2 October 2010 | San Francisco, CA | West Coast Green & Madrone League Announcement

West Coast Green 2010

(no slides used)

PRESS

  • TreeHugger Michelle Kaufmann video interview with Hunter Lovins
  • Just Means‘ Kevin Long video interview with Hunter Lovins
  • Triple Pundit “Madrone League: Open Source Sustainability Education” (by Erica Frye) 4 October 2010
  • Triple Pundit “A Look at Women’s Leadership in Sustainability” (by Erica Frye) 14 October 2010

Tree Hugger Video

Just Means Video (click here)

Triple Pundit
“Madrone League: Open Source Sustainability Education”
(by Erica Frye)
4 October 2010

Can sustainability education be made affordable and accessible to the entire world?

Hunter Lovins and Gregory Miller, both of whom have been heavily involved in the Sustainable MBA program at Presidio Graduate School, took to the stage at West Coast Green to discuss sustainability education. Asked what would they do differently if they were starting Presidio over again, they announced for the first time publicly they are doing just that with a new educational venture dubbed the Madrone League that would bring the best of sustainability to students inexpensively via web-based content.

They have a vision of education as global, participant-driven, and open source. In the spirit of  TED Talks, learners around the world would have access to the brightest minds and expert knowledge that are typically inaccessible to the masses, and even to most educational institutions. Inversely, tapping a worldwide audience would provide a larger student pool to support even the most specialized topics.

The soul of the model is open source collaboration and participation. Content would be delivered online and supplemented locally by faculty mentors, existing educational and corporate institutions, and ad hoc learning groups. Participants would be the architects of their own educational experience, following their passions rather than a prescribed path. The role of student and instructor would become interchangeable, challenging and improving content collaboratively. Students would even be evaluated on their contributions to courses and fellow students.

Perhaps the most resonant — and necessary — aspect of the Madrone League is making this education affordable to all. Leveraging a worldwide population and eliminating expensive infrastructure would allow for a low-cost education for those who have been previously excluded but need sustainability education most of all.

Their vision aligns with current trends and needs: We can no longer afford to make education, especially of sustainability, available only to the well-off. Greater complexity and instability require us to learn in smaller doses throughout our lives, no longer limited to a linear progression from school to work to retirement. Internet access and video capabilities combine to make a virtual learning network viable, something that would not have been feasible even a few years ago. And, the kinds of public/private partnerships that will be needed to support this network have become mainstream.

Their idealism will run headlong into naysayers, and I admit to having a few knee-jerk doubts because I was stuck in the assumptions of traditional education. But, as innovators, they are wise to focus on what might be rather than what might go wrong.

The Madrone Leaugue is still taking shape, and they invite input and collaboration — they’ve already been talking to the likes of Jay Ogilvy and Bainbridge, and Arianna Huffington spontaneously offered her support after hearing their announcement from backstage. If you have an idea you’d like to share, Miller says it can be tweeted to @madroneleague.

Erica Frye is a strategist dedicated to building brands driven by culture, mission, and sustainability, and a graduate of the Design Strategy MBA program at California College of the Arts. You can read more from her at www.ericafrye.com.

 

Triple Pundit
“A Look at Women’s Leadership in Sustainability”
(by Erica Frye)
14 October 2010

In the book Women In Green: Voices of Sustainable Design, authors Kira Gould and Lance Hosey demonstrate that women have a strong presence in the sustainability world as environmentally aware consumers and as change agents. A slew of studies have examined reasons for this, and a frequent conclusion is that women are more likely to embrace traits that serve sustainability, such as social sensitivity, holistic thinking, and empathy. (These are not traits solely held by women, of course, and they might even be more accurately classified as “right-brain” rather than “feminine.”)

It should therefore come as no surprise that there was a panel discussion at West Coast Green titled Women’s Ways of Leadership in Sustainability, led by Gould and including several high profile women in sustainability, to explore the idea of feminine leadership and its implications for sustainability.

Synthesizing this session has been a challenge, because each panelist brought a very different point of view — perhaps this reflects the fractured nature of the discussion itself. A significant factor contributing to this may be discomfort with the topic. Discussing “feminine” leadership often provokes ambivalence, which was reflected in the panel as well as comments from conference attendees. Hunter Lovins, a last-minute addition to the panel and one of the best-known women in sustainability, was resistant to the conversation, asserting she becomes nervous when male/female tags are applied, and that she doesn’t think gender should be relevant.

Valerie Casey addressed the ambivalence this way: First, she asserts, we have an initial reaction of dread about participating in a “Women and X” panel. We distance ourselves from it, not wanting to be defined (and marginalized) by gender. She questions if there is inherent self-loathing motivating us to become defensive or deny that gender issues exist at all. And while we might consider re-casting behaviors as gender neutral, Casey argues this would be a mistake, that there is value in confronting what is uncomfortable. We should instead utilize the tension as a toe-hold to have this discussion and think critically.

Judging by the attendance in the room — this was the only session I witnessed where the seats were not only completely full, but a dozen extra chairs had to be brought in — clearly this is a topic women do want to talk about. I say women, since, notably, there were only a few men present, and at least one of them was the husband of a panelist.

The panel skirted around any debate over the root causes of male/female differences and if those differences are real or perceived, and moved on to how women who are interested in sustainability can find success.

Their suggestions backed up the validity of a gender discussion. Lynn Simon indicated that motherhood influenced the decision to start her own architecture firm, not finding the flexibility she needed in traditional employment. Carrie Meinberg Burke spoke to the need to cultivate courage as a woman, and how “gendered” perceptions — she cited assumptions made about her after becoming a mother — often outweigh actual gender issues. Lovins and Simon encouraged women to show initiative and become involved in their professional communities, volunteering if necessary to gain confidence and knowledge. (Regarding this last point, I highly recommend this HBR podcast on how women are over-mentored but under-sponsored.)

If feminine (or right-brain) leadership has significant benefits for sustainability, then we must become invested in continuing this conversation — no matter how comfortable — in order to identify and cultivate those advantages.

Erica Frye is a strategist dedicated to building brands driven by culture, mission, and sustainability, and a recent graduate of the Design Strategy MBA program at California College of the Arts. You can read more from her at www.ericafrye.com.

 

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