At the International Network of Green Agents, we are super excited for the upcoming Sustainability Festival in Aalborg, which will take place from September 8th – 15th.
We have been working hard preparing the last bits for our event, The Future of Sustainability on the opening day of the festival, taking place at the Green Stage on Aalborg harbourfront from 12.00-14.00. Besides our own event, the entire week will be filled with great sustainability events and happenings to make us all greener.
Read more about the different events in the official program:
Also, if you haven’t already seen it, check out the amazing video created by Det Nye Sort in collaboration with Center For Green Transition and Aalborg Kommune.
- Aalborg’s Bæredygtighedsfestival
- INGA group meets for the first time
- Students introduced to the project gør os alle grønnere (making us all greener)
- Scope of the project is determined, brainstorming of ideas
- INGA attends the Earth System Governance conference in Lund, Sweden
- Communication and knowledge transfer workshop – including guests Carsten Nielsen and Chirag Lodhia
- Global webinar on interdisciplinary collaboration
- Students present their final recommendations to the Centre for Green Transition
- INGA students graduate from 12 week program
The INGA students presented eight recommendations to the Centre for Green Transition at Aalborg Kommune offices in Nørresundby last week. The presentation is the culmination of a 12 week partnership between the students and the municipality, with their recommendations focusing on the city’s new sustainable identity project, gør os alle grønnere, ‘making us all greener’. This branding campaign aims to shift Aalborg’s identity to one of sustainable behaviours and a low carbon footprint.
The students highlighted that over 80% of city branding campaigns fail; an intimidating statistic for a city which just launched their own. However, the students found that Aalborg has a strong sustainability foundation, and that sharing small victories with citizens would be critical to the success of the campaign. In practice, they recommended the municipality stagger sustainability events across the year, complementing the successful Sustainability Festival, which runs once a year, in order to provide a more consistent communications strategy.
Another significant challenge of the ‘make us all greener’ campaign is that the return on investment (ROI) is tough to measure. The students highlighted that in order to run a successful campaign, critical data gaps had to be filled for both the impact of the campaign across various dimensions (monetary returns, creating a more attractive city, building social capital, raising citizen awareness about sustainability etc.) and the intervals over which the campaign should be evaluated. The students’ research suggested that successful city campaigns have a long-term outlook (15+ years), and thus they suggested follow up evaluations to measure the impact of the campaign over many years, more than just the three year life of the project.
On behalf of the CGO we would all like to congratulate this amazing group of students for all their hard work, dedication and ingenuity in approaching this pilot project. We are excited to see the impact of their work begin to take shape through 2018 and in many years to come. Next year INGA plans to continue the cooperative partnership with the students and begin building on their recommendations from 2017.
A report detailing the recommendations will be available in the coming weeks.
Last week I hosted a global discussion with speakers from Denmark, Australia and Basque Country, Spain to discuss strategies for successful collaboration. In our virtual conference room we connected with people from far reaches of the globe including participants from India, China, Brazil, and Uganda, and many other European countries. It was something I’d never done before, and naturally, as with any new idea comes new risk and uncertainty. We had trouble testing the day before and I was seriously worried that we might have been doomed before we had even begun. But the morning of the webinar when all the speakers joined successfully I breathed a sign of relief, and with just one click we bridged tens of thousands of kilometres to reach people over rugged mountains, wild oceans and thick forests – all through a laptop computer.
Collaboration is part of any endeavour for most projects and part of our daily lives yet it is something that we rarely talk about in the open. Dreams breakdown because we don’t make time to talk about the knitty gritty of how we simply do or don’t ‘get along with each other’. Critical reflection about how our teams work together is something we could all really use more of, especially in the professional world. One of the key lessons from Australian lecturer on Interdiscilpinary Sustainability Practices, Dr Stephanie Lavau, was about ‘holding onto difference’. Usually, in our collaborative efforts we want to find similarities, common ground on which to work, ways to more effectively communicate with each other through a common language. Isn’t it normal that we want to stamp out differences and focus on eliminating the extraneous for ‘more effective teamwork’? Perhaps though, as Dr Lavau suggested, there is actually a lot to gain from holding onto those differences, at least until they have played out, and she challenged us to answer how best to measure what we think successful collaboration really looks like.
Differences create conflict and tension, but if this is both accepted as a natural part of the problem-solving process, and if managed correctly, it could become an advantage. Innovation, new ideas and new directions often come from conflicts. Perhaps we could all learn to take more time to recognise and observe differences between people and ideas before deciding whether or not to resolve or dismantle them, if they even need resolving at all. In a meeting room in our offices the morning of the webinar, the students and I had an interesting discussion about different understandings of key concepts, such as ‘social sustainability’. Our first instinct was to figure out how to communicate ‘social sustainability’ more effectively, so that the whole group had a common understanding of the term, but we challenged the idea that we needed to agree to make effective progress, opening the possibility that maintaining differences in understanding could open more doors later down the track, rather than remaining hostage to the idea that you can’t progress until you get total agreement or consensus.
All of the speakers underlined the importance of trust among team members for effective collaboration. From my research and experience, trust is something that has to be built over time and cannot be created from thin air, but is a precondition for effective and highly efficient cooperation. The reason why so many people find employment through their ‘networks’ is because of the (often invisable) trust capital. In the webinar we discussed different kinds of trust, where trust in an individual’s abilities may be separate from trust in an individual overall. Trust in the group is also important; ‘do you trust that your team will be able to get the job done?’ Building trust involves making ourselves vulnerable, especially when dealing with uncertain and complex issues, and learning bit by bit that by allowing ourselves to trust our colleagues we can make the whole team stronger, more resilient and ultimately more effective.
Holding onto difference and collaboration requires active facilitation and is not something that will just happen naturally. What we’ve learned through our interdisciplinary journey is that making space for reflection and honest discussion is important. You can make space for such discussions by scheduling time perhaps at the end of a meeting, or organise a more relaxed meeting where (often more sensitive topics) about interpersonal interaction within a team can be spoken about in a more comfortable environment. If there are no appropriate times or spaces for such discussions, interpersonal conflicts and misunderstandings can grow into serious problems that can bring teams down. As our Danish speaker, Michael Damm said, sometimes what’s needed is a ‘talk about the talk’.