Forums of Change

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of participating in the first of a series of conversations about change hosted by students of Antioch University Seattle’s Center for Creative Change (C3) program. Billed as a “seasoned practitioner of change” I was partnered with Joshua Berger, Captain of the Tall Ship Adventuress and TogetherGreen Fellow. I’m not sure if its’ always the plan, but both Joshua and I are Antioch alum.

The original plan was for Joshua and I to present information about our individual “change” projects (mine being the EMERGE Leadership Project – ELP) and then to split off into separate rooms, where we each led separate conversations. Right off the bat, it became apparent that there were too many synergies to ignore between our projects, so after a quick huddle, Joshua and I determined that we should co-facilitate a conversation.

As those familiar with the ELP are aware, the purpose of EMERGE is to teach and mentor green building advocates called to create a sustainable society in a systems-based leadership model that combines principles of leadership, change, and community. Joshua’s change project is a series of conversations among stakeholders in the maritime world to discuss and further sustainable efforts in the Puget Sound Region. Not only that, Joshua is aiming at the Adventuress — which recently celebrated its 100th birthday — becoming the first “Living Ship” — the first sailing vessel meeting the Living Building Challenge.

What ended up happening was Joshua presented questions about aspects of his project, such as project identity, meeting venue (holding stakeholder dialogue on the boat vs. land), and financial sustainability. Our guests then discussed these questions (and others) within the context of the EMERGE leadership model, as a way to “try it on.”

Some interesting questions that came to the surface as part of this dialogue provide food for thought for any emergent leader:

  • In the green building world we’ve seen buildings “teach” — Can they actually “lead?” We discussed the possibility that the Adventuress might be a “servant leader” — growing leaders who want to serve.
  • If you are not present, what’s missing? What do you reliably bring to the situation? Alternatively, Who am I and what can I bring to the situation?
  • The Adventuress is often used to build teamwork capacities, so it acts as a teacher? Can the students who board the Adventuress teach the crew? How could role reversal be used as a leadership development tool?
  • When meeting inside (on land), how can you bring the outside, inside? Go crazy, play a shanty! Use props, smells?
  • How can we use constraints to foster creativity. One of the reasons I surmise the International Living Future Institute might be excited by Joshua’s goal to create a Living Ship, is the possibility of seeing how the Living Building Challenge might address sustainability issues at the scale and within the limits of a sailing vessel — an historic one at that.

Roslyn Eriksen and Meisha Rouser, the C3 students behind the Forums for Change Conversation, hope that these “experimental and experiential stories from the field” will create a “new type of conversation” about the mess of change. Change is messy, for sure, but it was extremely gratifying for me to see how the EMERGE Leadership Model might provide a basis for understanding more deeply ways in which Adventuress can effectively “steward” sustainable innovations in maritime industry.

Kathleen O’Brien is Founder of the EMERGE Leadership Project and Graduate of the Antioch University’s Environment & Community Program (2009 Distinguished Alumna).