Accelerate: Collaborating for Sustainability Conference Survey Results


We conducted a post-event survey in an effort to understand the broader impact of the first Accelerate: Collaborating for Sustainability conference and we present our findings below. Using a scale of 1-10, with 1 being ‘very poor’ and 10 being ‘outstanding’, respondents scored various aspects of the conference and provided their insights and recommendations for improvements. Thank you to all who filled out the survey!

Respondents gave an average score of 8.7 when asked to rate their overall experience at Accelerate in 2013.

The insights they shared about this rating centered on a few main themes. One of the most important aspects that contributed to the rating was the high calibre and diversity of speakers and facilitators on the Accelerate agenda. A few participants pointed out an area of improvement would be to have more women speakers on the agenda. Many speakers participated in more than their own sessions which helped to give the conference an air of inclusion and community. This also helped to ignite interesting, provocative and rich conversations throughout the two days.

I felt inspired by the conservation and intention towards system change. This is powerful stuff!”

The world class caliber of the speakers, and their capacity to communicate the key kernels of insight through their stories, made it easy to connect one's own experience and understand.”

Generally, participants felt there were many chances for interaction with others built into the design of the agenda, offering facilitated interactions and adequate opportunities to collaborate. A few respondents suggested they would like to see the design include a chance for a practical collaboration piece around a specific issue with a tangible outcome at the conference itself (i.e., less traditional panel sessions, a mini-change lab on the agenda). 

Respondents gave an average score of 8.0 when asked to rate how much the conference inspired them to deepen their commitment to change and accelerate their efforts in collaborating for sustainability.

Much of this rating is explained by participants feeling they had the chance to connect with an excellent group of like-minded people (finding their ‘tribe’). Being able to hear the struggles and successes of others working across a wide range of the sustainability field was a source of hope for many people. Many attendees came away with new tools, ideas and directions to go in. A few respondents stated they would like to see increased representation from corporate businesses in the room.

This was one of the best conferences I have had the opportunity to attend. Every session was well thought out and had excellent content. I really appreciated the integration of sessions that allowed for meaningful dialogue among participants.”

Participants were generally satisfied with the food served and the venues chosen. They had found  the River Run to be very inspiring (although logistical considerations around parking has room for improvement) and the Delta offered a fine, more traditional conference option (with improvements needed in the sound quality). A few respondents suggested that holding the event at only one venue would increase ease of convenience.

The majority of survey respondents stated the conference met their expectations while a quarter of those surveyed said it had exceeded their expectations. Respondents would recommend it to anybody who is trying to drive positive change in society, thinking about collaboration, is a community stakeholder looking to make a difference, or interested in transformative change. These people could be facilitators, policy makers, professors, executives, youth, clients, colleagues, friends, mayors, CEOs, or legislators working in both government and NGOs.

Respondents gave an average score of 7.7 when asked how much Accelerate deepened their learning about effective collaboration.

Many were impacted and learned a lot from the world class caliber of the speakers who had a great capacity to share lessons and insights from their own experience that helped contextualize knowledge for participants and provide new grounding for participants to add depth as they think about their own experiences and projects. Respondents were also inspired by the fact that the topics of discussion were oriented around collaboration and the program was very wide; we hear your calls for a subsequent conference to go deep.

Respondents gave an average score of 7.0 when asked how well Accelerate connected them with other change agents to forge new relationships that will help their work towards breakthrough change.

Respondents felt many relationships were solidified while new meaningful connections were made. The group process technologies succeeded in giving ample opportunities to network and the calibre of attendees was as top notch as the speakers, while the size of the conference was conductive to connecting.

Respondents gave an average score of 6.1 when asked how well Accelerate helped seed new collaborative initiatives for sustainability.

While seeding new collaborative initiatives was not their intention for many of those in attendance, the majority felt that although they made great connections, it is still too early to say what new initiatives will emerge. This process was more useful for on-going work built over time than fresh starts. However, a few respondents said they are in follow up talks with potential projects and partners already.

I am involved with many different projects locally and this conference gave my work validation. Working locally, I sometime wondered if what I was doing was worthwhile, this conference re inspired me.”

When asked about their favourite part of Accelerate, almost 30% of respondents said the Open Space as it helped build connections with others.

It is not surprising that the topic of personal development/personal transformation frequently arose in conversations about multi-stakeholder collaboration.  We can see the value to participants in being more deliberate in having it as a main theme or direct session in the future.

Many of the 'aha!' moments shared include a reference to Avrim Lazar's observations around our tribal wiring as it informs our behaviour to collaborate with our own tribe and to defeat or disadvantage other tribes.  Others realized that personal development is essential for exposing our own vulnerabilities and creating change towards sustainability. Also, many now understand that social transition labs/change labs are longer term, sustained processes versus a onetime event.

Response rate information

  • Total Accelerate Attendees: 174 (159 not including The Natural Step Staff & Associates)
  • Total number of respondents to feedback survey: 66 (42% response rate)

If you would like to tell us about your experience at Accelerate, please email Danielle Hiscock at conference(at) or call 613.748.3001x 241.