Building a sustainable society requires more then technological solutions and a solid business case. Sustainability is also about attitude, behaviour, and a collective mindshift. Sustainability is about building and changing culture.
Culture has two important drivers: interaction and decision making. Every moment of the day we confirm or challenge the cultural patterns of our team, department, organization or family. In the interaction the existing order changes or gets reinforced. Most interaction and communication in organizations is transactional. Knowledge needs to get transferred, todo-lists need to be delegated or decisions need to be executed.
But these interactions all take place within the existing cultural order. Culture change (for that matter, any change) requires the people involved to make sense of their world anew, to give meaning to the change. These kind of conversations are different from the transactional conversations; they're transformational conversations, in which insecurity, not-knowing and a sincere exchange of ideas form the basis.
For tribes ánd organisations all over the world, campfires are the typical place for dialogue, exchange and wise decisions. At the campfire we give make sense of our world and give meaning to our place within it. At the fire we talk about the things that truly matter, about the things that puzzle or annoy us, about our insecurities. We listen to understand instead of to convince. And we feel heard and understood.
For great decision making, it is vital that everyone feels heard and understood. To invite other perspectives and unheard voices, to actually listen to them to enrich our understanding and range of actions. Slow conversations or campfire dialogues help to hear all voices and perspectives. They to enrich the decision-making process and enable decisions supported by all.
An example; your organisation has big sustainability ambitions. You realise those ambitions (and according targets) can't be achieved just by your team or department; you need to collaborate with various stakeholders, supply chain partners, customers and employees. And all those people, teams and organizations have different backgrounds and different (sometimes opposing) interests. And everyone values or interprets sustainability differently.
Then it's a small to a power struggle or standstil, that's not about sustainbility at all. The solution? Meet at the campfire.
In 2010 I lived in Greenland for three months, researching the social impact of climate change on people’s lives and how this affects society. These months deeply impacted me as a human and they put me on the path of helping build departments, organizations, societies building cultures of sustainability.
That is why I developed a dialogue method around a melting chunk of ice. The ice stands metaphor both for the melting Arctic ice and the campfire where tribes since thousands of years exchange ideas, make sense of the world, and decide about things important.
I challenge you as a team, department, organization or company to have a dialogue around the IceFire about the meaning of climate change and sustainability. To make plans to embed sustainability into the DNA of your organization with its departments, teams and different people. And to decide what you can do to build a culture of sustainability.