The True Genius of EMERGE: Collaboration

Working in groups can be frustrating, messy and sometimes simply downright annoying, especially when the results disappoint. Other times work by committee can be fabulously productive and invigorating. Unfortunately, we’re never assured of a positive experience. More often than not, we focus on the silos of our individual goals and priorities, or we’ve been driven from collaboration by a negative ‘committee’ experience. Since we are rarely taught how to work well in groups, it’s typically a ‘hit or miss’ experience. This is, until the EMERGE Leadership workshops.

Collaboration is key to emergent leadership, a systems-based approach to leadership that combines leadership competencies, change technologies and practice, and the collective impact of community. So it was no surprise that at most recent EMERGE training, participants spent a good deal of time applying the emergent leadership concepts to their own organizational and community challenges, and in particular learning how to foster integrated (and more lasting) solutions via collaboration.

The EMERGE workshop held at the beautiful Marin Headlands earlier this month trained over thirty local green building leaders to use and grow their innate leadership abilities. Participants, many of them long time Bay Area green building advocates, were joined by colleagues as far away as Tucson, San Diego, and Mexico City and combined literally hundreds of years of experience and dedication to the sustainable building movement.

The faculty for the workshop mirrored the attendees’ mix of local and “imported” provenance. Local green building author and expert Ann Edminster joined David Eisenberg, John Cunningham and workshop leader Kathleen O’Brien in leading the class through the various aspects of emergent leadership, sharing their own experiences and specific tools in candid, heartfelt sessions. Teaching was a thorough a mix of presentations, active participation, and outdoor exercise, culminating in a problem-solving assignment where the participants worked in teams, actively employing all the tools we had just been taught and presenting recommendations back to the entire group.

One point of levity was the certitude by many that the scenarios offered for the team exercise were written for them individually! That was certainly the case for me, where my group focused on making a green building non-profit work more effectively. It became clear that some leadership issues, suffered in silence by we green building advocates, are actually quite universal.

The EMERGE trainings have been developed to help people within the “Green Building Movement” develop and hone leadership and collaboration tools, and in particular to lead from “any chair.” Feedback from this and prior EMERGE trainings shows that one of the most valued experiences of the workshops is creating an ambiance of acceptance and respect, and providing an opportunity for like-minded green industry leaders to gather together in the same room.

As a self-proclaimed green building “pragmatist,” Kathleen noted that many of our shared goals could be more easily achieved if the isolated components of this disparate movement learned how to work together. Teaching cooperation by creating an opportunity to cooperate is the true genius at the core of this training. I’m sure I speak for everyone who attended by wishing I had attended this workshop years ago – I feel re-activated, re-invigorated and ready to roar!

Bronwyn Barry,
Director One Sky Homes, Co-Chair, Passive House California, and EMERGE Alumni