President’s Corner: July 2009

My First Unconference

“Innovation: Inventiveness of people coming together across companies, sectors, communities, entities to share ideas and come up with something new.” – GIBU Participant

All too often, we are drawn to the negative. This is especially true as relates to the issues of sustainability. Many CSR professionals, including me, struggle between conveying the grim facts of climate change as a means to evoke a sense of urgency in an audience and the alternative of offering a more optimistic outlook. If it’s a lost cause, why try to do anything, and if it’s not so bad, then does everyone really have to do something to make it better?

This dilemma gives way to another tension, which is the one between complexity and simplification. How do we respect the matrix of relationships that comprise the natural balance of a sustainable system and yet make participation in change accessible to all? How do we prevent the greatest challenge of our commons from becoming an issue of the elite? How do we shift the perception of sustainability away from “costly” and “exclusive”? Can we consider ROI rather than up-front costs and make decisions that deliver the most value over time to the most people? Can we get everyone to understand and on board or to we retreat to army of a few?

These are just some of the discussions and debates that were exchanged as part of the recent Green Innovation for Business Unconference (GIBU) held in Boston. This event, organized by EDF and Ashoka, with support of many organizations, including Net Impact Boston, was an innovation in itself. The entire day was an extended conversation of our Boston CSR community and a welcome example of the power of partnerships and positive progress. The questions were tough and yet many simple solutions emerged – and by simple, I mean effective and accessible. Some might say innovative.

Certainly, the magnitude of major global problems we face coupled with twenty straight days of rain can make the negative that much more tempting, but don’t give in to it. As you read through this month’s newsletter, instead think about the myriad of opportunity that exists. Rather than focus on how depressing the situation might seem, consider that at least we are having the conversation. And if you want to learn more about how you and others can move the conversation to action, check out the GIBU wiki and come to a Net Impact Boston event! I’ll be the optimistic one, waiting to meet you and to discuss what we’re going to do together to make a difference.

Kind regards,

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