27 February 2010

The Hopscotch Plan

I routinely enter a title to every blog entry when I start to write. And, routinely I end up changing the title because what I start writing about inevitably changes as the sentences add up.

So, today I am starting without a title, as it should be. However, I do have a topic in mind but I can't get my head around it yet. Which to me means it's worth exploring further.

I've been reading a lot about the environment and I've learned a lot from the various perspectives of many different authors such as David Orr, Paul Hawken, Thomas Berry, Lester Brown, David Suzuki, etc. And I learn something new every time. I've also attended seminars and courses on sustainability which have been equally valuable in a different-kind-of-learning way. What I have now, so it seems to me, is a lot of paint and brushes and a blank canvas. What am I to do now?

In the past I've been pretty quick to act. I think it's a personality style/choice since I am a very impatient person who prefers trial by error than to wait for a plan. And, I have to say, it is effective as opposed to the ineffectiveness of so many talkers who do nothing; we need doers taking up the slack.

However, I just finished a course with Natural Step (Sustainability for Leaders) which presented a backcasting method to sustainability planning. Yes, it is just another word for strategic planning but that in it self is the genius of it. Let me explain.

I think that, for the most part, people who are active in sustainability initiatives are doers by nature; you know, the ones who just can't sit back and let things deteriorate any further. Doers, by nature, aren't necessarily the best planners because of the time it takes to methodically plan actions, which feels a lot like a waste of time.

I would include myself into that group and can refer to a lot if activities I am pursing at the moment without any real plan or vision. So I attended this course not really knowing what to expect from the Natural Step. If they had advertised strategic planing for sustainability I would have run for the hills, but they did not. They advertised a backcasting-ABCD model. I was intrigued and signed up. They're clever.

Now, I can appreciate the importance of strategic planning and I've seen how it works but it is so not my cup of tea. I'm not saying that the Natural Step tricked me, quite the opposite. I'm saying that Natural Step engaged me in a process that was strategic planning without making it feel like strategic planning.

All in all, the course gave me a new perspective in which I now feel inclined to sit and think about my vision, goals and plans of action. You see, what I am doing now is making change but it's not leading towards anything specific. How can I truly bring about change when I haven't identified what it is exactly that I want to change?

Sure, I have lots of ideas swimming around my head, mostly about sustainable living, reasonable needs, indigenous wisdom, biodiversity, verbal botanies, ESD, ecofeminism, global citizenship, and so on. But, what does all this mean to me? How can I make these ideas come to life? How do they all connect? What is my role?

Natural Step put together a good framework in backcasting which I think is valuable. I liken it to playing hopscotch:

Step 1: Know where you're starting from...and what tools, allies and influencers you have on your team.
Step 2: Create your vision and make sure everyone agrees and can see it.
Step 3: Together, lay out your steps that will lead to your vision, with some flexibility built in as well as opportunities to assess along the way.
Step 4: Start playing the game, one step at a time, going forward and maintaining focus on the goal; enjoying and celebrating every step along the way.

I also really appreciated the reminder of universal basic needs and to take them into consideration when goal setting. I hadn't thought about idleness as a basic human need but I can see how it is part of the quality of life.

So, where to from here? I don't have an answer yet. "For it matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is once well done is done forever." Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience and Other Essays

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