by Erica Crawford
Let’s face it: we’re just not going to get there at this rate. No, let me try that again: the way things are going, we’re going to end up exactly where we’re currently headed, and it doesn’t look so good….
A few years ago I was leading a provincial process to assess the impacts of climate change for the agriculture industry here in British Columbia. We had little data, even less at a regional level. And yet, with little in the way of resources and a healthy dose of skepticism from many who we engaged with, we pulled it off. That seminal work led to multi-year funding commitments from government and other partners, supporting ongoing implementation of adaptation strategies across the province.
And yet, it’s just not enough. The work was inspiring and has undoubtedly had an impact—we gathered unlikely collaborators together to better understand the climate science, implications for the range of stakeholders in the regions and to learn to work together towards shared goals. Things happened in those sessions and over the years that just wouldn’t have happened through the usual types of processes participants were used to being invited to, and allowed for meaningful progress towards a more resilient industry and regions.
Still, what I noticed was that the apple really didn’t fall far from the tree. As much as that work created new possibilities and actions, we continued to create from within the same mindsets, cultures and practices that we always had. And so the changes we were making, the unprecedented relationships and actions that were being formed, could only take us as far as the limits of our existing ways of seeing, thinking and being in the world. And that just wasn’t enough to even make a dent on an issue like climate change.
So, “Why SHIFT?”
Because to really make progress beyond those limits, we have to relearn how to learn, how to perceive and how to act from a place that exists outside of our current field of vision. All of the best models and studies in the world won’t get us there, without the skills to learn how to collaborate through the kind of discomfort, fear, conflict and uncertainty inherent to working with complexity.
And that’s hard work. We can all quote Einstein and get inspired at conferences where we feel the buzz of that better world we know, somehow, is possible. But then we come home, back to our families, communities and work places, and are reminded of the impossible. Old habits set in. The weight of bureaucracies, norms, and beliefs put that hunch back in our shoulders. And as we scrounge to secure resources and create capacity from thin air, that part of us that just knew we could get there if only we did it together, pulls up the drawbridge in the face of that age old turf war back home.
Sound familiar? From our experience working with hundreds of groups, collaboratives and communities on complex social and environmental issues, we know it is. That’s why we’re here to help. You have a vision of how it all could be. You might already be working with others who share some sense of that vision too. Likely you have enough of an understanding of the issues you’re concerned about, to know you don’t know nearly enough. That something else is necessary to get where you want to go.
We created SHIFT from our passion for helping individuals, groups and collaboratives to unleash the kind of energy, creativity, and resources that it takes to break out of age old ruts and make practical progress along a path where real change is possible.
The world needs you now. We’re here to help.
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