The Organizational Strategist

January 13, 2010

Whole System Sustainability – Bringing Together Stakeholders to Generate Action


-Introduction-

  Sustainability, renewable and/or alternative energy, the triple bottom line (People, Planet, Profit also known as the three P’s or 3P), and going green or building green all are hot topics right now. They will likely continue to grow in importance with the environment being more prominent in our thoughts and with the economic challenges we all face. Given this increase in both interest and necessity, where does a person or organization as a whole begin to unravel the path to create a more sustainable organization? What can be done? What should be done? How do we find the right steps to take?

-Sustainability & Whole System Involvement-

  It may be shocking, but the answers are all around. With the information age upon us and society’s urge to act in sustainable ways increasing, it is becoming easier to achieve much by acting for a sustainability goal.  As I’ve observed from my own sustainability consulting by facilitating workshops, conducting meetings, and collaboratively designing projects, the primary challenge for both individuals and organizations is a lack of information. Stakeholders of all sorts can help. Just like it’s surprising how often people are open to networking and willing to share their story, so too are organizations willing to partner, provide information and offer advice.

  The information one needs is out there! In my experience, it’s surprisingly easy to make good connections and create new insight once the right people meet up at the right time. They want to be found because they are doing good things for sustainability efforts and doing well as an organization at the same time. So the business enhancing elements are favored as well as the motivation to help out.

  As mentioned in my previous post, whole system involvement for your strategic priorities is very effective and helpful. With sustainability, organizations are still finding their way, trying to understand what ‘sustainability’ means to them, and learning what is available. However, I’ve found that it’s a matter of networking and finding diverse representatives for the varieties of stakeholder groups that makes overcoming challenges much easier than first thought. Non-government organizations, also known as NGOs (like Greenpeace, universities, charitable organizations), local businesses (farmers markets, small manufacturers, unions, professional groups, etc), local and federal government agencies (USDA, chambers of commerce, law enforcement or environmental officials) and, of course, the various stakeholder groups inside your organization should help comprise a whole system initiative.

  The diversity of information and representation can lead to many startling discoveries and partnerships. I have known of and heard about how fantastic new projects are started because the alignment of connections made and ideas generated. Whole systems involvement used to start sustainability initiatives bridges the gaps in information, motivation, and collaboration.

-Summary-

  Whole system involvement makes it so the right people can come to the right place at the right time. These gatherings of the minds and organizations create new dialogue and understanding. Sustainability is very achievable for you and your organization’s efforts. Like climbing a mountain, it takes a series of steps to reach your goal. Sustainability is no different in that regard. Yet, by bringing together the right people, you can learn the easiest, most effective way to the top of that sustainability mountain.

  If you would like to learn more, I have come across a webinar entitled “Sustainability: A Whole System Perspective” that is being offered by one of my instructor/consultant friends, Bonnie Richley, from Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management. Click here for information on her upcoming webinar. I anticipate that she’ll be able to give an elegant and informative take on this same topic.

-Links-

Bonnie Richley’s LinkedIn profile: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/bonnie-richley-ph-d/8/59/915

Upcoming Webinar on Sustainability & Whole Systems: http://weatherhead.case.edu/about/events/detail.cfm?eid=1470

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1 Comment »

  1. Hi Whit,

    Thank you for addressing this; organizational change professionals certainly have a role to play in addressing these issues.

    I would also like to bring to your attention a free webinar that is being presented by Andrew Gaines, the convener of the Alliance for Sustainable Wellbeing, on Friday, January 22 (and again on Wednesday, February 3rd). Andrew asks, “If it is the case that we are in a global ecological emergency how might members of the OD field respond? It may be that we have a far greater contribution to make than most of us have realised.” In this conversation we will explore the core values of viable society, how some organisations already embody these values, and how OD practitioners might be influential in catalysing the large-scale shift in operating style that is a crucially important aspect of things coming right for future generations. For more information, please visit http://www.sedaa.net/modules/events/view_event.php?id=136& or http://www.sedaa.net/modules/events/view_event.php?id=137&.

    Comment by Susan — January 14, 2010 @ 2:07 pm


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