Connections between cities, streams and collaboration

A social innovator’s journey into ecosystem science

I am like a child again, sitting with all I don’t know. I am part of a group that has followed a scientific researcher to his research site, a stream tucked away in a mountain, accessible via a bumpy rugged drive. To say he comes to this spot often is an understatement. In fact he spends days on end, pain painstakingly sampling the stream in hopes of capturing little bits of stream life that he can haul back to the lab for analysis, offering a single data entry into a multi-year study.

With enough data, over time, years even, conclusions can be made. When he asks us “Is the stream gathering water and moving it or do streams change it ?” we all look puzzled. Patient, he asks again in other words “Is the stream like a pipe or is something else happening ?” I sit with the simplicity of the question. Of course something is happening with the streams and it dawns on me that without specific data of exactly what, it is difficult to change the course of human development and action around streams. It begins to sink in how this work is a labor of love. I begin to see this young scientist and all his dedication with new eyes.

 We are at a training that brings together social innovators and ecosystem scientists to co-learn about participatory leadership and co-creation processes, and along the way, each other. It takes place at the most appropriate venue, the Biology Research Station of the University of Montreal in Canada, currently directed by Roxane Maranger, an aquatic ecosystem ecologist, and one of our “hosts”. Created in the 1960’s, the research station serves as a baseline, as a pristine data point, since the rest of the lands nearby have given way to human development. We have to remind ourselves that though it feels like a retreat centre due to the abundance of nature, in fact the mission of this place is research. Our training event is appropriately called There’s no planet B.

The young scientist, who goes by the name of Charles, taught me a new term that day : “ecosystem services”. While “natural resources” are things, ecosystem services weave in layers of complexity with all the interdependences within an ecosystem. We can begin to link how a network of healthy streams contribute to oxygenated water running into our rivers and seas. Charles has the weight of the dead zone in the gulf of Mexico on his shoulders and the possibility that here in Quebec, Canada we could have one too if we are not careful.* He knows all too well that when nature is deprived on doing her thing, removing nitrates in this case, disastrous effects can happen hundreds of kilometres away. Simply put, ecosystem services are benefits humans gain from nature, such as absorbing pollutants we put into the ecosystem, for free. With an ecosystem service lens we can look at a stream or a forest or a lake with all that it may offer as a service, nearby and far away. Some other ecosystem services include: climate regulation, flood control, air purification. Ecosystem science helps us to understand the ecosystem services that are invisible to the eye. That is why it is a labour of love and so essential to understand if we are to live sustainably.

 Where was ecosystem science making a difference? I wanted a tangible example where ecosystem science had been heeded by decision makers. I asked three scientists and each one gave me the same answer: the water treatment plant of New York City. It is a fascinating and powerful example.

In the 1990s New York City was at a turning point with its drinking water and needed to build a new water treatment plant to filter its water supply. The foreseen budget was 8–12 billion dollars plus 300 million dollars annual maintenance fees for the new plant. But another option was possible that was hugely cheaper. Rather than building a water treatment plant, New York could simply ensure the quality of water in the streams and rivers of its watershed in the Catskill Mountains and in so doing avoid the need to filter water all together.*** This meant buying up natural lands and protecting them from development, funding septic system upgrades and infrastructure repairs in the watershed communities and offering financial incentives for farmers to shift to non polluting agricultural practices.

 This is what they did, adopting in 1997 the New York City Watershed Memorandum of Agreement. The ecosystem service strategy cost only 300 million dollars, saving the city billions of dollars and protecting an essential ecoservice now and into the future. Every day 1.2 billion gallons of water travels, mostly via gravity, from the Catskills providing 90% of New York’s drinking water. The bonus in the process is the Catskill Mountains watershed not only provides clean and affordable water that doesn’t require major treatment, but also the beauty of the region is protected.

This example shows that major multi-sector collaboration, ecosystem science and good will can help us find a way to work with nature to provide one of the cleanest drinking waters in the world. I learn that Roxanne and Charles are working on our own mini NYC with a local municipality and I am keen to collaborate.****

As I learn to truly face the physical limitations of the planet, the research of scientists like Charles gives me hope. I begin to see potential. At the same time, my work in co-creation, co-design, collaborative partnerships and platforms, seems more important than ever before. It’s going to take some serious conversation, collaboration and partnering to able to develop creative, smart solutions that can carry us into our future.

As we were leaving the site, Charles had us stop for a moment and look out at the view. “What’s that ecosystem service there?” he asked, giving us a moment. As I tried to come up with a smart scientific answer, Charles, gently smiling, states, “Beauty and calming”, that is another ecosystem service.

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Notes

*Roxane offers further science on this point: Human activities, such as extensive farming, have loaded excess nutrients to the Gulf coast through the streams that feed the Mississippi River, which has resulted in excessive plant growth, its decay, and subsequent oxygen loss in coastal waters that deprive fish and other species of their habit. This oxygen loss, or hypoxia, is an important threat to many coastal ecosystems all over the world

** Charles Charrier-Tremblay has two co-advisors Roxane Maranger and Jean-François Lapierre

***Roxane offers some scientific nuance: All drinking water that comes from surface water needs to be treated at some level, even if it is really clean. The difference is the degree of treatment which is what made this decision so incredibly brilliant!

****Roxane is creating a Lab, called RéseauLab, which mixes ecoservice science with codesign methods to work with stakeholders for social-ecological innovation. It is currently being tested in a relationship with a local municipality to protect their ground and surface water. Working closely with stakeholders, research from graduate students provides both the understanding of the threats as well as the solutions as to which areas need more protection in order to maintain water quality into the future.

Further reading

The historic 1997 New York City Watershed Memorandum of Agreement

A 2011 article in State of the Planet, Earth Institute, Columbia University providing and update on all 3 NYC watersheds: Maintaining the Superiority of NYC’s Drinking Water

Recent 2018 article in New York Times providing an update on further efforts to protect New York’s watersheds that supply unfiltered water: A Billion Dollar Investment in New York’s Water

Information on the Art of Hosting training There is No Planet B and other Art of Hosting trainings that take place around the world.

Information on the University of Montreal Biology Field Station (in French)

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Announcement: We will be organizing another social innovator-scientist gathering at the Field station outside Montreal in July 2019. Stay tuned!

 

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The future of work should be like this

These are the Percolab’s principles of ways of working that we apply at Percolab right here, right now. We think everyone should work like this.

Principle #1 — OPEN

Keeping secrets slows things down, being open speeds things up. 
Opaque and secretive ways invite in scheming, homogeneity and insular thinking. Openness invites inclusion, co-learning and integrity.

Principle #2 — ENLIVENING

Forget systems that are mechanistic, everything we do is alive. 
Directive, plan and control work can drag on and produce flat results. When work integrates our autonomy, spirit and creativity it can be full of ease with kick ass results.

Principle #3 — CO-CREATIVE

Individual genius is overrated, the future is created together.
When leaders try to figure out for others it breeds apprehension and singular thinking.
Co-creation builds attuned pathways with legitimacy and collective energy and wisdom.

Principle #4 — HUMAN

Work doesn’t just solve problems, it develops human beings. 
Treating human beings in extractive ways generates disengagement and suffering. When we trust and work consciously we grow and develop into more reflexive and capable humans.

Principle #5 INSIGHTFUL

Knowledge doesn’t come from one source, it comes from all around.

Siloed and linear approaches are unable to deal with complexity. Tapping into the myriad and multi-dimensional ways of listening leads to insightful breakthroughs.

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The joy of a bilingual event

 

* Article originally written in Montreal Art of Hosting Website, July 2013

 

I love Montreal and its intermixing messiness with French and English. It seems natural that the Art of hosting trainings here are bilingual. But this needs to be done with care, as Montréal is a city where language gets talked about a whole lot; there is much playfulness, but also sensitivities.  For the January 2013 event, we created moments of exchange where people can be in their own language. There were french speaking, english speaking and bilingual groups. We opted for informal whispering translation rather than formal translation services.

For Raquel Penalosa, whispering translation was a positive experience.

Translating helped me be mindful and present. I had to be very aligned, listening to the message and how it was being received. It is an act of generosity.

Raquel ensuring whispering translation for Toke.

Toke Moller, international co-host from Denmark was there to remind us that:

This work is about being humans and transcending our differences. Language is a detail that cannot hinder that.

Working the world around, part of Toke’s stewardship is to remind us of the higher need we are serving, all the while honoring local traditions and language.

Elizabeth Hunt, a bilingual Montréaler and participant at the January 2013 event, appreciated the inclusiveness:

People were insistent on translation, often more out of concern for others than out of need for themselves. There was a real awareness. People were making sure that everybody understood and nobody felt left out.

Elizabeth has a wish for the upcoming October event:

We should create even more opportunities for people who are bilingual to step up as a way to help host others.

Q&A

If you have never experienced it though, it can be hard to imagine.  Here is an email exchange I had recently with a potential participant for the October event:

Question: Can you let me know how the bilingual session is run?  Is the training in English with French slides, in French with English slides, …?

Answer: Last time the language « issue » flowed less as an issue and more as a gift. People are invited to speak in English or French as they feel comfortable. Participants volunteer to do whispering translations for those who need it and make it known. Small group work is done in the language of choice of the groups. There are no slides – everything is produced live on site. The explicit training is offered by the team of trainers in smaller groups that function in English/French or bilingually and participants are free to attend with the group they wish.

Question:  Small group work is done in the language of choice.  I’m assuming the rest then is in French – is this correct?  Can you tell me roughly what percentage is done in a larger group (and presumably French)?

Answer: The large group work – is led in the language of the person speaking. Because we are a team of 13 who start this off and then the training participants join in on days 2 and 3, it is not really possible to put a percentage on that.  I can say that our three international hosts will all be intervening in English as they do not speak French. Some local people who do not speak English will be intervening in French. And so it will unfold with some of this and a bit of that. All I can say from the January experience is that we all found that the language flow really added to the event – about embracing diversity in a positive way.

From where I stand, participating in an event with two languages helps us cultivate our humanity in a multi-lingual world and that is very much part of the art of (inter)action.

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There is more than one way to price a workshop: experiments in shared economy

For those of us who work in participatory design, what does it look like to extend engagement to questions of money as well?

So you’ve got a small budget set aside for professional development. You find a training that looks good on paper, costs say $100 to attend and you register by paying the fee and submitting your name. At the end of a long day of powerpoints, you leave with a few notes in hand and your receipt/attendance confirmation for the human resources department, never having given much thought to the cost or value of the workshop.

At Percolab events that doesn’t happen.   

For many years now, we has been experimenting with different ways to engage with with cost and value of trainings. Percolab has taken inspiration from practices in the Art of Hosting community, from The Commons, and in particular, a practice that our colleague Ria in Brussels introduced us to: the shared economy.


With each of the open workshops that I was a part of hosting in 2017, we experimented with different ways to present this useful practice. Most of us are not comfortable talking about money. We have very little practice being open and transparent about how much we would like to earn, how much we can afford to pay, and the value we receive from a training. With inspiration from my colleagues around the world, this is what I have learned so far about how to present the shared economy in a way that is inviting, clear, reassuring and effective.

Experiment #1

At the self-management workshop we hosted back in May, we gave participants two options.

1) Register and pay the listed price on Eventbrite ahead of time

OR

2) Engage with the shared economy by paying a small registration fee (so that we know you’re actually coming) and then paying the remaining amount, of your choice, at the end of the event.

It sounds like a pay-what-you-can model, or a sliding scale, but that’s not the idea behind it. While we do want our workshops to be accessible to anyone regardless of their financial situation, what we were aiming for was a shared economy practice. It’s an opportunity to take into account the budget of the event, and then choose what to pay based on the information available, including the number of participants. i.e. “sharing” the cost.

What’s unique about this model, is that it’s an engagement. You are agreeing to share the responsibility, and cover the minimum cost for the event to run successfully.

At the end of the workshop, we share our budget with you (including how much we would like to receive as hosts/facilitators/trainers). We then divide the total cost by the number of participants and everyone makes a choice based on that proposed average cost.

The result?

For that particular event, about half the participants paid the listed event price ahead of time, and half engaged with the shared economy. Our budget included the cost of the room, catered lunch, printed materials, and the time and expertise of the facilitators.

In the end, it turned out that this two-option, shared economy acted like a sliding scale. If you had a company paying your training bill, you paid the full listed price. If you were an independent, or coming from a non-profit organization, you participated in shared economy. Some paid a bit more than average, some paid a bit less. Everyone has a fairly good idea of where they fit on a scale of income, so they know for themselves if they can contribute a bit more than the average, or not. We covered all of our costs, and paid ourselves. And we learned something about the demonstrated need for accommodating different budgets.

But there was more to be experimented with.

There is also the question of perceived value. Are you engaging with the budget and making a choice that is not just a matter of what you can afford, but the value that you have received? Are you consciously participating in the financial reality of your learning experience?

For those of us whose profession it is to increase participation and engagement in events and organizations, this is an important question. For the trainings that are based on, and designed for engagement, it seems pertinent that we extend that engagement to the question of money as well.

Our good friend Frederic Laloux asked similar questions of his readers when he published the online version of his book (which was a foundational building block of our self-management workshop) Reinventing Organizations.

The idea is, “I cannot know what the book is worth to you, so I’m not sure a fixed price makes much sense.” It’s an experiment in abundance where I trust that when I give, I will also receive.”

When our colleague Nil was in town, co-hosting The Money Game with Cedric, they took inspiration from the gifting economy and asked participants: “What would be a contribution you could offer that would give you joy?”

This consciousness around our relationship to money is important to us. We are shifting our budgeting and allocations for project work internally away from a time-based model (how many hours did it take you to do this?) to one that factors in complexity, expertise, and value. Some very human qualities of the work.

Experiment #2

At our most recent evening workshop, on the topic of generative decision making, we decided to combine a few of these ideas, and encourage an engagement with the value of the event.

As we closed the session, we asked participants to write down on one side of a paper what they learned, or are taking away from the workshop.

On the other side, thinking about the value this event has had for you, write 3 numbers:

1) A contribution that would feel unjust or too low,

2) An amount that would feel like too much for this evening of learning,

3) A number that you would feel good about contributing to this event, based on what you have learned and what you can afford.

The first step was about reflecting on value and money on your own.

The second step was to share the budget of the event.

We listed the cost of the room, the snacks we provided (essential for an event at the end of the workday) and what we hoped to receive as hosts of the event. For the line item relating to the honorarium for the facilitators (our pay), we set a range for what we would each be willing to receive, on the low and the high end, for this evening of work. We had a similar range for the percentage that we would put back into the Percolab pot for overhead as we do with every project.

We counted the number of people in the room and did the math together for the average amount each person would need to contribute to cover the cost. We were left with a range depending on whether the facilitators were to receive their low-mid or high honorarium amount.

With that, we told participants which methods of payment were available, and left the rest up to them.

The result?

The added step of having each participant reflect on their own about their relationship to the value of the event was important. It changed the nature of the conversation and the participants were more engaged with the budget we presented.

For ourselves, it felt more honest to list a range for the pay we would each receive (and to be clear whether it would be split 50/50 between us and why). As organizers of an event, it is not easy to declare how much you would like to make. Mostly because we don’t practice it very often. And then to discuss with a co-host whether we are splitting the profits evenly or not, for whatever reason. It’s a step that I push until the last minute every time. But being able to include it in the presentation of the budget makes it that much more transparent and that much more clear.

Things to experiment with next time:
How could we include the collective aspect of shared economy? Until now participants have been making the decision on their own, with or without time to reflect on value first. What if we had a discussion about it and shared the responsibility openly as a group?
This is something that was factored in when the Shared Economy was first piloted at a learning village that our colleague Ria was a part of. To read more about the origins of this idea: https://slovenialearningvillage.wordpress.com/how-much/

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Calling the Art of Humaning

as you take a step back to listen

to what is alive now

as you take a step back to listen

to the whispers

can you slow down

walk and see

what life is whispering

to me

to you

what is being called

into existence?

 …

as I take a step back to listen

in the sounds

at the heart of the noise

I hear the echo of something old and true

as we are in turbulence

emergence is what we breathe

can we learn to be in it

fully

and consciously

and with generosity

and grace

recognize it

and thrive

and become?

can we learn

to host each other

in our capacity to become

the best humans we can be?

can we discover

our collective muscle

and learn to flex

in service of all that is alive

all that was

and all that will be?

can we learn together

and practice

being better ancestors?

can we name together

the complexity of here and now

and craft our weapons of love?

 …

why do we need this

art of humaning?

we cannot change

the systems we are

when we stay where we are

addicted to the

already known

the predictable

the fragmented

and the linear

I want to learn to hold

movement and stillness

I need to see

the parts in the whole

can we learn

the subtle art of listening

for the patterns

that guide us to what needs to be?

can we become

in awareness

of the systems

of power

that shape and constrict us and

the field where we breathe

and feel

and find nourishment

and pain?

can we learn and practice together

to see and name

what we are up against?

and with the force of our stillness

move into action?

why do we need this

art of humaning?

calling

our power to work beyond

our structures of ego

to discover our future as eco

to co-create

to reconstruct

and discover

what we can truly do

calling

our future as co-sensing

and practicing grace

as we call out for collaborations

we cannot see yet

what happens when we put together

our whole capacities of fully sensing

human beings

in the service of a shift

towards eco-system conciousness?

what can we learn to sense

collectively?

what can we shift when we

discover and enter

our full collective power?

 …

I need to see the art of humaning

and inquiring about the world

and ourselves

as we enter in the questions

we listen together

the art of humaning

finds stillness

in nature

I breathe

I take a step back

I see life

I see the art of humaning

to help usher an old culture

where we can listen think and act wisely

as the multitudes we all are

where power and love are the

anchors of the inquiry

and experiences

and stories

connect us

and help us see the future

and the complexity

that moves us

act in complexity, wisely

try the art of trying (shit out)

try the art of listening

be strategy

I listen to the whispers

of the present that is yet to come

I want presence

I want my steps

to discover the new paradigm

of the alliance of humankind

with life

in my steps in the new snow

I see our ability

to see one another

for the miracles we already are

I call for the art of humaning

I call for our gift of sensing together

what expects to be born

in the places we work

in the places we live

in the places we love

something is simmering

and awaits to rise to its possibility

I call for our capacity to call

I call for our capacity to hear

I call for our capacity to dance

I call for our capacity to love

and sustain life

I call for our capacity to do together

what can’t be done

and yet is done

countless times, everyday, forever

I call for our capacity to hear the screams

beyond walls and borders

with clarity

in the chaos

in the noise

I call for our capacity to dream together

and grow in dreaming

and grow in humaning

and grow in gardening our connections

and our learnings

and our heartbreaks

and our joys

I call for our freedom in the face of complexity

I call to see and be seen

in the web of life and change

what is the discovery path

we are carving for ourselves

and how will we care for each other

on the way?

there is

so much to learn

and to ask of ourselves

and of others

asking for help

is the kind

and wise

thing to do

as we are practicing

creating

world making

to unlock the potential

of the human field

to unlock the power to call

conversations that matter

what is the conversation you are craving?

if this is about life

then let the world be part of the conversation

then let imagination flow

in all its human

and non-human

shapes

what becomes possible

when we learn together

to be present

to the world?

a community

sensing and practicing

together

change as a constant part of life

this is not about you

you are just practicing

modeling something

in honesty

and vulnerability

calling is

letting go

of old patterns

and old ideas that are not in service

of the work

calling names

what is non negotiable

what is not negotiable

is allowing space for paradoxes

to live

what is not negotiable is

the humanness in nature

and the nature in humanness

what is not negotiable is

practicing in honesty

and openness

and transparency

what is not negotiable is

space to fumble

and work out loud

through our tensions

and our paradoxes

what is not negotiable is

talking about money

and value

what is not negotiable is

kindness and learning

what is not negotiable is

walking the line

between openness and boundaries

what is not negotiable is

conversations about complexity and power

within ourselves

within our communities

what is not negotiable is

the art

in the art of humaning

together

we invent the dance

of what good work is

and feels like

we dance in our bodies and our hearts

we dance our new structures

of possibility

and belonging

and in the dance

we hold each other

in learning

in growing

in exploring

in grieving

in trembling

we are learning to be

the archeologists of our future

what can we dream together?

are we breathing new worlds yet?

where is our center of gravity

in all of this?

what will hold the new together?

what holds us back?

I am calling

a life full of meaning

and work that makes me feel

alive

I am calling the revolution of humaning

can we live it yet?

I am calling

the revolution

of humaning

 

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Invitation : Discovery Art of Hosting France, January 31 – February 2, 2018

INVITATION

  • Lieu

    Sommières, France

    Adresse : CART, 31 rue Emilien Dumas, 30250 Sommières, France

  • Date

    January 31 to February 2, 2018

  • Heures

    Dès 17h30

  • Organisateur

    Percolab France

For more than twenty years, Art of Hosting has modelled a way forward in collective intelligence all over the world. Come discover for yourself, during a 3 day intensive training in the beautiful south of France #AoHFrance


In addition to the usual fixed rate to cover the hosting and teaching costs (€1250 *) we are therefore innovating by also inviting you to participate in a shared economy experiment. This is a cooperative approach whereby the financial responsibility for the seminar is shared by the community of both participants and hosting team. For this seminar, we invite your willingness to open up to different ways of seeing ourselves and the world. In practice, this means that you will decide on the sum of money that represents the richness of these 3 days, taking account of the costs of the event, its value to you and your own financial resources.   Payment will take place in two installments: a first instalment, the same for everyone, before the seminar, and the second at the end.  1st instalment: 450€, payable in advance on this website : he minimum contribution needed to organise and run the seminar (logistics, materials, communication, website)  2nd instalment: at the end of the seminar, you will choose the amount to honour and appreciate the work of the hosting team. We will be dedicating time and attention during the seminar to open this conversation – always an enriching experience – about the value of this seminar to you and the ways in which we as a community can cover the budget. You can find a more detailed explanation of this financial model and its ethos at http://leaderparticipatif.weebly.com

* Percolab est un organisme de formation exonéré de TVA. Cet enregistrement ne vaut pas agrément de l’Etat.

* Percolab is a TVA exempt training center

  • Nom de l’organisateur/trice

    Nadine Jouanen, SAS percolab Europe

  • Contact

    Courriel :  infofrance [at] percolab.com

    Téléphone : +33 6 17 79 83 10

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