Leadership Part 2 - Tomorrow’s Leadership Skills

From the Camp Fire to the Kitchen Table: a six part blog series on leadership and change practice. 

In part one of the From the Camp Fire to the Kitchen Table blog series, we looked at where leadership began: around the campfire. We compared the campfire model to many current leadership models that are about self promotion, individualism, transmitting information and the short term.  In part two, we will look at the skills the leaders of tomorrow will need. 

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In 2013, social scientist John Gerzema asked 64,000 people in 13 countries to identify the qualities they want in their leaders. What they found is that we want tomorrow’s leaders to be Flexible, Selfless and Ready to Collaborate. This is far closer to the campfire vision of leadership than that of the Charlton Heston image in part one: the mostly old, mostly white, mostly male standing on a hill telling everyone else what to do.  

A flexible leader is an action researcher, who constantly improves processes and adjusts goals on the run. When you are flexible, you are open to new ideas. You’re open to changing the process and the expected outcomes in order to achieve change. A flexible leader recognises strengths in others and goes with them. A flexible leader responds to change like a jazz musician.

A selfless leader leaves their own ego at the door and lifts up others around them. A beautiful quote that is attributed to Anonymous (as an aside, remember that Virginia Woolf said, “For most of history, anonymous was a woman”) says, “I walked with you and then I watched you dance.” Imagine your joy as a leader to walk side by side with someone as they learn and grow and then being able to watch them flourish.  Anatole France put it another way: 

Do not try to satisfy your vanity by teaching a great many things. Awaken people’s curiosity. It is enough to open minds; do not overload them. Put there just a spark. If there is some good inflammable stuff, it will catch fire.
— Anatole France

Have you met a leader who is ready to collaborate? One who, instead of lecturing from the stage, is ready to sit in a circle with the others? To recognise the strengths of others and to help create a shared vision or plan? One with sleeves rolled up ready to lift the wheelbarrow and plant the garden together? One who is ready to share credit? One who understands what makes people tick? A collaborative leader is a Guide Beside, not a Sage on Stage.  

I heard a story during the recent ten year anniversary of the Black Saturday bushfires. The storyteller was talking about how, in the immediate aftermath of the fire, the word “resilience” was being bandied about far too much and people were sitting in far too many meetings. After a few days, a local came forward and suggested that instead of talking, they should all do something together. So, the locals came together and began building a memorial garden. As they worked together, they talked and remembered and worked through many of the things they needed to talk about.  The power of collaborating on tangible things cannot be underestimated. 

I have spent my whole working life in ecological sustainability and culture change. Over the years, many people from communities, businesses and local governments have approached me with great doubt about their ability to make change because they don’t think they have enough understanding of science, change practice, leadership and sustainability. They worry that they are under qualified and that they need to go and study it all before doing anything about it. My response to this concern is simple (here is the Ian McBurney PhD in leadership): The skills required to make change are inbuilt in every human and are as follows: 

  1. Be Curious: Always ask Why? How? What? When? Who? What if? If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Take the time to think and wonder. A curious mind is always on the look out for new learning and never looks at a situation with a closed mind. As John Dewey put it: “The curious mind is constantly alert and exploring, seeking material for thought, as a vigorous and healthy body is on the qui vive for nutriment. Eagerness for experience, for new and varied contacts, is found where wonder is found.” 

  2. Be Creative: Find new ways, new paths, new ideas, new possibilities, new imaginings. As I said at the beginning of Part 1 of this blog series: Our world has reached the tipping point. Nature is breaking. The economy is breaking. Society is breaking. Politics is breaking. Old stories and myths about how society works have broken. All of the answers will not be found by looking backwards. 

  3. Be Connected: With people, with neighbours, with friends, with community and with nature. Conversations are the bedrock of culture. Change only comes about when we’re with the other people. And remember that we are connected to nature. We are intricately connected to and utterly depended on every living system. As Janine Benyus, author of Biomimicry says, “Nature is our greatest teacher because she has already solved the problems we are working on.” Connecting with others and nature will create better change.

  4. Be Confucius: Confucius said, “Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.” Find the sweet spot between what you love and what you’re good at: what Ken Robinson calls your Element. Make a difference there. We need poets and engineers and teachers and lawyers and more working on a positive future. What skills can you offer?

Artwork by Sharyn Madder

Artwork by Sharyn Madder

I always back this up with a further piece of advice: The journey to a regenerative future is not rocket science, it’s a three year old. A three year old is always asking, “Why?” A three year old is always digging for more knowledge. A three year old playfully tries and tries and tries until they learn how to do something. A three year old wants the same book read again and again and again until they fully understand. A three year old will climb up high and jump off and trust that they will land safely. If a door is left open, a three year old will bolt outside and explore. A three year old will take great joy in stopping to celebrate with a biscuit. A three year old will make mistakes, and then go back to try again. And when a three year old is exhausted they go and rest in a  beanbag. And if they don’t rest, they will have a tantrum. A three year old loves people and nature so deeply and so naturally it sometimes hurts to watch it. We adults could take much wisdom from a three year old. All of these things are crucial leading change. 

We grown ups in the Western world are far too focused on outcomes and box ticking and reporting. As Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” We need to focus instead on being curious, creative, connected, Confucius leaders of change.

A final word on tomorrow’s leaders, before next week’s blog looks at Leadership and the Self. People’s feelings are really important when it comes to change. If it ‘feels good’, people are much more likely to be involved in change. My mentor and teacher, the late Frank Ryan - founder of Vox Bandicoot, was always speaking about the value of feelings and about allowing ourselves and others to feel. This is risky. Frank said that as leaders we must take risks. What he meant is that we must step outside systems and expectations and make ourselves vulnerable. By making ourselves vulnerable, we appeal to people’s humanity and reach out to their values and their hearts. It’s risky to use words like love, heart and delight to a room of people. It takes guts to use humour, passion, fun, music, dance and social interaction in a gathering. It takes practice to develop meaningful presentation techniques. These things require guts and energy. But the results are always more powerful. As Frank used to say, “if we have fun saving the world, the world will be saved.” 

So tomorrow’s leaders will be flexible, selfless and ready to collaborate. They will be curious, creative, connected and passionate. They will practice the deep wisdom of three year olds and will make sure that everyone around them is having fun on the journey.

In next week’s blog, part 3 - Leadership and the Self, I’ll be looking at what makes us as individuals become better leaders. There will be wisdom from Brene Brown, Malala Yousafzai, Cathy Freeman, Ken Robinson, Lao Tzu and David Greybeard the Chimpanzee. But don’t think I’m going to focus for long on the self! We belong with the others and that will be part 4.

Leadership Part 1: Where Leadership Began: The Campfire

From the Camp Fire to the Kitchen Table: a six part blog series on leadership and change practice.

Our world has reached the tipping point. Nature is breaking. The economy is breaking. Society is breaking. Politics is breaking. Old stories and myths about how society works have broken. All of the answers will not be found by looking backwards..

This six part blog series on my approach to leadership and change has been written for people who want to work together to support the change needed to restore nature and enable all people to thrive. It is for people who want to change the world around them. People who want to change it for the better, for all of us. It is derived from a Leadership and Change Practice course that I have been delivering around Australia and in New Zealand for over a decade and draws on community development theory, environmental education principles, neuroscience, sociology, biology, network science, anthropology and the wisdom and teaching of the late Francis Ryan of Vox Bandicoot - my major influence. 

The blog series tells a leadership journey in the following six parts:

Part 1 - Where Leadership Began: the Campfire

Part 2 - Tomorrow’s Leadership Skills

Part 3 - Leadership and the Self

Part 4 - Leadership and the Others

Part 5 - Leadership and Influence 

Part 6 - Leadership at the Kitchen Table

If you want to learn how to create meaningful, lasting change in the world around you, join us around the campfire …

Part 1 - Where leadership began: the Campfire

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Picture yourself sitting under the stars with a group of friends around a campfire. The smokey smell, the occasional crackling sounds and the red sparks that shoot up with the smoke and disappear. There’s usually a drink in hand and lots of stories, laughter, a snatch of song, group and one on one conversations, eye contact around the circle and moments of introspection where your eyes linger on a white hot part of the fire through a gap in the burning

For most of human history, our values, our beliefs and the way we lived our lives were shaped around a campfire. There is a richly human part of all of us that longs for this experience. Many people recreate the experience as teenagers and as adults in the backyard. A campfire is a place of belonging, stories, song, dance, laughter, togetherness and deep conversations about life, the universe and everything with trusted others. Shane Howard’s evocative song Tarerer describes ancient Aboriginal ritual:

Make the ashes 

Make the fire

Make it burn bright

Light up all the dancers

Light the darkness

Light up the night

And we’ll sing to the mother of creation till sunrise

Learning as we go 

From the stories of the old and the wise

~ Singer songwriter Shane Howard, Tarerer

As a white Australian, I can only imagine what it is like to experience a process of learning and growth based on 60,000 years of connection to place and culture. As indigenous leader Dr Mary Graham describes it, this participatory, arts centred process enabled clans to ensure that each child reached their fullest potential in their community. People had time to think and watch and learn and teach and grow. Individuals were taught when they were deemed ready. Relationships between clans were strengthened. Trade routes were established and maintained. Disputes were settled. Agricultural methods refined. The climate monitored. Housing practiced improved. Biodiversity protected. And a belief system maintained that had Country and community at it’s centre.  This was true leadership and change practice with a deep purpose: Individual growth and development within the context of place, belonging, community and Country. 

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Whilst Aboriginal Australia was perfecting this decentralised leadership practice over 60,000 years of continued settlement, Europe went the other way. Centralised towns, centralised leadership, centralised religions, centralised trade, centralised economies and centralised wealth led to what I have termed the Charlton Heston Leadership Model. This is best represented by this iconic photo of Charlton as Hollywood Moses (I have nothing against Moses. Never met him. I’m interested in what the image portrays). The mostly white, mostly old, mostly male solo hero leader standing on a hill telling everyone else what to do leadership model. This leadership model led to a lot of really interesting archeology, from war and boom and bust, oligarchies and collapsed civilisations. 

The big question is how this self promoting egotistical leadership model has lasted all the way into the 21st century when it clearly doesn’t work. It doesn’t work for the environment. It doesn’t work for women. It doesn’t work for children. It doesn’t work for people of colour. It doesn’t work for LGBTQI people. It doesn’t work for the poor. It doesn’t work for the working class. Where it does work is that is centralises wealth and political power for the few for the short term. 

And yet most leadership courses I have seen are based on this model. Their brochures claim that, “You can become known as the leader you want to be!”

The problem with most leadership courses is that they:

  • bring random groups of people together in a central place rather than having a program grounded in local communities

  • are finished before any real change can occur

  • are about transmitting information rather than creating understanding

  • focus on self promotion rather than achieving purpose

  • aim to achieve measurable short term outcomes rather focusing on the process of change

  • are focused on creating prestigious leaders rather than human scale leaders

More on these failures in future parts.

There is another way to develop leadership. It is grounded in people and place and it is much more effective and fun. It involves a deep-dive into who we really are and what makes us tick. 

Next week I will publish Part 2 of this six part blog series: Tomorrow’s Leadership Skills which features the wisdom of three year olds and some advice for those who think they need a PhD in leadership before they begin leading. See you then!

Dear Alexander (a letter to my new nephew about a future that people are worried about)

Dear Alexander,

Welcome to a beautiful world, my love. A world of flowers and winds and rainbows and mountain views. A world of laughter and connection and cuddles. A world of birds and wind blown leaves, of waves and the moon. 


You live in a world that is so connected and precious and right now you are the embodiment of that world. You were born of millions of generations of DNA and built of exploding star dust in the unimaginable past. Even at your young age you create connection as your eyes search for ours and they shine when they meet another’s and you speak to us and smile. You were born to connect with others. You make uncles tear up, grandparents melt on the floor, neighbours goo and gaa and you doubled the size of your parents hearts whilst tearing away their sleep and their separate selves. You were born needing and wanting human connection. Throughout your life your mental and physical health will influence the health of hundreds of other people around you and theirs will influence you. Having strong connections in your community will add ten years to your lifespan. Your brain will only fully develop with the love and nurturing of your family and community. And you were born and you made an interconnected and interdependent family and community. You made us all family again. 

But you are more than connected to family. You are connected to the earth. 

Every time you breathe out today, that air is shared with the breath of all living things and mixes with all of the air on earth so that when you breathe in next year, at least ten atoms from that breath will have come from your breath today. Each breath you take contains atoms of the breath of your great grandmothers and your distant cave dwelling ancestors too. Each breath you take has come through the leaves of trees and the grasslands and the oceans and beetles and the ice caps and the dinosaurs and the bandicoots. Your breath connects you to the earth and makes you one with the earth. You are the air, Alex, and the air is you. 

You are also the soil. The structure of every cell in your body comes from the food you eat, which comes from the soil. Your body is formed from the thin layer of living soil that surrounds the earth. A layer born of millennia of living and dying lifeforms. 

And you are the water. Your body is mostly water by weight. That water has been cycling the earth for eons, traveling through every plant and animal that has ever lived and flowed down waterfalls and glaciers and through underground caves. 

So you are the air, soil and water. And that is all we can see from space when we look at those beautiful images of the earth. All living things need clean air, water and soil. 

But your connection to this place goes even deeper, Alex. 

Your body contains a hundred trillion cells. Ninety percent of those are fungi, microorganisms and bacteria. You are a thriving community of living things. As you lie back and contemplate this world you have been born into, as your brain expands and forms new links and grows at an extraordinary pace, as every second passes there are a septillion different cellular events taking place in your body. This is a number greater than the number of stars, planets and asteroids in the known universe. The atoms in your body formed in exploding stars billions of light years ago. You are the universe. A map of the connections in your brain has the same structure and shape as a map of the stars and galaxies in the universe.

And the energy that runs your body comes from the sun, positioned at the perfect distance to warm our world and to enable photosynthesis, the stored energy in our food. The earth and the sun are in a perfect dance of tilt and orbit to enable the seasons and cycles of the earth that we rely on.

You are literally made of stardust, air, water, soil and sunlight, Alex. You are made of the earth, you belong on and in the earth. You and this world are inseparable. Welcome home. For home it is. Our only home. Does this not make both you and the earth sacred?
But you are born into civilisational times, Alex. Just as we have come to know how precious our earth is, we have come to a point where we may lose all we have. Between now and 2100 we stand or fall together. That is your lifespan. In your lifetime human kind will either come to treat all of life as sacred and connected and interdependent or we will turn the final page on our chance to exist over the long term. 

You are not born into a world changing from bronze to iron, from horse to car or landline to smart phone. These were social changes bought about by new learning and technology. 

This time it's a global liveable climate, it’s more plastic than fish, it’s extinction rates thousands of times the natural rate, it’s seventy percent of all wildlife gone already since 1970, it’s economic inequality of immense scale, it's a global economy built on selling more boxed landfill, it’s rivers not running to the sea, it’s toxins in our bodies, diminishing resources and diminishing natural places. 

Either we stabilise the climate in your lifetime or the planet is uninhabitable. Either we reverse species extinction and the loss of nature in your lifetime or the planet will not sustain life. Either we create and build a society that looks after all people or society will break and look after no-one. 

And yet here you are, Alex. And you’re perfect. And your parents are worried. None of our predicament is your fault and almost none of it should be your responsibility to fix. 

But they say that the darkest hour is right before the dawn.  We are in the middle of what Joanna Macy calls The Great Turning. The way I see it, there are now two world views and both are operating in parallel. 

The Age of Me.

The Age of We. 

The Age of Me is over. This is the individualistic, top down, centralised power, patriarchal, competition based, growth fetishising, neoliberal world view that has held sway for 40 years. That world view is broken and no longer makes any sense. Old stories held dear are dying and that's why the big wide world seems mad. Politics is mad. The media is mad. The economy is mad. Jobs are disappearing. Growth is stagnating. Ideological trenches are being dug. The post truth world has arrived. “Coal is good for humanity and should be subsidised. Climate change is crap. Wealth trickles down.” These patent untruths are being screamed from the parapets of power, louder and louder, but by fewer and fewer leaders from madder and more extreme political factions and media outlets. As Yuval Harari says in Sapiens, when an old worldview is finished, there is a time of great doubt, when old stories and myths are clung to and they hang on like grim death, funded by old economy wealth as the world changes around them. 

The Age of We is well underway. It fits this world. It understands connection and collaboration. It is being built from the atom up like the air and the water and the soil and like your body and the structure of the universe. Great change is afoot. And I want to tell you Alex that never in human history have so many people come together and worked so hard for change. Paul Hawken calls this movement Blessed Unrest. It is everywhere. It is community gardens, it is community owned solar parks, it is urban food forests, green buildings, food coops, car sharing, bike sharing, bee keeping, repair cafes, community wind farms, regenerative agriculture, walkability planning, native gardening, cooperatives and farmers markets. It is bike paths, it is bush kindergartens and children and nature clubs and frog ponds and local currencies. 

These new stories are being written at breakneck speed and they haven’t quite yet taken hold in our collective imagination. When they do,they will infuse business and politics and communities everywhere. The world has always been thus. Change is constant. 

As the age of Me slips into irrelevance and decay, the age of We rises and grows stronger. It is almost ready to fly. You will live this journey Alex. You will see the last piece of coal burned. You will see the last drop of petrol combusted. You will see the waterways return and nature prioritized in and out of our cities, the green building revolution and the relocalized economies and the world powered by free wind and sun. You will live through the end of personal ownership of stuff. You will live to hear prime ministers speak of the benefits of a post growth economy. You will see a universal basic income rolled out so that no one is left behind and everyone has a chance to thrive. You will bear witness to the birth of a new politics that makes sense and helps us thrive. 

You will thrive in the great turning. The movement that learns to live on the earth as if we’re from the earth. In the words of Janine Benyus,  “I think we realise that it’s time to fit in here. It’s time to come home. It’s time to figure out how to function in a way that will allow us to stay here. When we get to the point where civilisation is functionally indistinguishable from the ecosystem that surrounds it, then will be a welcome species.

You were born into a beautiful, diverse and connected world, Alex. You were also born into a complex, impoverished and broken world. 

We will lose much on the journey. So much will be lost that it is almost too much to bear. It is likely that half of all living things will not make it through with us. It is likely that many coastal cities will disappear under the oceans. Much of the world may be uninhabitable. 

But the prize we have to gain is immeasurable. We will build a civilisation that survives to thrive in the long term. 

So breathe deep, Alex. As your great grandmother once said, always look for the silver lining. Paul Hawken says that this is the most exciting time to be alive in human history. We get to remake and redesign and renew everything in civilisation within a generation. 

My advice to you on your journey is to strive to live these four qualities every day: 

Be Connected: with people, with neighbours, with friends, with community, with nature. 

Be Curious: always ask why? How? What? When? Who? What if? 

Be Creative: find new ways, new paths, new ideas, new possibilities, new imaginings. 

Be Passionate. Find your element. Follow your dreams. Explore what you love. And make a difference there.

And Alex, make sure you fall in love with this world and the people in it. Be in it and live it and breathe it and drink of it and eat from it and do this together with loved ones. 

Have you sat with your mum and dad under a wattle tree in the spring whilst a cool breeze made the leaves dance, Alexander? 

Love, Uncle Ian

Blog Menu

Aiming for the Good Life

The Bendigo Weekly have been running a great series on Bendigo in 2020. This is the original extended version of my piece in that series (which can be found here).

In 1996 I ran from Bendigo to Melbourne for deeper conversations, cultural diversity and positive thinking. In 2007 Claire and I bought our first child back to Bendigo for fresh air, community and a childhood without a million traffic jams. And ever since we have enjoyed the deeper conversations and positive thinking that has flowed in to Bendigo since 1996. We helped to establish the Bendigo Sustainability Group and we loved watching the establishment of the Farmers Market, the Trove Market, the Night Market, cycling infrastructure, the gallery, the food scene, the cafes, Ulumburra theatre and more. The Age even called us the coolest town in Bendigo. Take that Castlemaine!

On the back of this innovation and change we can look with confidence to 2020 and beyond. Great and exciting changes are afoot. A new economy is rising and it is about localisation. Around the world, local people and local place are being put back into the local economy, enriching everyone. Councils role is to encourage, enable and embrace the localisation of energy, food, work and transport systems and Bendigo will benefit from this for decades.

So what is this new economy? It has three main elements. The first is local renewable energy, the second is electric vehicles and the third is high speed internet. Jeremy Rifkin calls the convergence of these three elements “the third industrial revolution” because it is the convergence of new energy, new transport and new communications systems, like the first two industrial revolutions. It has profound implications for the way our local economy will be structured. Lets think about it. 

Energy - Renewable energy is local. The solar and wind and energy efficiency and sustainable design and battery storage and distribution projects will create local work, local ownership, local investment and local revenue. We’ve never had that here before. Our $80 million annual household energy spend largely leaves Bendigo and mostly leaves the country.   The big idea however, is that once installed, renewable energy is basically free. In the mid 2020s this new energy system will go online in real time allowing everyone to both produce and consume energy, including households, businesses and surrounding towns, so that we can match energy flow with demand. 

Transport - Our local energy system will combine with the global push for electric vehicles. Council can begin to plan for a transport revolution as internet platforms will allow vehicles to become shared, driverless and autonomous, removing 90% of all cars from the roads. Everyone will be able to travel where they want when they want, without the road toll, without foreign petrol and without air and noise pollution. We wont need any public or private parking and at least half the roads will be repurposed for trade, nature, community or all three. Bendigo homes used to spend $280 million on transport each year, which left our city. That can stay here.  We will all pay for the bits of transport we need, rather than a whole vehicle. Council can increase its investment and planning for electric vehicle charging, walkability, cycling, public places, public transport, urban greening and housing and land use projects that encourage these. The 2015 Integrated Land Use and Transport Strategy has already positioned us for these changes and I think it will win us international planning awards. 

The localisation of energy and transport will create a revolution across the rest of the economy. Heres a taste …

Food - Our food system is already beginning to relocalise with local niche brands and Farmers Markets, Food Fossickers, backyard veggie gardens and fruit trees flourishing. Web platforms will allow food swapping and redistribution and mapping to occur in real time. The cooperatively owned Food Hub is the next piece, encouraging local and regional food growing and distribution to thrive.

Work - Fluid collections of talented local entrepreneurs and micro businesses will combine to deliver great work, replacing larger organisations. Our Synergize co working hub is an early example of this change. Council can adapt local planning and policy to suit this vast growth of mobile workers, creating local places of economic value, connection and creativity. People won't want or need ‘jobs’, but there will be lots of exciting work to do as we transition energy, transport and food systems and tackle homelessness, loneliness, intergenerational poverty, obesity and disadvantage, all of which cost our local economy millions of dollars each year.  As transport and energy systems localise, global products will become more cost effective to manufacture, assemble or print locally. Council can begin to plan for a new local manufacturing boom. 

Participation - Online platforms are already popping up to reenergise citizen participation. Crowd writing, shared decision making, crowdsourced opinion, encrypted electronic voting and more are reenergising participation in local democracy. We wont have to go to the town hall: we will participate online where we happen to be at the time. This jump in participation will enlivened and improve how our Council operates and delivers services, with the old top down model becoming obsolete.  Councillors and Council staff will be much more adaptive, responsive and open to encouraging new thinking.

Retail - Retail will move towards life and away from stuff. Morleys Emporium with its social enterprise model, Food Fossickers and niche products like local brewing and breads are all thriving.  Around the world, sharing stores and fixing stores and meet up and skill sharing cafes are popping up. Council will begin to remove vehicle infrastructure in the city, planning for the return of the local walkable shopping strip, pop up trade, local markets and public places for people to be together.  Council is in deep planning phase for real time freight for the city that runs on a local electric autonomous fleet.

Sharing - I’m currently working on bringing the sharing economy to Bendigo, providing real time access to goods and services from lifts, stuff, money, time, skills, spaces and more. We will move beyond ownership of stuff to shared access. This will be cost effective, convenient and if the tech is owned by local cooperatives, the value will stay local. Council can changing the design of streets, buildings, public places and services to reflect this new sharing focus. 

Health - These big systematic changes will make us healthier, happier, more diverse and more connected. Council will focus on place making, community connection, walkability, ten minute neighbourhoods, cycling, parks, access to nature, quality aged and child care and the child friendly city. Children and the aged will reclaiming streets and public places. The return of local biodiversity to our waterways, parks, streets, gardens, walls and roofs will have a big impact on local health, wellbeing and sense of place. With a fast warming climate, this greening of the city will help keep the city cooler.

Youth - The new local access economy will mean students will come back to Bendigo in droves. Their vibrancy will be our vibrancy. Council is planning for the ten thousand people that will live in the city centre by 2030. This will be safer, more fun, more alive, will open up new markets and create a more edgy city. 

Transition - As our economy transitions from cars, rubbish, disposable stuff, fossil fuels, foreign ownership, big business, “trickle down economics”, social breakdown and cultural sameness we will have a few trip ups. We have already seen this in Bendigo. These are big global changes and we don't like change. Trump is the clearest example of the political reaction to this change. The old economy is dead and people know it, but salvation does not come from fear or clinging to the past. Bendigo is no different. Fear of cultural diversity has already caused outbreaks of bigotry. Fear of a new economic system creates longing for an imaginary past. Fear of the speed of change creates disfunction amongst elected officials and our Council is currently being investigated by the state for disfunction. This is expected in times of great change. But we must rise above our fears and learn together and if we can we will thrive.

Local - The key to our future strength as a city is to take the best and most brilliant ideas from around the world and localise them: local money, local trade, local making, local services, local energy, local transport, local food, local places, local people, local fast internet, local ownership, local work and local democracy. 

Put simply, our spending and our work need to relocalise, circulating locally and enriching us all.  Roads, rates and rubbish is so 1950s. The Council mantra from 2020 needs to be local people, local places, local economy. 

Claire and I chose Bendigo to raise our family and make a good life here. We can create that good life together. I’m with social researcher Hugh Mackay, who in his book The Good Life asks: 

“What makes a life worth living? His conclusion, drawn from his research, is provocative and passionately argued. A good life is not measured by security, wealth, status, achievement or levels of happiness. A good life is determined by our capacity for selflessness and our willingness to connect with those around us in a meaningful and useful way.”

Bendigo Peoples Climate March MC #COP21 Thoughts

The latest UN Climate Change Conference is happening right now in Paris. Last weekend saw the biggest day of protest in human history, with 2300 marches taking place in 150 countries to put the spotlight on world leaders. I was asked to MC the Bendigo march and ABC Local Radio recorded my introduction to the March and played the first three minutes on local radio. Nice! I thought I'd add the text of my entire speech here, along with the soundcloud file from the ABC, a gallery of photos from the Bendigo March and a climate change timeline that I put together in 2008. Enjoy!

MC Climate March Notes

Peoples climate March: 2300 events registered in 150 countries. 

To start the official proceedings I would like to acknowledge that we are meeting on Jaara Country of which the members and elders of the Jaara community and their forebears have been custodians for many centuries and have performed age old ceremonies of celebration, initiation and renewal.

We acknowledge their living culture and their unique role in the life of this region, and today we especially acknowledge their care of country and lasting relationship with the earth.

Today’s people’s march is a Global event. 

World summit in Paris

World leaders have now met for 27 years on climate: RIO, Kyoto, Joberg, Bali, Copenhagen: they have created tiny incremental improvements in that time.

Climate: 2015. 

I’m 37 years. old. I have never lived in a year of below average global temperatures. 

We are seeing extreme weather events, sea level rises, conflict.

Great divide between reality and politics: Environment Minister saying we'll fix climate change and expand coal is like trying to end smoking by expanding Philip Morris. 

Pope: Encyclical - our common home. Calling for an “ecological conversion”. What does that mean? In the 90s we changed the light bulbs and began recycling. In the 2000s we put up solar panels. But we haven’t yet changed our values. We haven’t changed who we are. That is what the Pope is calling for. Conversations and dialogue on a deeper level.

Today he’s in Nairobi: He said the international community had to listen to the “cry rising up from humanity and the earth itself”.

Barack Obama said earlier this year that “the people keep marching in the streets and we need to heed their call.”

Around the world? Exponential growth in all of the following: Renewables, energy efficiency, batteries, storage, networked smart grids, coal shares, 

Global emissions this year did not rise! First time. 

The Canadian research company Corporate Knights examined the stock holdings of 14 funds, worth a combined $1tn, and calculated how they would have performed if they had dumped shares in oil, coal and gas companies three years ago. Overall, the funds would have been $23bn better off with fossil fuel divestment. 

Turn to person next to you and talk about Hope …

Final thought after the three speakers: courage. Do we have the courage to spend the rest of our lives changing everything about who we are to ensure that we can be here for the long haul?

A Climate Change Timeline: 1880 – 2008

Put together by Ian McBurney: not referenced. If in doubt – google it!

1880s – Industrial Revolution: large scale burning of fossil fuels begins.

1896 - Svante August Arrhenius, Nobel Prize winning scientist publishes first work on the greenhouse effect, finding that "if the quantity of carbonic acid [CO2] increases in geometric progression, the augmentation of the temperature will increase nearly in arithmetic progression."

1950s – Measurements of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere begin with 350 parts per million CO2. Growth in CO2 is steady since.

1970s – Climate Change lectures delivered in Universities. “Limits to Growth” report published which predicted 2050 CO2 levels similar to those of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2005.

1980s – cfcs and ozone hole the big issue: As a result of the 1988 Montreal Protocol the ozone hole is now stabilizing.

1988 – International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) set up with the following starting points:

  • We think climate change is a big problem and is caused by the burning of fossil fuels

  • We think we’ll need cuts of 60% by 2050

1989 - Global Climate Coalition founded (an industry lobby group) by 50 oil, gas, coal, car and chemical corporations. Over 11 years it gave $US60 million in political donations, and spent millions on propaganda. It’s stated purpose: "to cast doubt on the theory of global warming."

1992 – Rio Earth Summit fails to set targets

1995 – IPCC Report: human impact on climate is discernable

1996 – Kyoto Summit Protocol created: Only first world countries not to sign are Australia and the USA.

1999 – Vostok Ice core: CO2 levels are 30% higher than any time in the past 400,000 years and rising fast.

2000 – Laviosier Group set up in Australia. See Global Climate Coalition above.

2001 – Nicolas Stern, British economist releases a report on the economic impact of climate change: unmitigated Climate Change will ruin economy: we could spend 1-2% of GDP fixing it now, or 20% later.

2005 – George Monbiot Releases “Heat”

  • Scientists now telling us an urgent CO2 cut of 90% is required by 2030

  • 2 degree temperature rise the ‘tipping point’

2005 – Vostok ice core: 30% higher figure now true for last 650,000 years.

2005 – USA National Science Foundation: Category 5 hurricanes have doubled since the 1970s.

2005 – Tim Flannery releases “The Weather Makers”: Growing scientific consensus indicates that a rapid increase of more than 2 degrees constitutes "dangerous climate change", causing mass extinctions and social and economic disruption.

2006 – Royal Society of London releases public letter asking Exxon Mobil to cease giving $2.9 million annually to 39 named right wing think tanks to “misrepresent the science.”  

2006 – World Health Organisation estimates 150,000 deaths pa due to climate change.

2007 – IPCC Report (based on 2003 science: it takes that long to get agreement from all countries).

  • 384 parts per million of C02 in the atmosphere. Growth rates in CO2 emissions trebled in the first 6 years of this century.

  • Current climate change (a 0.8 degree temperature rise this century) is human caused

  • Global emissions must peak by 2015 and we need a 90% cut in CO2 emissions by 2050

  • Feedback loops (such as ocean acidification, melting permafrost and artic sea ice which all add to the problem) are now looking dangerous

  • Carbon Sinks (such as the ocean and soils) are drying up

2007 – Centre for Alternative Technology in Britain: 80 – 90% cuts required ASAP

2008 – Most IPCC predictions are underestimating the rates and seriousness of change.

2008 – Ross Garnaut (Australian economist) Climate Change Review

  • By 2100, unmitigated Climate Change will remove 4.8% of GDP, household consumption will drop 5.4% and a 7.8% drop in real wages.

  • A 2 degree temperature rise will mean no inflow into the Murray Darling Basin, Kakadu, the Great Barrier Reef and possibly starts an irreversible loss of the Greenland ice sheet (which would cause a 7m sea level rise)

2008 – CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology Report

  • We are set for exceptionally high temperatures every on to two years

  • Drought will now occur twice as often, with twice the severity

  • Eleven of the hottest years on record have occurred in the past 12 years.

2008 - Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics Report says exports of key commodities will fall by 63% by 2030

2008 - Tim Flannery: “There is now a better than even chance that, despite our best efforts, in the coming two or three decades Earth’s climate system will pass the point of no return.”

  • 2008 - Ocean acidity is rising: this means less carbon will be stored and less life can survive.

2008 - 40% of Arctic summer ice is gone since 1970: by 2013 it could be ice free.  The poles are warming 5 times faster than the world.

2008 - Pacific Island nations including Tuvalu and the Cararet Islands are planning to move as surge tides are rendering their islands unliveable.

2008 – The scientific predictions:

  • A 2 degree temperature rise could mean the death of half of all species of life

  • A 5 degree rise would make the Mediterranean uninhabitable and the Amazon rainforest would disappear in smoke.

  • Bendigo will receive less than 11% less rain than now and be more than 3 degrees hotter

  • The loss of the Greenland Ice sheet would lead to a seven metre sea level rise, putting the land of billions of people underwater.

  • 200 million people will be without drinking water as the Himalayan glaciers melt.

  • Climate Change Research Centre at UNSW: acidity in the Southern Ocean will reach destructive levels where it will dissolve the shells of marine organisms by 2030.

2009 - Copenhagen Climate Summit fails on nearly every measure, except that world leaders agree to limit waning to 2 degrees. 

Check out the images from the marches around the world on the Guardian

Looking after the earth enhances your business

Last week a new study appeared that shows (once again) that improving environmental performance is good for business.  OECD economists found that environmental regulations permanently boosted productivity

The other finding of the new study: less productive businesses were likely to see costs rise. In other words, poorly run businesses don't use environmental regulations as an opportunity to stimulate innovation. They continue on as normal, pay the costs and then complain about the costs to anyone who will listen.

For fifteen years now I have been helping businesses improve their environmental performance. At Jimmy Possum we reduced power bills by an average 15% in their stores and they saved money. At Bendigo Community Health Services we reduced the power bills at two sites by 11% and 13%. At Swan Hill Rural City Council we reduced the power bills across four sites by 9%, saving money. At St John of God Hospital in 2014 we increased recycling by 700%, saving money. Yes, that was 700%.

Each of these businesses is in the early stages of transformation. They are reducing their impacts. Being less bad. But what about businesses that are further down the path? Interface Carpets have reduced their impact by 80% since 2004 and have a goal of zero impact by 2020. They report saving $400 million, a huge improvement in their products driven by design for sustainability, a massive improvement in attracting and keeping the best staff as they share a common higher purpose and that the goodwill of the marketplace has been astonishing. No amount of marketing for any price could have produced as much goodwill. Regulation anyone? Do you think Green Tape is ever mentioned at Interface?

“But it’s just not reasonable…” I hear the Industrial Revolution brigade pronounce importantly as they stare down from their dusty parapets, “…Green Tape compliance is a cost to be borne by business!” Australian Treasurer Peter Costello once said that only when the economy is strong can we afford to protect the environment. In 1992 George Bush senior spoke of a "balance" between protecting the earth and making money.  

What they fail to see is that many of the costs of doing business are also environmental costs. Fuel, electricity, gas, water, raw materials, waste and fleet all impact on the environment. Reduce these costs and you have a more efficient business with a lower environmental impact. If business takes this thinking further and imagines how these might be eliminated through design, planning, goal setting, learning and trial and error, then culture, products and services can be remade, improved and reimagined in a big way.  It’s a win-win situation.

Staff are generally the largest cost for business. As Interface found, their sense of a shared higher purpose attracted the best people and kept them together. That's hard to buy. Staff turnover and lack of quality people can ruin business. Investing in a green building can bring increases in productivity too; the City of Melbourne CH2 building boosts productivity through less sick days. A study by the Victorian government showed green buildings boost employee productivity, health and more.

I once heard someone say that regulation is a sign of design failure. The evidence suggests that if you have to even worry about "compliance" (what a horrible word) then you haven't done your job properly. Innovation is always a better path for your business than complying with regulation. 

Goodbye Origin! Here's why ...

Dear Origin Energy,

Ten years ago our family chose your company for our electricity because you headed up a list of green energy retailers in Australia. You offered solar and wind power, supported home solar systems, ran impressive looking green advertising (happy people sitting in trees as I remember) and looked to be heading into a glorious new energy future. 

In the 1980s Kodak was a pioneer in developing digital film. Then they closed the doors to innovation and to a changing marketplace; and they disappeared. 

In the past few years your CEO Grant King has actively and publicly campaigned against the Renewable Energy Targetsolar power and the Carbon Price. All of which were working and none of which were behind energy price rises.  So why the opposition? Because if you support renewables then you will have to change your business model. Shock horror!

Our power system is currently centralised, fossil fuel powered, foreign owned and controlled by large feudal style corporations like you Origin. The sort that pervertedly argue that coal will lift poor people out of poverty. What's with the sudden care for alleviating poverty Origin? Would it be the only twisted moral reason your PR team can come up with to support coal? 

Why would our family support that?

A 100% renewable power grid is the opposite on all fronts. Every building will be a power station and wind, hot rocks, solar PV, solar thermal, tidal, wave and more power sources will link locally together. A distributed, networked, smart grid will transfer power in real time over the internet. Once installed, this system will be near to free, because sunshine, wind and hot rocks are all free.  Every building will be at least 40% more energy efficient than they are today. A third of the average power bill is currently wasted. Energy storage will be huge, with excess power stored locally in our buildings, electric cars and at special node points in the grid for use when the sun doesn’t shine, the wind doesn’t blow or the power price is good enough to sell. This power grid will be far more secure, as anyone who has studied the science of complex networks will attest: a centralised system is far more likely to fail. Even the Saudis know this grid is coming. We're excited about it. 

Renewable energy will be locally/regionally owned, operated and managed. My home town of Bendigo spends at least $80 million powering our homes and almost all of that money leaves Bendigo and most leaves the country. Imagine the alternative for our local economy.  Like Hepburn Wind: community owned, producing more power than Daylesford needs and they won the world wind award. Like the People's Solar: crowdfunding solar and building community. Like the Bendigo Sustainability Group and Bendigo Library solar projectOur family wants to invest in a different future to the one you desire.

Our fossil fuel powered grid is moving the world towards 5 degrees of global warming this century, a situation so dire for humanity that imagining your centralised fossil fuel powered business model in existence in that future is laughable. The science is clear and as close to absolute as anything ever has been. And Australia will be worst hit. A world five degrees warmer would not sustain our economies, societies, governments, law and order or the natural systems that sustain our lives: the clean air, water and soil. Over half of all species of life would be extinct, the oceans would be acidic and lifeless and sea levels over a metre higher, displacing millions of people. Climate Change aside, coal kills hundreds of thousands of people around the world every year as it pollutes our air, water and soil with toxic fumes and effluent. You could not sell fossil fuels on Mars. There is nothing there. Your precious business model is moving the Earths climate in a Mars direction. We have been told that 80% of fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground to limit climate change. You don't care. You care that you make money now. Our family is heading in another direction. 

Every time we hear your CEO Grant King speak he is talking about the old power system, or apples, when the future power grid is oranges. How about comparing prices properly? If climate change costs were paid, then renewables would be cheaper than coal. If we paid for the power lost in the line on the way to Bendigo, it would make renewables much more attractive. If solar power received a proper feed in tariff when added to the grid at peak times when the price is high, then renewables would be much more attractive. If we spent the billions you are spending (or supporting) on poles and wires on local smart grids then renewables would be cheaper. If we removed the $10 billion our government provides to subsidise fossil fuels then renewables would be cheaper. If the health costs of coal were added to the price, then renewables would be much more attractive. If renewables were a greater percentage of the power system, prices would be lower. If all of these costs were added to the coast of coal renewables would already have wiped coal off the face of the earth.

So here is your marketplace Origin. The growth of solar around the world is exponential. The growth of wind power around the world is exponential. 80% of Australians support renewable energy. Energy efficiency is growing rapidly around the world. Energy demand has peaked. The growth of energy storage around the world is approaching exponential. Two of Europe’s biggest energy retailers have already flipped their business models to facilitate the new energy future, having tried to hold onto the past and lost mega profits. The fossil fuel divestment campaign is growing momentum at over $50 billion. Global carbon targets are heading from 20% fossil fuel reductions by 2020 to 100% by 2050. South Australia is approaching 30% renewables and their power prices are lower. Germany is approaching 31% renewables and they don’t even have sunshine. Denmark is at 39% wind power. One fifth of Australian households now have solar PV on the roof. A system went up every two minutes last year. The head of SA power Generators thinks your business model is dead. Your profits are already on the decline

A recent report by Accenture showed that utilities in the USA and Europe stand to lose $100 billion from these changes. They advise this: "In order to navigate through this demand disruption, utilities will need to fundamentally transform their business models, including the creation of distribution system operations services to manage a more complex and distributed grid."

So how’s your Kodak going Origin? Are you seriously choosing Kodak? You are at the most crucial point in your history. 

Today our family changed our power supplier. We will not support yesterday's thinking. In fact, we cannot think of a single reason to support the direction you are taking your business. The only conceivable reason you have for your position is to protect your outdated business model over the short term. 

There is nothing personal about our decision. AGL, Energy Australia and co just as bad. And we’d happily change back if you have the courage to continue along the path that you began ten years ago.  Push for a larger Renewable Energy Target, push for a carbon price to send the right signal again for the market, support renewables, support storage, help build the smart grid and you will shine. You probably won't be as big and your profits won't be as easy. But as it stands now, your ‘green’ push was just greenwash. A lie. A cheap marketing ploy to trick people.  

And as it stands now, if your short term business model works, we all lose and we have no economy. If it fails, you disappear. 

As Alan Watts said, “The only way to make sense of change is to plunge into it, go with it and join the dance”. Jump in Origin!

Living and Travelling in Bendigo, 2030: a potential vision

Inspired by the Bendigo ITLUS (open for comment now), this seven part vision is offered for argument, derision, discussion and inspiration ...

"I just moved to Bendigo. I love it. I love seeing the Cathedral lit up from my apartment with the sunset in the background. What a view. After dark I often go for a walk in town. It’s so alive! Ten thousand people live in town now. It feels full of fun and it’s so safe: someone is always around and watching. The bars and cafes and bookshops are open late and they all face the street. I love the laneways and the sound of music drifting out of them. I gave up my car when I moved here. It’s saving me heaps of cash and I can grab one of the electric car share vehicles from the station when I need to go beyond the city. I’m a member of Bendigo Bike Share too. They had to put more bikes in at the station last year as all of the tourists love them. They love the interactive transport map they can download to their phone too. It makes it so easy to get around. I chose to live here because of the lifestyle. And when I want to go to the footy or a band in Melbourne it’s only an hour and a half on the train and the wifi is great." 

- Joe, 29, third floor apartment, Mollison St, Bendigo


“We’ve lived in Huntly for forty years. We’re almost locals now I suppose. We love the open space and the sense of community. We feel like we’ve lived through a pretty special time. With all the influx of new people we’ve seen a lot of new ideas. A lot of new local businesses have opened up which is great as we don’t need to go to town as much any more. A lot of the working folk catch the bus into Bendigo. They leave from here every 12 minutes in peak times. Why would you drive to work? If we need to go into town we walk into Huntly and use one of the electric cars in our car sharing pod. Sometimes on a Sunday we ride into Bendigo and feel like we’re surrounded by nature the whole way along the path. We’re a lot fitter than we used to be and that might have something to do with our car being mostly in the garage these days.” 

- Bev and Earl, 75, Detached House, Huntly


“We moved to Strathfieldsaye because it’s a great place to bring up kids. They can walk safely and quickly to school and the footy ground and they love their backyard. Kate works in town. She says the bus station is the place to be at 8:30am: she thinks the Strathfieldsaye community is run from that bus station. The buses go every six minutes during commuting times, so it doesn’t matter if you miss one. She parks her bike there in the cage. I drive a delivery vehicle out of the Epsom and Kangaroo Flat freight hubs. It’s an amazing hive of activity! The big trucks coming in from the north and south straight off the highway and a lot of Bendigo large industry has moved to these two zones to be nearby. Then there’s the automated storage and delivery systems and the electric vans out the other side. Everything is ordered and delivered online in real time. Some of the big trucks still go through Bendigo late or early in the day, but most of the grunt work is left to the vans. I still cant quite believe how our systems work out the fastest route and the right number of deliveries for a load and the time of day. I do know that our customers love the service though.” 

- Ben and Kate, 36, with Thomas 7, Mollie 5, Detached House, Strathfieldsaye 


“Getting to work is a cinch. The train runs from Square to town twice in the mornings, it’s a minute from my third story flat and it only takes a minute to get there. If I miss the train the bus along High street goes past at six minute intervals in it’s only a block away. My phone tells me where the train and bus are in real time. In the spring and autumn I like to ride into work along the creek. I think only a third of Bendigonians drive to work these days. The showers and storage facilities at work are brilliant. I have family in Geelong, so I own a car for weekend and special shopping trips. The best thing is, I’m part of the five thousand strong peer to peer car sharing network in Bendigo, so I rent my car out during the week and it’s earning enough to pay off my flat. I know it’s in good hands because I only rent it out to people with a great online reputation.  Golden Square is a real population hub now. There are some really funky new apartment blocks near the main shops. Our local economy is thriving and there is always something open and always a place to catch up with friends after work.”

- Erica, 24, second story, Golden Square Station Apartments


“I’m in hospital utilities administration. Moved here fifteen years ago when we opened. We ditched our car fleet soon after the hospital opened. We found that the local car sharing company offered us better rates, a simpler smart phone booking system and a better private car solutions for hospital staff that lived locally. So my work cars during business hours are the same ones I use for personal use at my cost after hours. I enjoy the walk into town after work. It’s about 20 minutes. I especially like it when I make it all the way without crossing paths with a single car. The good thing about the way the city has been developed from a transport point of view is that obesity rates have reduced to the point where we think this hospital will not reach capacity for another thirty years or so. We, on the whole, removed ourselves from car dependency and we’re fitter and more socially connected as a result. I have many more conversations on my wanderings than when I was commuting by car.”

- John, 55, Flat, Ironbark


“I love how everyone in Bendigo is within 500m of a park and shops. That’s clever design. It makes each local place feel like a place to be. The walking paths it has opened up are delightful.  I especially love the evenings in Eaglehawk. Everyone is out and about on the street cafes or heading to the Star. I feel much safer riding into town than when I grew up here. The magical disappearing bike lanes on Eaglehawk Rd were a bit of a hazard back then compared to the detached bike road now. I still drive my car. It gives me a buzz to have my car find and book a carpark in town and then direct me to it. I used to hate doing circle work searching! My furniture business is in Long Gully. I’m such a fan of the freight hubs. We have less trucks on our streets, which I value and we have delivery within the hour.” 

- Sarina, 44, semi detached house, Eaglehawk


“I love my car. I’ve loved them since I was a kid. I’m at Tafe this year, so I drive in four days a week. The awesome thing is, I get half price parking if I take someone with me. I just whack up the time I’m leaving on the app, and if someone else needs a lift into town I get a text with a name and address. I check their history first to make sure I’m not picking up a murderer. Or my uncle. Then we’re off. I’ve met heaps of local people I never even heard of before. Me mum catches the bus into town for work. Says she likes reading the paper on the ipad. The buses have free wifi. Dad runs the Heathcote wine bank. He likes walking to work because he can have a few wines afterwards and not worry. He likes all the chats with the locals on the way home too. His garden is full of cuttings from the neighbours. He says the big numbers of new folks in Heathcote has been great for the town. Says we’ve got our own sense of ‘vibrancy’ now. Whatever that means. I just like how busy the bar is on the weekend. Dad used to have to go in to Bendigo for a crowd.”

- Rory, 19, Detached house, Heathcote

Imagine meeting your Financial Carbon Broker ...

“Hi, welcome to Victory Financial Carbon Brokers, your friendly ‘carbon down’ financial advisors. We’re here to help you rid your life of fossil fuels and in the process, to help you become rich. 

“Before we get into the details, some background. To play our part in the global challenge to keep global warming below the dangerous 2 degree mark, which might be too dangerous a mark anyway, the average Australian has a carbon budget of 400 tonnes left. After that, carbon - our old industrial revolution friend has to be ditched. The rising seas, the new strains of disease, the extreme weather events, the collapse of the ecosystems that allow life to flourish are just a bit too much at that point. Check the science

“So to break it down further, the average Australian currently puts 24 tonnes of the stuff into the atmosphere every year. So the average Aussie has 16 years left to ditch their carbon habit before they hit the 400 tonnes mark. And if you’re sitting here listening to this I’d guess you ain’t average. We here at Victory Financial Carbon Brokers think folks like you can do it in ten years to lead the charge. And don’t forget - we’ll make you rich.

“Are you still with us? Are you quite aware of the challenge? We want to make sure you’re in for the ride. We’re not talking about voting, or Facebook posts of disgust, or turning up to the odd rally, or changing the light bulbs. Hell, I bet you did that ten years ago!  We’re talking about changing who you are. About creating an economic and social revolution. A revolution with big winners and the biggest losers in human history. Those old fossil fuel giants that own government, the merchants of doubt, the coal, oil and gas mobs, they stand to lose 21 trillion dollars if we can keep the climate under two degrees warmer. 80% of known fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground. No industry has ever had $21 trillion in Stranded Assets before, but if we’re going to have a future … that’s what we’ve got to do. They are banking on you not changing who you are. On you buying their product. They have chosen to stick with the old and ridicule the new. 

“So are you in? Ok? Are you sure? Can you sign here then? We don’t take half-hearted clients. You have to be all the way in. The planet doesn’t negotiate. It just knocks us down and leaves the temples in the jungle. Or the desert. Or the crumbling statues.


“Ok. Step one. We’ll need to pull your super out of fossil fuels. Where is your super invested? Do you know? We can show you some great ethical investors that will look after your super and your future. It’s a bit quaint hearing fossil fuelled super funds talking about your future.  In the words of Paul Hawken, ‘they are stealing the future, selling it in the present and calling it profit or GDP’. Here are the forms. We can fill them in right now and we’ll help you make the shift. The funny thing is, you won’t be worse off financially. The ethical funds are doing quite well. The Australia Institute last year found that 1 in 4 Aussies are already thinking about this shift: that’s $247 billion that could be taken away from fossil fuels in Australia alone. 

Step two. Is your home loan with one of the big four banks? They all invest heavily in fossil fuels. Don't listen to their snazzy ‘sustainability’ tak. We can help you shift your loan and your accounts to a bank that invests in the future instead. Here are the forms. I can explain the exit fees, charges and help you get a good rate at your new bank.

“Are you still with me? The first two were pretty big. A shock to the system? You’re ok? Good ...

Step Three. If you own shares you need to get them out of fossil fuels and the banks that invest in fossil fuels. Let’s work out a great new portfolio with you that invests in the future as well as your future. The 2014 Climate Proofing Your Investments Report found that ditching fossil fuels made no difference to your returns anyway. We’re here to help make this as easy for you as possible. Here are our recommendations. Once again, you won’t be worse off, and when the carbon bubble bursts, you won’t lose all of your money either. Remember 80% of the stuff has to stay in the ground. 

“Right. It gets a little easier from here.

Step Four. Power. Are you with an energy company that supports renewable energy? That’s easy to change. The big old mobs are trying to protect their old business model and their super profits and their size. The future is renewable, decentralised, networked, online and efficient. In short: it’s small and innovative. The big old mobs are about to die like Kodak did. It’s like they’re trying to get the government to legislate for film when the world is racing to digital.

Step Five. If you have an unshaded north facing roof, put up solar PV panels. The cost is about $5K, the payback is about 6 years and after they’re up you can wipe your power bill basically for ever.  A million Aussie homes have already done it. It’s a complete no brainer.  It’s a better investment than shares and housing. It adds to the value of your home. When you sell you basically get your money back. We can help you find a good installer, get a quote, manage the power companies and even lease you a system if you don’t have the upfront cash. While we’re at it, if you have electric hot water it’s also a no brainer to switch to solar hot water. We can help.

Step Six. If your power bill is on the Australian average you’re paying $2000 a year and half of that is paying for wasted electricity. We can help you understand your energy use and to put together a plan of attack to reduce your bill by half. Most of the changes are low to no cost. The CSIRO suggests a saving of $1200 a year is possible. $1200 in your pocket every year is nothing to snort at. We’ll look at insulation, LED lights, sealing drafts, efficient appliances, low flow shower heads, hot water temperature, space heating, switching off and more. This UK study found energy efficiency can add 16% to the value of your house

“Overwhelmed yet? Don’t worry. Remember you have ten years to accomplish your carbon down journey. We’ll help you plan financially over the ten years so that you are gaining money each year, not losing it. And remember … this journey will make you rich. But from here on in you might have to alter your idea of success and fix up your ‘stuff’ related ego issues. A lot of folks out the have a severe case of Affluenza, as Clive Hamilton called it.  

Step Seven. Your going to have to ditch your car related ego too. If you drive on-road, get rid of the 4WD. It uses heaps more petrol and kills more people. The Joneses are buying smaller cars now. Just ask Ford and Holden. They kept building the big ones and fighting government fuel standards and they ain’t here any more…  

“Then, you have ten years to stop buying petrol. I know! It sounds crazy. But you signed on at the start. And you’re spending $3000 a year on petrol anyway. So stop it and you can save. For now, buy the most efficient car you can. And use it the least that you can. The average Aussie home spends around $1,000 a year running the car on less than 2.5km trips (47% of trips are under 2.5kms). 

Your car is costing up around $10,000 to run in total, so think about the number of hours you are working each day to pay for your car. And $10,000 is a lot of taxis. 

And then plan to join a car sharing group. Why own a car when you use it one hour a day? You will have a choice of new cars when you want and you’ll probably save $5000 a year. And you’ll drive a third less. As of December 2012, there were an estimated 1.7 million car-sharing members in 27 countrie. If you want income from your car as it sits there in the drive way, add it to a person to person car sharing scheme and earn some cash.

Then buy a bike. A Copenhagen study found that people who commute to work for twenty years by bike save $100,000, cut 94 tonnes of carbon and live seven years longer. A $1000 bike is not a bad financial investment. And get some good shoes; walking is even better. The average Australian spends $1000 on health every year, and another $4000 via taxes. The heart foundation suggests that 30 mins a day of active transport would save our economy $13 billion and stop 16,000 premature deaths every year. 

“For other trips, set up a car pooling group and if you still need a car buy the smallest one you can.  In the end you’re going to have to either move to a walkable area, or own a renewable energy powered electric car, or have some great public transport or car pooling options. We can help you manage the transition. 

“Once petrol is out of the equation, property values on the edge of cities are going to plummet and the value of walkable areas will skyrocket. We would advise that you move into town sooner rather than later to make sure you win from this change. One USA study found that every mile you commute in your car already costs you $795 a year. Put that on your home loan and you’ll save thousands in interest. This study said $15000 a year.

Step eight. As Clive Hamilton said, stop buying stuff you don’t need, with money you don’t have, to impress people you don’t like. The CSIRO thinks a third of your carbon footprint comes from the stuff we buy and the Australia Institute reckons we all spend $1000 a year on things that we rarely use. And we spend a lot more than that every year on stuff that we don’t need. We spend $2288 per year on clothes and shoes for example. How about halving that and buying quality and second hand? A clothes swap with friends? So save your pennies and buy quality, sustainable, fair-trade and for your needs, not your ego. The Jones are starting to think you’re a stuck-up ponce-face with all your useless stuff and your long working hours. Get a life instead! Work less, go hang out with your neighbours and replace ‘stuff’ with good times. 

“Ok. Is your ego surviving at this stage? Some folks are going to take a hit. But don’t worry. All the research points to a more wholesome, fulfilling life if we ditch our spending-money-ego-frenzy.

Step nine.  Change your diet. Michael Pollen has three dieting rules: Eat Food (food being defined as anything your grandmother would recognise as food), Mostly Plants and Not Too Much.  Follow these and you’ll drop your food carbon footprint a mile. Meat has a massive carbon footprint so eat it much less. Your body will thank you too. And the average Aussie home throws away $2000 worth of food a year. So save that money. And plant fruit trees, herbs and a veggie garden. Plant a fruit tree in the nature strip! Support your farmers market, support your local wholefoods store, support your local butcher and support environmentally produced food. This is going to require some deep thought and probably some overturning of common misconceptions. Sometimes food miles are less important than farming methods for carbon output for example.  There’s one more financial food sweetener to throw in for you: carrying a water bottle rather than buying bottled water saves $2800 a year.  

“So far all of these steps have been personal. Individual. That’s great. You’re helping to change the economy, our society and your life. We think the above nine steps will save you at least $10,000 and more probably $20,000 from the average annual Aussie household budget. And your super, shares and house loan will perform well and be saved from the big carbon bubble burst, which is either coming, or our civilisation slowly will slowly fall apart. Neither of which is a good outcome. Individual actions are brilliant and necessary. But they are not enough. We need to share and connect if we want to win this battle.

Step ten. Reconnect. Work less. Live more. Be with your kids. Visit your sister. Play in your street. Join a local environmental action group, join a choir, have four conversations as you walk to work, set up a workplace green team, kick a ball with a mate, have a dinner party with the neighbours. Share your journey with others. 

A Sustainability Street community

“Join the new economy. Set up or join a car sharing business, a community owned renewable energy storage facility, a bike share, a tool swap, a food swap, build a local park, plant a shared community garden for food and join a local group to revegetate your local creek. In short, build community.  

Final Thoughts: If you follow through on this ten year challenge, you will be happier, healthier, stronger, will live longer, you’ll feel better about your life, be supported by the strength of your community and you’ll be building your local economy for the future. Remember when we said that we could make you rich? Well … lets define rich. Yes, you’ll be at least $15K better off every year. That’s nice. But how much richer will your life be? Hugh McKay’s book The Good Life asks the ultimate question: What makes a life worth living? His conclusion, drawn from his research, is provocative and passionately argued. A good life is not measured by security, wealth, status, achievement or levels of happiness. A good life is determined by our capacity for selflessness and our willingness to connect with those around us in a meaningful and useful way.

“So steps one to nine will save you money and bring your carbon down near zero. But add in step ten and we may just help you create the wonderful, meaningful life you’ve always ached for.

“Are you up for it? Great!. Sign here, roll the sleeves up and let’s get going!” 

Sustainability Street iBook Launch

It’s here! 

It took two years! 

I am so excited to have been able to play a major role in bringing the Sustainability Street Approach within the reach of every iPad on the planet!

“But what do you have do with Sustainability Street, Ian?” I hear you ask … 

Well. It changed who I am. And it might just do the same for you. After you download it of course :-)

In 2002 I was an environmental engineer with two years of work in the fields of waste reduction and cleaner production under my belt. I was standing, unemployed, next to a pile of recycled timber in Coburg when Francis Fitzgerald Ryan (Frank) founder of Vox Bandicoot appeared next to me. The very next week I started work at Vox Bandicoot and began five years of following Frank, learning like a sponge. 

The Vox put me face to face with 20,000 people. We delivered the famous theatre program to 10,000 people at schools and festivals.  We delivered workplace culture change training to 6000 people in manufacturing and local government.  I wrote interpretation, developed theatre scripts, state government education curriculum, published picture story books, was MC for state government environmental awards ceremonies, launched a hundred local government programs, worked in three states, managed staff and helped manage the business all the while going through a personal learning journey and transformation like no other. 

And all I had to do was follow Frank around. 

Frank would say goodbye to twenty people at the end of a workshop by name when he’d met them only two hours before. He would connect on a beautiful emotional level with them all. Through Vox Bandicoot he enabled people to reconnect deeply with the earth and all it’s wonders. Frank is a perfectionist and a clown and a poet and educator like no other. He taught me the power of now, the power of relationships, the power of the spoken word and the power of the whoopee cushion - the power of laughter and fun.  And all the while the message was the same: we need to fundamentally change our relationship with the earth.

Just before I started at Vox Bandicoot, Geraldine Doogue from Radio National had bought Robert Putnam the sociologist to Australia with his book ‘Bowling Alone’. In it, he talks about the 21st century need to create new ways of coming together as communities; how we need a new era of civic invention. For Frank, it sparked a synthesis of his 20 years of environmental education with his sociology background and his deep passion for bringing people together. Sustainability Street was born.

My task that first week at Vox Bandicoot was to find some money to add to a $3000 City of Moreland grant.  That grant had been made based on a powerful seven words from Frank: “Sustainability Street - It’s a village out there.” Not a jungle! 

So we potted around and found $24,000 to add to the original grant.  We found two “streets” in Coburg to be the first Sustainability Streets and then worked with them for 18 months. 

By the time I left the Vox in 2006 to set up Live ecoLogical I had worked with 150 Sustainability Street villages across Melbourne and Sydney. I am fortunate to have been a part of one the most successful and profound environmental education programs ever created. I’m not sure that any other program has ever matched Sustainability Street in the university confirmed 30% reductions in water, waste and energy achieved across the board. The incredible leap in social cohesion, capacity and wellbeing that Sustainability Streets also achieve amongst participants would be hard to match too.

But for me, it is the intangibles that were the real highlights. As I sat in lounge rooms, bus shelters, back yards, cafes, parks and community halls I witnessed the first slightly anxious and awkward coming together of strangers meeting people in their local places. They might have met previously if a tree had fallen on the road or seen each other once when a cat was stuck in a drain; or spoken briefly at an auction. Now they were sharing tea, cake, wine and veggies. They were laughing and planning and dreaming and learning together. They were becoming comfortable to let their kids walk down the street without an adult. They were digging together and joining a local carbon choir and presenting on the radio and changing their careers and swapping recipes. They were installing solar, buying bikes, setting up street notice boards and planting the nature strips. They were supporting each other through personal tragedies and watching one another’s homes when holidays came round. They were carpooling, swapping worm farming tips, holding eco film evenings and becoming friends. They were getting frustrated at the trials of incorporating so that their community garden could begin. In some cases blood pressure returned to normal, bad backs disappeared and depression reduced.  They felt wonderful. 

And I felt wonderful. I learnt how to be a ‘Guide Beside’ rather than a ‘Sage on Stage’ as Frank taught. I learnt how to encourage a community to emerge and learnt how and when to butt out and let them to blossom into who they are themselves. I saw the long term power of local people doing it for themselves over the fence.   Sustainability Street is driven by and thrives upon the people involved. I saw people of every political persuasion working together, having fun together, planning together and celebrating together.  I realised that the big political ideologies are just spin and shadows, and I now know that there is a way to move beyond them. I learnt that all of us, at a deeply human level, want to look after each other and want to look after the earth. 

Sustainability Street was created and authored and guided by Frank Ryan. It is now so much a part of me, my work, my community life and my spirit that I have no idea what’s me and what’s Sustainability Street anymore.

A few years ago I pitched the idea of a Sustainability Street iBook to Frank and he was excited. Since then we have been plotting and planning, writing and creating, editing, animating and video recording our way to publishing our first iBook. Frank as the author, and myself as publisher and editor.

It’s now in the iBookstore and anyone with an iPad and a spare $10 can download it, immerse themselves in it and then knock on the friendliest neighbour’s door and begin the journey. At it’s simplest, you will reduce water, waste and energy together. At it’s most complex it will change who you are. At it’s most meaningful is the knowledge that all change begins at the most local level - if enough Sustainability Street Villages form around the world …

I’m a little bit proud of our iBook and I’m very happy for Frank as he deserves to be recognised for his amazing life’s work. I’m so excited to think about communities everywhere learning from the Sustainability Street iBook to set up their own streets or to use it to inform and enhance their existing community sustainability programs. 

I can just see the smiles as they create the future together …

Talking ecoLogical ... three overhead conversations:

Talking ecoLogical is a set of 40 cards that can be used by anyone to open up reflection and conversation about environmental sustainability. In the year since they were first published I have watched the cards used by teachers in Swan Hill, community in Warrnambool, local government in Bendigo, state government in Melbourne, grade six environmental leaders at Quarry Hill Primary school, a hospital green team, sustainability professionals and pharmacy owners in St. Kilda and I am always intrigued by where the conversation goes.

Here’s a mash-up of some of the conversations I have heard running workshops with the cards.  You never know where it might lead…

1. Pick a card and have a conversation in pairs...

"I am offended at this 'Imagining the Future' suit Food card!"


“Because farmers have been doing amazing things to improve soil quality for years!”

“But they’ve been adding too much fertilizer and chemicals and feeding cows pellets and caging chickens and removing vegetation."

“That is a very simplistic and stereotypical judgment to make. Farmers care a great deal about their land and are always thinking about the next generation. ”

“But couldn’t you say the same about businesses in the city? They are wrecking the planet for different reasons even though they have people who care running them. Farmers might care, but they are doing damage.”

“Some are doing damage. Many are doing wonderful things. And the examples you just used are not black and white. There are a lot of grey areas. Define free range for example? And cows are mostly grass fed in Australia. I think businesses in the city and farmers are facing the same issues. In many ways it’s the big systems we’ve set up that are the problem. Fossil fuels, global companies, politics and media slogans make it feel too hard for farmers and businesses run a good business without ignoring the environment. I just get sick of people going off at farmers when they have no idea how hard they are trying.”

“So wouldn’t getting back to local help if the big companies are the problem? I’ve heard about Food Hubs in America that set up to supply their local area first and to keep the profits local. If local people were more connected to local food and local place wouldn’t that in turn help farmers care even more for their land? They would know the people buying their food and visa versa.”

"I guess so. I haven't heard about food hubs …”

“Are you still offended at the food card?”

“Yes. But I guess given our chat it’s done its job …"

2. Each small group decide together which card in the pack is the most important...

“I think the toxins card in the 'Our Challenges' suit has to be the most important. 500 toxins in our bodies! That is extraordinary and everyone needs to know that.”

“Well we all think that the Guide Beside card in the ‘Processes of Change’ suit is the most important. We hadn’t thought about change in that way before. If we’re going to change the world we need to understand how to enable others to think and act differently.”

“But knowing that we are polluting our actual bodies will make people change. It’s so scary.”

“Well, the Guide Beside card is about respectful collaboration, not telling people things. It’s about going on a journey together rather than delivering information.”

“But knowledge is power isn’t it?”

 “It is good to know things. But smokers know they a most likely giving themselves cancer and that doesn’t change their behaviour. The ‘facts’ about climate change haven’t stopped the political far right from denying its existence.”

“So where do the Challenge suit cards fit then? Do we ignore them?”

“Definitely not. They are a major reason why we need to change. But knowing our challenges is not enough for people to change who they are. I think the Guide Beside card is a powerful thought: in the end we only change ourselves don’t we? And that process is helped by our friends and family helping us to think …”

“Ok, I can go with that. I’ll be a guide beside who is inspired by toxins though …”

“Ha! Gold."

3. Meet and Greet: pick a random card and introduce yourself …

“Hi, I’m Rachel.”

“I’m Craig.”

“Nice to meet you. You’re from finance yeah?”

“That’s right … and you?”


“That’s right. And you helped run the ride to work day didn’t you?”

"That was I. Good turn out!”

"Twas. So what card did you get?”

“I picked the Water card in the Imagining the Future suit. ‘Like a forest, we cleanse water as it flows through our society’. Not sure what that means …”

“Well forests clean water. I remember reading about the forests above Melbourne and how they clean our drinking water so we don’t need to treat it as much.”

“Ok.  So it’s asking if we’ll be able to clean water as it flows on our buildings and roads. That would be a big change. The colour of rainwater in the drains isn’t good. And the rubbish in our creeks.”

“Not to mention the sewage system. Some of the things businesses and homes put down the sink and the toilet are not good.”

“No. So this card is asking us to imagine what our city would look like if it did clean water. I’d imagine there’d be a lot more greenery.”

“I think so. I’ve seen some of the grass lined drains in the new developments. The water runs off the roads onto stone beds and grasses. That must be what those are about.”

“And I love green roofs and walls. I don’t know how they build them though. Some of them look a bit funny, but some are beautiful too.”

“Too true. Hey, what are you doing after work? Did you want to grab a drink?”

“That would be nice (*blushes*). We could talk about revegetating our local creek …”



If you’d like to find out more about Talking ecoLogical watch the video here or you can buy a set of the cards here.

Green Team Leadership, or not

What makes a green team succeed? It is money? Time? Power? In this case it was none of the these ...

We were very fired up. We had a big first workshop together where we learned, planned, dreamed and got busy doing. We set out on a journey to reduce our organisation's energy bill by 15% in one year. Based on our assessments the retrofits needed to reach this target were decamping over lit areas, a switch off campaign, thermostat control and urn replacement (did you know that an old urn running 24/7 can cost $3000 a year to run?). We also planned a one year retrofit and behaviour change program that involved secret frog awards, education sessions, progress updates for team meetings, events, a competition between sites for the best outcome, support from the CEO/Executive and posters, stickers and emails. 

We had four sites to cover and appointed Green Team representatives for each site to guide, challenge, enable and inspire their site on the journey. 

After the year was up the power bill results came in. Below are the results. The reasons why provide powerful learning for change makers:

Site One: 11% reduction - this site housed the respected and friendly Green Team Manager and was the site where most Green Team meetings occurred and so had the highest turnout.

Site Two: 12% reduction - this site housed an overly competitive, passionate and boundary pushing Green Team Representative who punched the air when the results came in.

Site Three: 2% reduction - this smaller site swapped Green Team representatives mid year as a staff member left the organisation.

Site Four: 0% change - this site lost their Green Team Representative at the start of the year and took nine months to appoint a new person. It's fair to say that nothing happened.

I recently heard a great description of Leadership: Moral Craft.  The moral part is deep within. It's your character, ethics, morals, authenticity and sense of service. When the chips are down and a snap decision is required this is what you rely on to lead. The other part of the equation is craft. It means doing something. You can't be a leader unless you actually DO something. In the case of this great organisation, we found that you can't run a campaign if you're not at the table. They saved a solid $9,000 from their efforts. If the other two sites were along for the ride they would have doubled the result. 

I often say to groups that the first step on a journey is to get to the station and to decide to get on the train. We can't be half on a train ...

The MC from Hell ...

"Hi everyone, the toilets are over there. Does that make you think about wee? I don’t think this mike is working? Hey … Can everyone listen? Oi! Okay, now where are my notes … Does anyone know what time it is? Should we have already started? Johnno? Whats that? Okay, I’m ready … now to begin with a long irrelevant anecdote …

- The MC from Hell

Having been a professional MC for over twelve years I've picked up a few tricks of the trade. After many ministerial launches, state environment award ceremonies, festival stages, professional dinners and conferences and many of my closest friends weddings and lots of community trivia nights and school fetes, I think I have enough experience to know a bad MC when I see one. And sometimes I cringe. 

Recently Claire and I went to a charity fundraising trivia night. I had hoped we were in good MC hands. It would be good to be carefree and answering the questions for once … how wrong I was. Let me give you a few tips on how NOT to MC that were all present on this one fateful night: 

  1. Do not use a sound system that is not loud enough. Simple yeah? 
  2. If people can’t hear you, you haven’t said anything. 
  3. The first minute is crucial. It's when everyone makes up their mind about whether they are on board with you. So do not ramble, mumble and look at the floor. Don’t mention the toilets yet. It makes people think about wee and poo and associate that with you. You could even try telling people what's going to happen. Or introducing yourself. 
  4. If you yell "Shut up everyone or I won't read out the questions" and no-one listens, do not be surprised.  If you do happen to yell this and it doesn't work, don't try it again many times. In fact, the people want to hear the questions. Whisper them and they'll listen. Do not repeat the shut up thing when reading the answers. In fact, showing anger or frustration with your audience in general is a bad move.
  5. Do not sell bourbon cans and UDLs at a trivia night if you would like people to participate beyond the first hour. This may have impacted on point 5. 
  6. Try reading out or displaying the scores occasionally.  Or at least let people know what round they are in how many rounds are left.
  7. Do not overload the evening with too many rounds, too many auctions and too many activities. Try and get people home at a reasonable hour. 
  8. Do not be boring and monotone.
  9. Do not set up a computer, a projector and try to download a video as you MC.  If you're going to use technology, set it up, get it ready and check it before the event has started. And make sure everyone can see the screen. 

You may not be surprised to learn that we didn't last the entire night. Surely it would at some point occur to an MC that the folks attending a trivia night are there to have a fun night out?

A good MC is on time, on message, is clearly heard, uses their volume and tone of voice, position, hands and body language to great effect, is clear about the program, enables everyone to enjoy themselves, interacts with the audience at their level, allows the audience to interact with each other, creates a sense of eventfulness, knows who is speaking and who to thank, has researched the event and the people, remembers names, is fully present in the moment, adaptable and ready for change and has a friendly knack of briefing speakers on time limits and then keeping them to time. They have helped set the agenda to ensure the flow is good and space is allowed for. An MC plays up their own character strengths, whether that is humour, being good natured, strict, solemn or fun filled.  

And if you want to be memorable for all the right reasons, take yourself and the audience on a journey outside their comfort zone to a really fun place: do something big, eventful and interactive that will be remembered forever. My favourite example was an Irish/Australian wedding where we held an Ireland vs Australia sing off. Molly Malone vs True Blue. It blew the roof off, set the tone for a very fun night and made everyone feel great. 

When a Green Team Stumbles ... and then Flies

Last year a green team I have been mentoring did some great energy efficiency work. Then the CEO, the green team manager, the year and the project all changed at the same time. Many green teams fall over at times like these. We all want to be on the winning team and a table with two people around it ain't winning anymore. But it is amazing how powerful renewal can be. Even strong teams should do it often. The Phoenix of mythology is a powerful change agent.

We met with the new CEO, who backed us in straight away. We developed a waste reduction plan for the Organisation, audited waste streams, checked the flexibility of waste collection contracts and next month we had five at the table. Things were heating up.

Next we checked out new bins, investigated composting options for catering and then spoke to the senior leadership group about the importance of the project. The dam wall burst.
Our meeting this week did not have enough chairs around the table. We had the CEO, OH&S, maintenance, volunteer coordinator, waste collection, Org support, catering and representation from another four departments. In one hour we worked through the practicalities of the new waste system in a blaze of positive, creative, excited thinking.

The best part was that one major and two minor organizational systems were completely redesigned in a way that will improve customer service, reduce waste to near zero and save money and time. Quite often when the right people are at the table, a small conversation about, say, composting leads to a deep process change that improves all aspects of operation. Amory Lovins once said that the sustainability game is the only one in town where you see a $50 note on the ground in your business, you bend down to pick it up and you find $100 underneath. Water, waste and energy are generated where the work happens and they are also business inefficiencies. Why pay for them? In removing them other inefficiencies, outdated processes and old systems are looked at anew and improved.

This organisation WILL reduce waste by 60% next year and they'll save money, impress customers, inspire their national group, improve business systems, look modern, lower purchasing costs and probably win an award. They are on a mission.
To get everyone involved it took perseverance, renewal, a big refocus and an exciting project that will effect everyone's job. It also took a few smiles. Never underestimate the power of a meaningful project that has a fun, inviting atmosphere about it.

Of course, the biggest cog in this chain of events was the CEO - genuine unconditional support from the top opens doors and cascades throughout an Organisation.

Watch this space for the results in 2014.

Facilitation that Flies

Ok, so you have all the right people in the room, you have two or three hours and you want to create a shared plan of attack. We've all been here and we've all seen it fly and seen it fail either spectacularly or with a whimper. I've facilitated workshops for 15 years with governments, community groups, teachers, green teams, businesses, conferences and not for profit board rooms and done so in hotels, bus shelters, classrooms, conference venues, community centres, lounge rooms and offices. People seem to like what I do. So here are a few of my golden facilitation rules:

The human brain can concentrate on a task for about 27 minutes. Change things up. Change the activity and the space.  Change the social structure a few times. Some people perform better in a big group discussion, some one on one. So build in some solo thinking/writing time, some one on one conversations, some group work around a table and some big group discussions.

Encourage different opinions: We don't like disagreeing face to face. But if you do disagree staying silent is the worst thing you can do for the success of the project.  Space shuttles have exploded, wars have been waged and planes come down because people stayed silent or blocked other opinions. The book Wisdom of Crowds has the best three rules for teams to follow. 1. Begin openminded 2. Different Opinions Rock 3. Hear from everyone. Any small group that follows these rules will be faster and smarter than any individual within the group. 

Cater for people's different strengths. Some people love to dream big, some like to plan, some like to learn/teach and some want to stuff the whole workshop and go and get started. All four of these types are crucial to ongoing success. I like to sort people into these four camps and let them go for it. Learning, planning, doing and dreaming small groups will cover a whole journey for you. If we're not doing one of them chances are we are going to fail.  A good large group report back and discussion on each and you'll have a great plan of attack.

Have fun, be human scale and build in Purposeful Informality. Oh dear I hear you say, here comes Ricky Gervais in the office! Awkward! And anyway, we have real work to do! Well I ask you this: do you want success or not? We are a social animal who thrives on connection and community. Provide the space for interaction and minimise officiousness, hierarchy and IT. Next, the part of the brain where insight occurs is directly next door to the part that responds to music, the arts and nature. Do you want people having insights or not? Finally, you don't build a team by having a plan, you build a team by enjoying yourselves creating the plan. We thrive when we are engaged and participating, not when we are bored and trodden on.  Have some fun. No one ever died laughing. 

Build Respectful Relationships. Learn names, build relationships, be respectful, make eye contact, draw everyone in and capture hearts. And play to the smiler. You cant take responsibility for the state of other peoples lives and minds. The frowner usually has something else going on. 

People love knowing what is going on, why it's going on, how it's going to happen, when the food/break is and when it is going to finish. It aint hard to tell em. I like putting a simple mind map of the agenda on a whiteboard so that people know where the session is at whenever they want.