Stuff I hear about in workshops

laudato-si400A love for all creation – the Pope’s dazzling encyclical

Just read Laudato Si, Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment, which is about much more than the environment. What a smart, strategic, moving document it is! There is hardly a paragraph that is not simultaneously eloquent, sobering and energising.
We make strategies for everything there days…but who’s ever tackled a high-level strategy for the whole of humanity? From now on this is mine.
Here’s why I think it’s smart: because of its global scale, because it proposes a fundamental unity of the twin problems of environmental deterioration and global inequality (so we “hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor”), because it lays blame squarely and uncompromisingly at the system of consumption, and because it goes behind that and establishes a deeper cause: a utilitarian worldview unmotivated by love, wonder, humility or any sense of limits, blinded by the destabilising power that technology has unleashed. It is a profoundly subversive document, from practically the only major world institution that has not given in to economic rationalism.
It’s full of uncompromising, memorable language. Here’s an example: “If architecture reflects the spirit of an age, our megastructures and drab apartment blocks express the spirit of globalized technology, where a constant flood of new products coexists with a tedious monotony. Let us refuse to resign ourselves to this, and continue to wonder about the purpose and meaning of everything. Otherwise we would simply legitimate the present situation and need new forms of escapism to help us endure the emptiness.”
Laudato Si (Be praised) – Pope Francis’ encyclical On Care for Our Common Home

mlkingThree non-violent ways to change the world

So, how do we make the shift? Start by being clear about our values and make every action demonstrate them. Then, be active.
Gene Sharp, the US political thinker, identified 198 kinds of ‘change the world’ actions, which fall into three kinds:
– highlight something
– withdraw your consent
– build a better alternative.
To be more specific, I can think of these ways:
1) choose a side and pick a (non-violent) fight
2) head for the smoke – find a local problem and design a solution
3) surprise everyone (including yourself) with a positive new angle – break a stereotype
4) bring unlikely alliances together
5) change a piece of the system
Ideally we could do all at once!
Fast Company (do you subscribe to it? It’s great!) reports a recent analysis of 323 non-violent protest movements from 1900 to 2006 found that: Nonviolent campaigns were successful against government repression 46% of the time, more than twice the success rate (20%) of their violent counterparts. Not only that, they found the success rate of violent insurgencies has actually been declining in recent decades, and that nonviolent resistance campaigns have a stronger tendency to lead to democratic governments and lasting peace later on.”

Tactical Urbanism 4Tactical urbanism – neat ways to “change the space”

Really excited by “place-making” ideas. Place-making is a whole world of neat, simple ideas to change people’s environments that can be used to create buzz in almost any kind of change campaign.
Melbourne-based urbanists, CoDesign Studio, have put a pile of ideas in one place with their collection of inspiring Tactical Urbanism Guides. Edition #4 has 20 case studies of “quick and effective urban interventions and place-making projects in Australia and New Zealand – from pop up parks to urban gardening.”
Seriously, I love this stuff.

51zOcZJm26L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Don’t get angry, avoid contempt, be curious, address values

Adam Hammes, energetic Des Moines-based sustainability advocate, has done a marvellous job connecting the personal with the political in this neat little book. It fills a yawning gap where unconsidered private stances and assumptions infect campaigns, so often derailing them before they begin. We’re all getting pretty good at the high level strategy stuff nowadays… but focusing on who we are in relation to the people we hope to influence (ie. on our own values, stances and assumptions) is a mighty step towards being a better change maker.
The book is Leverage Your Emotions, Avoid Burnout and Influence Anyone, by Adam Hammes.

Finding the right inviter

It’s never just about the message, it’s about who says it. One strong approach is Popular Opinion Leader method. Find someone – a peer – who others already listen to and respect. Here is a perfect case study from Africa:
As the Ebola virus reached its peak in West Africa in August 2014, transportation provider app Easy Taxi and hygiene brand Dettol offered Nigerian taxi drivers training sessions on how to diagnose and prevent the spread of Ebola. Taxi drivers were encouraged to become agents of change and attend monthly meetings as part of the Ebola Awareness Campaign. They learnt about the symptoms and preventive measures with the intention of educating their customers.
“It’s a great idea to effectively contain the Ebola spread in Nigeria, as a large number of Lagosians – a state with a population of over 15 million – use taxi services every day. This act paints a compelling picture of compassion to me, and Nigerian consumers are naturally attracted to brands that genuinely care about them.” – Emeka Obia, Consultant, Headstart, Nigeria

The art of cut-through communication: swapping lenses

Great communication finds new ways to think about the same old thing by mucking with an audience’s expectations. Think about it as “lens swapping”. For example, what if we looked at public transport through the lens we use for elite sport? Check this epic re-envisaging of the local bus advert:

Here’s another: What if you looked at community gardening through an “urban gangsta” lens?
“Let a shovel be your weapon of choice. Growing your own food is like printing your own money. Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do, especially in the inner city. Plus, you get strawberries.” – Ron Finlay, Gangsta Gardener, South Central Los Angeles.
See his wonderful video at
And a lovely example, closer to home. Megan Rowlett, the founder of Illawarra Youth Landcare, has reinvented the brand as Intrepid Landcare, a vehicle that appeals not just to youth but to anyone with a taste for adventure, energy, stimulation and fun. Nice work Megan! Suddenly Landcare is about a lot more than weeding the same old degraded site! Where do I sign up? (Actually I’m waiting for someone to invent the “Coffee and Chocolate Lovers, Spanish Learning, Child-Friendly Landcare Group” – I will be the most loyal member.).

Walking meetings

After standing meetings, what’s next? Walking meetings!
James Wewer from Lend Lease told me about this outstanding practice from the engineering team responsible for the Box Hill Hospital refurbishment in Melbourne. This must surely contribute to meetings that are short, animated, and stimulating. The picture below explains the idea. (The aquarium station is called the “think tank”).
Walking meetings Lend Lease

Marginal matters

Someone had to think of this. Could you claim a climate offset for having protected sex? A UK charity Population Matters offers us carbon offsets in return for funding family planning programs in developing counties. They haven’t quite figured out how to quantify the CO2 emissions from smaller families…but it’s an interesting idea.

Funny recycling videos

Lastly, one more addition to our collection of funny recycling videos.
A bouquet to the City of Sydney for this example:

Quote of the month

“The number one determinant of change is active and visible sponsorship by the leadership.” 
– told to me by John Davey, an organisational change consultant.

Spring workshops in Changeology and Facilitation

I’ve just set dates for the next cycle of training:
Changeology X: Project Makers’ Master Class
For those designing behaviour change projects in waste management, sustainability, obesity prevention, healthy living, road safety, emergency management, and NRM.
This enjoyable 2 day workshop gives you the concepts, tools, processes and inspirations to proceed with confidence. You’ll walk away with an innovative design for your next real life project, down to engaging tactics and messages people can’t say “no” to!
Sydney: 12-13 October 2015
Melbourne: 20-21 October 2015
Yummy lunch and full training manual provided.
Full details and booking.
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. Includes facilitating for creativity.
Sydney: 15 October 2015
Melbourne: 22 October 2015
Yummy lunch and full training manual provided.
Full details and booking.