworthy consume a considerable amount of energy (electricity to power lighting, appliances and to heat water). A tailored system will be developed to supply renewable energy to selected residences.

Hub Central Edible Garden 
The Edible Garden can provide an opportunity for students to grow and eat produce on campus. The garden also offers the opportunity to demonstrate sustainable living practices, the benefits of locally produced food and bush food.

Even if you don’t have much (or any) funding available, you could run this process anyway – just by getting people together, you will convene a group who all bring expertise, ideas and contacts – their assets – to the process.

You might even find you can do some things without funding, by running an ‘offers’ and ‘needs’ market eg. a project needs something built, and the capacity exists to do this at low or no cost in another part of the organisation, through an external connection or through involving your organisational community.

Hub Edible Garden design workshop flyer

Image credit

How was your organisation’s last lot of grants approved, or last lot of budgeting decisions made, and how could it be done differently to serve as an engagement tool?

Maybe you’ve already seen similar processes used by The University of Adelaide? But if not, and you’re in a position to influence how a such process can serve an additional purpose as an engagement tool, why not suggest giving these approaches a go?

And if anyone tries to tell you this is just a fuzzy, feel-good activity, you can let them know that it is part of the ethos of participatory budgeting, which is emerging as a means of reinvigorating democratic processes through engaging people, all over the world – including in the Big Apple, the City of New York.

screen shot of Participatory Budgeting New York City - districts, dates, ballots for voting

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