Creating the Change We Need

I’ve been in beautiful Vancouver, BC for the last few days, filled with awe and gratitude for its sense of place, the story that it tells about me.  I’m attending the Gaining Ground conference which happens in the Pacific Northwest annually and am having a funny conference experience.  Conferences for me are usually about hearing success stories, sharing barriers and networking.  This conference has been different in that I have felt moved to action in my own life rather than gaining tools to help others embrace sustainability. 

This has led me to reflect about what is different about this conference, this place, this time.  I do believe that things will happen in their own time, but we, as facilitators of change and those with the responsibility of spreading sustainability through The Natural Step Framework have a more specific interest in the conditions for making change happen and as such I take both a participant and a facilitator’s perspective on this.  What I can say definitively is that the moment I felt compelled to do something was the moment when I heard my values, my story being told and my heart felt connected to what I was doing.  Before that, I was learning and I was gathering tools, but I was not changing. My motivation was from the head, not the heart.

So – my moment of change was listening to Anita Burke, former advisor to Shell and creator of the Catalyst Institute.  She spoke to the nature of the change that we need.  As sustainability professionals and official system-changers, we are inherently outsiders and we sometimes forget that the way that we change people is not by giving them better and stronger tools or more detailed reasons for change, but by motivating them by connecting our hearts to theirs – through our shared values, through our shared stories of meaning.  It is dangerous and scary to show weakness, to be emotional.  These things make us less and yet speaking and acting from the heart is the core of our sustainability challenge – moving away from head-exclusive planning.  Anita shared the stories of forgiveness, love and incredible fortitude.  The reality is that I am not going to change someone by giving them a brochure, I’m going to change the world by changing my own life and being an example of the change that we need.  I know that reading this is not going to give you the motivation that you need – but I beg you to connect with sustainability in an different, heart-based approach – forgive someone, attend a community event, volunteer with children, play an instrument.  That’s attacking the root cause of the root cause of un-sustainability.