Dear friends, here is a miscellany of inspiring and practical things I heard about in workshops over the last few months. Hope you find some of them useful. – Les
Shani Graham’s marvellous TEDx talk about saving the world, one street at a time, starting with Hulbert Street, Newcastle
This one is an inspiration. Shani’s first courageous step was to hold a street party. One thing led to another, and this suburban street gradually became a community…with landscaped verges, a book exchange, community garden, a mobile pizza oven, and eventually, a community fiesta with 7,500 guests!
The secret life of a community change agent
I want to introduce Adam Hammes. He lives in Des Moines, Iowa, and lectures in sustainability.
He recently started a personal project to tackle hunger. His blog about this is one of the neatest descriptions of good project design I’ve ever read. If you design change projects, read it (it’s just one page).
He gets that making change is all about process (and that process is applied common sense).
In post #1 he tackles focus and scale. I’ve trained a few tranches of sustainability leaders in NSW and Victoria, and their most common mistake is wanting to solve some MASSIVE problem without seeing that your SCALE has to be within one’s resources. Adam explains this beautifully. Sure, start with a massive problem, but LOCALISE it and then drill down, drill down, drill down and don’t stop until you have a compact do-able project that matches your time and energy.
In post #2 two he shows how good project design comes down to humble, easily understood, activities… like sitting down with some people who’ve already done it and asking “What did you do first? Then what happened?”
Post #1
Idea Bombing Sydney. Really, it’s a community brainstorm…but I love how a new title can make a familiar activity cool, buzzworthy, “OMG I wish I was there”. How things appear to people can make a huge difference to their take up.
Doing emergency education? Here’s a neat idea: Dropbox photos for important records (thanks to Tom in Perth)
A 2Gb DropBox account is free, and (especially, if you have a smartphone) a simple tool for flood and fire preparation. When you open DropBox on your smart phone, it asks if you want to enable photo upload. Just click “Enable” and every photo you subsequently take will automatically upload (until you tell it to stop).
What to do:
1) Photograph all your important documents, and upload the photos to DropBox.
2) Go around your house and photograph your possessions in situ, with closeups of make and model details. Making an insurance claim just got a whole lot easier.
Little known cycling fact: it’s illegal to ride without a bell
Did you know riding a bike without a bell fitted is ILLEGAL in NSW? The maximum fine is $2,200. It’s amazing that many cyclists don’t know this. It’s NSW Road Rule No 258. An identical rule applies in Victoria.

Councils catching up

Bunbury, WA: Social media terrifies so many councils, but not the City of Bunbury. Check out this sign on the edge of town.
Manly Council, Sydney: a sweet little YouTube advert uses disgust and social proof to remind litterbugs that No one likes a litter bug.
City of Salisbury, SA: a YouTube advert that reminds residents where their rates go: their lifestyle (though the language is still in local-governmentese)
City of Greater Geraldton, WA. Like most councils, has a budget squeeze, so decided to create two panels of 35 to 40 residents to help them make budget decisions using Participatory Budgeting.
Village of Pemberton, California: Forget all the community engagement paraphernalia, just have coffee with a councillor.
Coffee with a councillor

Power to us Back in 1945 my community (Thirroul) voted itself a voluntary rate increase to build the local Olympic pool I still swim in. Here’s an online platform that enables a modern community to do a similar thing. Essentially, crowd-funding for local projects.
Loomio: a free, open platform to let communities and networks make decisions together. Looks ideal for volunteer groups, and anyone wanting to do community consultations at the INVOLVE level.

A little bit of theory

What’s the difference between a message, a slogan and a narrative?
This eloquent article by Annabelle Lukin, linguistics lecturer at Macquarie University, explains things we should all know about messages, by reference to Joe Hockey’s budget speech.
A quote: “[a political slogan] needs to be the distillation of a broader story about where you’re taking the country, and why. If you vacate this space, even briefly, some other narrative will colonise it.”
And how a persuasive narrative needs to have:
– ethos (moral character, guided by high ideals or virtues – to look at this more deeply you can’t do better than Simon Sinek’s marvellous TED talk about communicating the “Why”);
– pathos (emotional impact); and
– logos (reasoned argument).
Heard of the Dunning-Kruger effect? It explains how unknowledgeable and incompetent people so often overrate their knowledge and skills. Why? Because they also don’t know how ignorant they are!
Dunning and Kruger proposed that, for a given skill, incompetent people will:
1) tend to overestimate their own level of skill;
2) fail to recognise genuine skill in others;
3) fail to recognise the extremity of their inadequacy;
4) recognise and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill, if [ie. AFTER] they are exposed to training for that skill.
Helping explain why it is so important to let people learn by DOING, rather than arguing a case at them.–Kruger_effect

Expanding your powers (items from me)

Seriously, friends, we need to get surprised more often

Been thinking a lot about the PROCESSES WE USE TO GENERATE STRATEGIES AND IDEAS. I do think we can do it so much better, and have more fun at the same time. Here’s an alternative to the common garden variety brainstorm. I’ve used it a lot lately. It’s fantastic.

Change maker workshops in September

Changeology: Create projects that change behaviour
For those wanting to tackle complex social, environmental or health challenges, this enjoyable 2 day workshop gives you the ideas, skills and tools to proceed with confidence.
Sydney: 9-10 September
Melbourne: 16-17 September
Facilitation Skills: Facilitate any gathering with confidence
Facilitation is a change maker’s core skill. Les shares the skills and tools to positively facilitate almost any group in almost any situation.
Sydney: 11 September
Melbourne: 18 September
Full details and booking: