Bravery + EMERGE Workshop = Integrated, Collaborative Design Center Opening December 5, 2014.

I was past gleeful this past Saturday when the opening of the Leading Force Energy & Design Center (Center) was announced as part of a presentation at the Guild’s Green Building Slam. The Yakima-based Center was the subject of a case study team exercise during the December 2013 EMERGE Leadership Islandwood Residency. Woohoo, I say!

LFEDC BG class (2)The Center’s grand opening is scheduled for December 5th, 2014 just a short 364 days from the date of the original exercise, a time-line that defies gravity. And this is no ordinary showroom. Says Steve Weise, EMERGE Alumni and the project’s author, “The idea is to offer a collaborative space that provides integrated consulting and training to contractors, subcontractors, and the public. The goal is to help budget-minded owners develop healthy, energy efficient projects.” (Apparently they aren’t waiting for the grand opening. The photo shows a group of local contractors after a Built Green training held at the storefront.)

The case study team exercise is a key component of the EMERGE Leadership workshop experience. Based on pre-workshop surveys, I create a set of 4-5 scenarios that workshop participants can then choose from. The self-selected teams then address their scenario using a set of questions as a framework for their process, while applying emergent leadership principles presented by EMERGE faculty. The scenarios can be a blend of conditions and leadership issues presented by various participants in their surveys, but key is that the scenario as a whole is both realistic and challenging. Sometimes a participant offers an idea for a sustainable business venture, as Steve did in this case.

In the case study “Cooperative Business Making” the group was tasked with creating a strategic plan for an “investor that has an idea for a business that promotes sustainable building in her region through a cooperative venture. She is not a practitioner, but wants to create a self-supporting environment that would help make practitioners be successful.” The team was asked to address several conditions, including the investor’s desire to achieve the mission while earning a “reasonable return on the investment.”

Workshop participants began work late on the first day, and completed their work early on the second, when they were primarily preparing a 20-minute presentation on the results of their work. (I provide lots of props and art supplies and these usually show up in one form or another in the presentation.) After the presentation I led a 10-minute critique, with other workshop participants and faculty chiming in and asking questions.

WeiseGroup1I’m always impressed at what the teams deliver, and the “Cooperative Business Making” team was no exception. A substantive reporting of how such a business could be developed using emergent leadership principles, it was amusing to boot – because I’d used a “she” in the scenario write-up, investor Steve wore a head scarf for the presentation. (See photo.)

Case studies have run the gamut from issues with clients, to community organizing, to sustainable business management. The intent of the case study exercise is to learn through doing, and since the case study is based on real life scenarios, to provide participants facing those particular conditions with a tool to help them achieve their leadership goals. In Steve’s case, he’d had “various meetings and written some thoughts down, but it took the EMERGE team, with like-minded passion and a great knowledge base, including business experience to add logic to the passion and come up with a strategy.” With his team’s permission, Steve took the flip charts from his team’s planning sessions and presentation and used them to plan the project with his network back home in Yakima.

And today, that Center is located at 17 North Third Street #101, Yakima, WA 98901. On opening day December 5th, a public open house is scheduled from 10am – 4pm, with a grand opening for professionals scheduled from 4pm – 8pm. Sounds like lots of fun, with a combination of classes, refreshments, and live music. Terry Phelan, another EMERGE Alumni, and member of the same case study team, is a founding member and will open up a satellite office of her firm Living Shelter Design in the Center. Woohoo again, I say!

Other realized examples of EMERGE workshop case studies that I know about it include a statewide energy policy initiative, a contractors’ company-wide adoption of sustainable operations, and a sustainable design firm start-up. If you have an idea you’d like to take the lead on, bring it to the next EMERGE Leadership Workshop. We’ve got two this winter, January 9-11 (Islandwood), and January 14-15 (Southern California Gas Company’s ERC). In a recent call, Steve said, “All it took was the bravery to put it forward.” Just so.