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GONGOS: Greening Ottawa NGO's

On June 18th, 2009 participants from 25 Ottawa-based NGOs attended the second workshop of GONGOS: Greening Ottawa NGOs.  This workshop focused on developing a sustainability vision and conducting a baseline sustainability assessment for their organizations.  The 2009 cohort of organizations includes the Canadian Red Cross Society, the United Way, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Ottawa Folk Festival, Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation, and Independent Living Canada.  This gathering of diverse NGOs in one place provided participants with the unique opportunity for both enhanced networking and partnership building and collaborative learning. Bill Rostek, Procurement Director for Canadian Red Cross Society shared that the Red Cross "values the interaction with the other not-for-profit organizations that are participating”.

Sustainability on the Big Island

Last month, Mike Purcell and I travelled to the Big Island of Hawai’i to deliver a series of public workshops and one two-and-a-half day capacity building session with representatives of various island businesses and organizations. Needless to say we took a lot of ribbing from colleagues and customs agents about going to Hawai’i to work, but the truth is, this was a hugely successful project that brought hope and enthusiasm to participants and advisors alike. Why?

In our work, people typically begin to deeply address the sustainability challenge for one or both of the following reasons: there is a fire in the room (to mitigate risk) and / or there is a pot of gold in another (to capture opportunity). This is bolstered by proof of possibility (examples of what others have successfully done) and for some, a sense of ‘doing the right thing’.

Sustainability Training in Hawaii

The Natural Step Advisors Sarah Brooks and Mike Purcell recently delivered a series of public seminars and workshops to show businesses, local authorities and community organizations on the island of Hawaii how to use The Natural Step Framework for sustainability planning.

Listen to an interview with Sarah Brooks, Senior Sustainability Advisor with The Natural Step Canada about The Natural Step Framework.

The podcast was created by Andrea Dean, a green business coach and consultant based in Hawaii. To learn more about sustainability in Hawaii, visit Andrea Dean's website or subscribe to her podcast, Going Green with Andrea Dean.

An Alberta Toolkit Symphony

What do a symphony orchestra and two exciting new toolkits from The Natural Step Canada have in common?

Both require a collection of diverse talents, a tremendous amount of preliminary practice, and are meant to move their audiences so that they leave forever changed.

Over the past eight months, I have helped develop two new resources for Alberta organizations. To me, the Sustainability Primer and Planning for Sustainability: A Starter Guide represent an extraordinary collective achievement that has drawn on the expertise of TNS’ sustainability advisors, communications team, top management, administrative staff, as well as that of an external editorial committee.

University of Western Ontario's IDEAS conference

Today I had the pleasure of watching the students of the University of Western Ontario’s Masters progam in Environment and Sustainability present to their peers, partners and other community guests the output of their 6-week consulting projects.

Letter from the Executive Director (Canada)

A recent article by Thomas Friedman in the International Herald Tribune reminds us of the tremendous challenge and opportunity represented by our current economic situation.

“What if the crisis of 2008 represents something much more fundamental than a deep recession?” Friedman asks. “What if it’s telling us that the whole growth model we created over the last 50 years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically and that 2008 was when we hit the wall – when Mother Nature and the market both said ‘No more.’”

The economic crisis is loud and clear wake up call to all of us about the need to double our efforts to foster leadership, co-operation, and innovation in building a movement for a sustainable future.

Reflections from Hållbarhet 2009

Reflections & Lessons Learned – Hållbarhet Australia

From February 3-13, 2009, I participated in the Hållbarhet Australia Learning Journey, along with 25 other sustainability practitioners who share a common Masters in Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability (MSLS) from the Blekinge Institute of Technology, Sweden. It was an absolutely extraordinary experience that clearly highlighted the invaluable roll a strong network can play in the personal and collective impact of sustainability change agents.

The following capture a few of the key lessons I took away from the experience that seem directly relevant to the work of The Natural Step in Canada and abroad:

What Comes Naturally: Putting a Face on Sustainability in Canmore

The opening of Canmore's sustainability photo exhibit / community celebration - What Comes Naturally - was held Wednesday evening (February 18th) at the Town Civic Centre. I wish you all could have been there for it.  The show comprises 31 large, colourful photographs and hanging banners distributed from one end of the Civic Centre to the other, and features dozens of Canmorites who are working to make their home a more sustainable place on the planet.

Ontario Champions Gather in Markham

In early January 2009, decision makers and sustainability champions convened in Markham, Ontario to hear Whistler, BC Mayor Ken Melamed share his lessons learned on the road to community sustainability and discuss Whistler’s plans to host the most sustainable Olympics in history.

Using The Natural Step Framework, Whistler created an award-winning integrated community sustainability plan, Whistler2020. The planning process engaged citizens in creating a vision for the community and identified the individual steps that would be needed to move Whistler towards its vision. Whistler expects to realistically wean itself off fossil fuels by 2060, increase food safety through more local and sustainable purchasing, and continue to provide adequate affordable housing for its citizens, among many other initiatives.

Corporate Knights Sustainable Cities Rankings

With our global economy in crisis, increasing food shortages in the developing world and reports of unprecedented ecosystem decline around the planet, it’s easy to feel disillusioned with the state of world. However, when we look closer to home there are indications that change is afoot.

Corporate Knights, an independent Canadian-based media company, conducts annual sustainability assessments of small, medium and large cities across the country. They choose indicators to measure the socio-ecological and economic wellbeing of cities by using publically available data and sending surveys out to municipal staff.

This year, in an effort to improve their rankings, they invited The Natural Step Canada (TNS) to participate on an advisory committee. As lead advisor, TNS researched how Corporate Knights could apply systems thinking and backcasting to help define success and strategically inform their indicator selection.

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