Does EMERGE meet the Living Building Challenge?

Emerge Front Cover OnlyLast week I had the lovely experience of introducing my new book: EMERGE: A Strategic Leadership Model for the Sustainable Building Community at the 10th Annual Living Future Unconference in Seattle Washington.

Being among the 1000+ committed, smart, and courageous proponents of a positive living future was exhilarating. And it didn’t hurt that we sold out our stock of books at the ILFI Bookstore! On the way home from the conference I had this crazy thought… Would/could EMERGE meet the Living Building Challenge? So, although I am not in any official capacity regarding this, and totally biased, here goes my analysis of how the EMERGE Leadership Model measures up using the framework of the Living Building Challenge:

Site:   Emergent Leadership is grounded in the reality that YOU can only truly lead from an authentic place. Not only that, you can only influence others when you start from where THEY are. Check!

Water:  Emergent leadership is applicable to every situation where the aspiration is a world that is “culturally just, socially rich, and ecologically restorative.”1  It is not just leading for the sake of leading, it responds to our shared “thirst” to transform the world for the greater good. Check!

Energy: Emergent leadership looks for the “hotspots” in systems and amplifies the energy there to shift mindset, create new design processes, and identify life-sustaining solutions. Net energy producing AND carbon-emission free. Check!

Health:  Emergent leadership recognizes that we need each other to do our work.  Burn-out is a hazard we must contend with.  Coming together to work and play in collaborative environments makes sure we stay healthy and productive. Check!

Materials: Emergent leadership acknowledges that there are toxic situations and ideas that must be acknowledged through transparency and dis-empowered by refusal to use them in our leadership initiatives.  By doing so, we open the door to innovation and opportunities to trade better ideas. Check!

Equity: Every one can lead from any chair using emergent principles.  The power is in personal integrity, not position or title. Check!

Beauty: Emergent leadership connects us to the beauty within each other and in our idealism. It’s okay to imagine. In fact, we want you to. Check!

Scale Jumping: Emergent leadership works at any scale but it works best at the human scale. Check!

Performance: One of the most important aspects of any of the “Living” Challenges is that it’s based on performance not promise. Individuals and organizations that have studied and are applying the EMERGE Leadership Model have reported back that in fact it’s helped them achieve leadership goals they’ve set.  They successfully launched policy initiatives, started business enterprises, and traversed risky transitions. Just last week at Living Future I learned of two more success stories. In one case an organization had just learned they’d won a $60K grant due to a connection made in the EMERGE Leadership network. In the other case, an individual had learned they’d just gotten the job of their dreams, one she’d outlined on her EMERGE personal leadership development plan.    Check!

So, bias freely admitted, EMERGE measures up.  What a good feeling!

1 ILFI Mission. The EMERGE Leadership Project is proud to be one of many partners supporting the Conference and the International Living Future Institute in 2016.International Living Future Institute logo

Rouser Interviews Author of EMERGE: A Strategic Leadership Model for the Sustainable Building Community

Emerge Front Cover OnlyRouserSHowEarlier this year, Meisha Rouser, organizational psychologist interviewed Kathleen O’Brien, author of the new book Emerge: A Strategic Leadership Model for the Sustainable Building Community for her weekly radio show. Highlights of the interview focus on how to intentionally create positive change in our organizations and ourselves. O’Brien and Rouser discuss how it is “story” (and often multiple story lines) that prevent change or act as a drag on positive change. By making our story(ies) explicit, however, we open ourselves to the positive possibilities existing within those stories and O’Brien shares an example of a design project that benefited from this process. Emergent leadership benefits a great deal from understanding where we or our organizations are attitudinally towards a particular positive vision. O’Brien and Rouser discuss what researchers tell us about the six stages of change and how we might use this understanding to create positive change.

Meisha Rouser is a leadership and organizational development coach in the Seattle area and has served as Board Secretary for The EMERGE Leadership Project since 2014.  Her weekly show airs on KKNW 1150, one of the largest radio markets in the U.S.  All her shows are recorded and you can subscribe to the podcasts at:

Kathleen’s book is out and will be featured THIS WEEK at the tenth annual Living Future Conference. Book launch, signing and talk schedule here.

Our Goal is Modest…but Significant. Take time to GiveBig to EMERGE today

GiveBig2016-Logo“If you are like me you are getting lots of appeals from your favorite charities participating in local GiveBig campaigns right now.  I encourage you to support them, and include The EMERGE Leadership Project in your giving plan.”  – Tammy Deets, Chair of the Board of Directors for the EMERGE Leadership Project.

The EMERGE Leadership Project participates in the Seattle Foundation’s Give Big Campaign, which is scheduled for this Tuesday, May 3rd.   The campaign offers the opportunity to help organizations you want to help with a real boost:  every dollar you contribute is “stretched” (last year by 8.3%, which is a great return by any estimate).  You don’t have to wait until Tuesday to give.  You can do it RIGHT NOW by clicking on: Any amount will be appreciated. Seriously!

Where we are right now: $1,200 has been contributed to the EMERGE Leadership Project in pre-GiveBig Day donations to date; $300 has been offered as matching funds; and we have 100% participation by our Board of Directors. Our goal is $5000, so we have already reached more than 20% of our goal through earlybird contributions! It’s great to have your support!

Here’s what we do with those funds: Our goal is modest compared to many bigger non-profits, but what we will do with your funds is significant. The EMERGE Leadership Project will fund leadership training, mentoring, and/or other support to designers working for social justice in the built environment. Give Big Funds from 2015 funded leadership training at Islandwood for affordable housing designers.  Hear how EMERGE Leadership training has impacted Monica Joe from Low Income Housing Institute and Aaron Allan from Environmental Works, two non-profits shaping affordable housing and community design projects. Thank you to all who generously contributed last year.

Let’s keep the fire’s burning for social justice in the built environment. Any amount will do.

GiveBig funds EMERGE Leadership training for LiHi affordable housing designer

Monica1GiveBig2016-LogoWith funds from GiveBig 2015, the EMERGE Leadership Project was able to offer Monica Joe, Housing Development Associate at Low Income Housing Institute (LiHi) a full scholarship for training and mentoring support. The intent of the scholarship is to help affordable housing designers like Monica be more effective in their efforts to provide affordable shelter and reduce homelessness.

LiHi has been developing and operating housing for low-income, homeless, and formerly homeless people in Washington State since 1991. The organization also advocates for just housing policies, which is what attracted Monica to the organization after receiving her Master’s in Urban Planning in 2015.  She assists LiHi with housing development, funding applications, and architectural drawings and coordinates the organization’s Tiny House project. The Tiny House project, a combined effort of LiHi with Nickelsville, SHARE/Wheel, the City of Seattle, Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd Housing Alliance aims to offer safer and more sound shelter alternatives in homeless encampments.

Monica says that the EMERGE Leadership Training helps her in this collaborative work: “We need to be experimental with our tiny house project, and to be open to seeing what works and what doesn’t together with our partners….I’m feeling less need to be controlling.”

Monica was “pleasantly surprised” at the emphasis in EMERGE on leadership tools and expertise over technical aspects of sustainability, as well as “connecting” with a more diverse support network. “It was really cool to meet professionals at different stages of their career and in different aspects of the building and design industry.”

Perhaps even more impressive is the question Monica now feels supported in bringing into every design discussion at LiHi: “‘Are we trying to create a community or are we just housing people.’ EMERGE helps me be more thoughtful in my leadership efforts.”

With GiveBig 2016 funding,  The EMERGE Leadership Project plans to continue providing leadership development and support to non-profits working for social justice in the built environment. Please consider contributing to the EMERGE Leadership Project a 501c3 charitable project at: Any amount will be appreciated and the beauty of Give Big is that all contributions are stretched by a pool available to non-profits registered with the Seattle Foundation.


GiveBig funds EMERGE Leadership training for Environmental Works affordable housing designer

AaronGiveBig2016-LogoWith funds from GiveBig 2015, the EMERGE Leadership Project was able to offer Aaron Allan, a designer at Environmental Works (EW) a full scholarship for training and mentoring support. The intent of the scholarship is to help affordable housing designers like Aaron be more effective in their efforts to provide affordable shelter and reduce homelessness.

While working on his graduate degree at the University of Washington (2010-2012), Aaron wrote a paper focused on a non-profit architecture practice doing socially relevant work — his dream job.   He says finding a job at Environmental Works soon after getting his degree was “serendipitous.”

Environmental Works arose from actions by architectural students, who as part of the first Earth Day celebration took up residence at Fire Station 7, and were determined to “help those organizations and initiatives that needed professional expertise to launch, preserve, and sustain communities throughout greater Seattle.”

Aaron is using the EMERGE training to re-invigorate the non-profit’s commitment to green building. In a recent interview he told EMERGE that he is helping plan an eco-charrette for an affordable housing developer and will especially be “looking for opportunities to infuse Emerge leadership concepts into the charette process to make it more effective.”

He has also “downloaded” EMERGE concepts from the training with EW colleagues and is hoping to use them to inform a fundraising campaign for a community senior center. Aaron says “I learned the importance in telling a compelling story in order to influence others to think differently about these issues.”

Aaron is helping Monica Joe, another EMERGE Leadership scholarship recipient, with the Tiny House Project by providing construction design assistance. Monica coordinates the Tiny House Project which aims to offer safer and more sound shelter alternatives in homeless encampments.  More information about Monica’s role.

With GiveBig 2016 funding,  The EMERGE Leadership Project plans to continue providing leadership development and support to non-profits working for social justice in the built environment. Please consider contributing to the EMERGE Leadership Project a 501c3 charitable project at: Any amount will be appreciated and the beauty of Give Big is that all contributions are stretched by a pool available to non-profits registered with the Seattle Foundation.

EMERGE Launches Book at Living Future ’16, Weds May 11th

International Living Future Institute logoEmerge Front Cover OnlyThis year is the 10th anniversary of the Living Future Conference, and it’s an important year for the EMERGE Leadership Project as well. Although it’s available now on-line, we’ll be officially launching the new book — EMERGE: A Strategic Leadership Model for the Sustainable Building Community at the conference.  Here’s our conference schedule:

Wednesday May 11th, 4 pm Presentation — Author Kathleen O’Brien will present ideas central to the book as well as share stories about how she came to write the book. A generous time will be provided for Q&A.

Wednesday May 11th, 5pm, Booksigning — At the ILFI Bookstore. Purchase your book and author Kathleen O’Brien will be available to autograph.

Thursday May 12th, 1:30-3pm, Speak Your Truth: Community Design. — Author Kathleen O’Brien will be participating in this quick-format, juried event, presenting in particular how the EMERGE Leadership Model can be used to accelerate sustainable community design.

If you have not registered for Living Future yet, EMERGE Community members receive a discount for the conference: Use Code EMERGE 10 to get 10% off your registration rate. (Note that as of April 27th rates go up.) Please note this discount does not apply to the Guest Pass or tickets to tours, workshops and summits, nor is it retroactively applicable or combinable with other Conference Pass discounts. Register here.

If you can’t come to Living Future, you can purchase the book on Amazon or Barnes and Nobles. Available in both print on demand and for Kindle.  More info on the book is a

EMERGE & HEAT SPRING: The Perfect Learning Partnership for Strategic Leadership Education

HeatSpring logo (5)The EMERGE Leadership Project provides leadership development support including training, mentoring, and tools to green building professionals and advocates with the ultimate goal of making this world a better place for all living species, now and into the future. HeatSpring is an innovative educational platform offering high-quality content online courses by industry experts on topics such as solar energy, HVAC design, geothermal technology, and green building.
HeatSpring has recently become the home of the Sustainable Building Advisor Program, a training & exam certification program geared to industry professionals wanting a comprehensive treatment of green building. HeatSpring offers the program in a combination of on-line and local project experience formats. For this reason, Kathleen O’Brien, EMERGE Founder and instrumental in the long-time success of the highly respected SBA program, felt HeatSpring was the perfect partner for a new venture.
This Spring, O’Brien will release her new book, EMERGE: A Strategic Leadership Model for the Sustainable Building Community. Members of the sustainable building community who have participated in EMERGE programs have successfully launched policy initiatives, commercial enterprises, professional transitions, community projects and more. The book is intended to expand the EMERGE Leadership Project’s reach, sharing the model at the core of EMERGE programs, along with case studies, practical guidance, a personal leadership development template, and bonus exercises to assist the reader on their personal leadership journey.
Meanwhile, HeatSpring has released a FREE on-line course EMERGE:Strategic Leadership for the Sustainable Building Community consisting of 20 recorded presentations and interviews with the author on topics covered in the book. “The training offers a valuable learning experience tailored to the HeatSpring community, and we’re happy to offer it as a complement to Kathleen’s new book,” says Gabrielle Rossetti, Director of Product Development & Marketing at HeatSpring.
Although the course is framed as a three-week course, there’s no time-limit, so you can choose to watch the videos as you read the book. Or, you can prepare for the book by taking the course now!
For more information and a free preview (Chapter 1) of the book, go to

Buddies Get Boost at EMERGE Summit

IMG_0475It’s frequently helpful to have someone with whom to discuss your EMERGE goals with and share victories and challenges. The EMERGE Alumni 2016 Summit coming up on Saturday, February 27 is a perfect opportunity to kickstart your buddy system for 2016:

Do you know of an EMERGER who would like to attend the Summit but is a little low on cash right now? Register on behalf of your friend and come as a pair!

Do you value a colleague who you think has the “EMERGE Spirit” but hasn’t been able to take the workshop?  Please invite them to the EMERGE Summit.

Or just come yourself and hook up with another alumni at the Summit.

A PAIR OF SPONSORED REGISTRATIONS: Julie Kriegh of Kriegh Architecture Studio has offered to sponsor two (2) paid seats for emergent buddies.  Please contact to let her know if you would like to take these seats and who your buddy is for the event. (make sure your buddy is committed before contact EMERGE!)

Creating and Living the Story is the Theme of This Year’s Alumni Event

OntheWayEvery organization, every individual, every community is living a story, whether conscious of it or not.

By clarifying what that story is, an emergent leader is more able to do a number of things:

Reveal the layers of story, some of which are likely to conflict with the vision the story represents, while others may actually be the “gem” that needs to be polished; Influence the narrative arc, by better aligning story elements; and  create positive change using story.

Story can help you animate projects and ideas for your clients, communities, businesses in a way that data dumps and checklists just can’t. At the Summit, in addition to connecting with each other, eating healthy,delicous food, and enjoying a beautiful spot on island waterfront, we’ll explore story – how to create it and live it to achieve the positive change we want to see in the world.  This will include some story telling – something we don’t often do very well in our professional lives.

Please register today. If you are telling yourself — “not sure I have the time” – that’s just one possible story. Come join us! Reserve your place.

And enjoy these highlights of a radio interview I did in early February with EMERGE Alumni and Board Member Meisha Rouser. We talk about story as a leadership mechanism for change. Looking forward to seeing you there.

Calling ALL EMERGERS-Reserve Your Summit Seat Today!

IMG_0475 FullSizeRenderThe Annual EMERGE Alumni summit is coming up and it’s time to reserve your place — NOW. We’re planning the program, and we want to make sure we have enough food, enough program materials, and appropriate activities sized to the group (Photos are from last year’s Summit).  So register today!

In the EMERGE Leadership Model the context of community is just important as emergent leadership principles and change science. That’s because we really can’t achieve what we want to by ourselves. It’s that simple. We need to laugh, learn, and love together if we’re going to lead effectively. (Our program theme this year is “Creating and Living the Story” so we’ll have activities focused on story-telling.)

To be very clear: this Summit is an opportunity for ANY individual who has attended ANY EMERGE workshop, seminar, presentation to come connect in a relaxing, fun, and nourishing (great food, guys!) and beautiful (island waterfront) atmosphere.  Please note that the site does max out at 35 — which is what we did last year — so register today!!!

The summit is priced very affordably to cover our program costs, which this year includes a courtesy advance pdf of “EMERGE: A Strategic Leadership Model for the Sustainable Building Community” — my new book describing the model and offering practical guidance for applying it in your organization, projects, and community initiatives.

PAYMENT OPTIONS: When you go to the registration link you’ll have the option to register off-line; if you choose this option, we’ll confirm by email, send you an invoice and you can pay by check by sending the appropriate amount to The EMERGE Leadership Project, 321 High School Road, Ste D3 #715, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110.  The cost is $80 including a delicious lunch catered by the Metro Cafe, or $55 (bring your own).  If you opt to pay by credit card on the website, there will be a slight surcharge to cover payment services.  (If you have challenges with the latter, let me know and we can take credit card payment information over the phone.  In fact, if you have challenges with any part of the registration process, do NOT hesitate to give me a call, see my mobile below. Don’t be shy!)

Okay, I want to see the room filled with EMERGERS. Last year, when we were having our closing discussions…everyone was very clear – “we want more of this!” So let’s do it. Let me know today what you are planning. And happy Spring Festival to any monkey folks out there.