Nicely done piece by IBM. If more companies did smart, interesting little documentaries like this, I’d smile.
I spent a week in Amsterdam learning a method of playing for change developed by Instituto Elos, a Brazilian NGO which has its roots in participatory architecture. Their mission is: “To propel a movement to make the world we all dream a reality, now.”
I’d like to give a thorough description of how an Oasis Game works, so here we go!
Elos has distilled seven disciplines to move through in the process of facilitating an Oasis Game. Text in italics comes straight from their training manual.
1. Appreciative Seeing.
We walk through the community to find what beauty already exists. What assets and resources are already abundant? What is alive? Instead of looking for problems, we look for the existing beauty, abundance and value already present.
Now we dig deeper to uncover who created the beauty, nurtures the vitality or maintains an asset. This is a process of building friendships in the community by starting with a compliment. Through this process of making friends in the community, we find and map out the talents, skills and resources that can contribute to creating an Oasis.
3. The Dream.
Now we create a conversation space where people can feel comfortable sharing their biggest dreams and most profound visions. As a host of this conversation, we try to thread these dreams together and find the common thread. One practice is to Believe in Utopias so that people don’t feel embarrassed to share their most creative ideas, however ambitious they may seem. As a facilitator, you also guide this conversation toward finding dreams that can be realized in 2 days. There can be longer-term, larger-scale dreams identified, but the outcome of this step is a collectively-held vision on a scale that can be built quickly. This will give people the confidence and momentum to then pursue the bigger dreams.
Practically, this involves holding community gatherings where people can share their ideas for what the best Oasis could be.
Once a collective dream has been found in the community, the process of developing the vision into a design can get political. So the focus at this stage is on caring for our relationships and ourselves, and keeping the balance in chaotic situations. Planning from YES means beginning with the assumption that there is a viable route to find the oasis, and we say YES to challenges along that path.
Practically, this is centered around a community design charette where we build models and do Collective Prototyping of the dream. Once this design has been created, we split into small action teams to gather the physical resources needed. Ideally, all materials are donated in-kind, which maintains the feeling of a collective game toward which everyone is offering whatever is abundant to them. In Brazil, Elos did a huge Oasis and kindly refused a total of $300k reals (more than $150k) in monetary support! Money is by design scarce, not abundant! Some money may be required, but try to use as little as possible.
5. The Miracle.
The dream has been awakened. The design has been drawn. The resources have been assembled. Now the magic happens to make the impossible real.
In the process of actually building the Oasis, we balance Cooperation, Autonomy, and Proactivity. We try to nurture an atmosphere where people are truly working together gracefully, building this dream. But people should also feel empowered as a leader, taking initiative where they can offer expertise. And we take responsibility for our dreams and hold ourselves accountable to realize them.
Over two days of seemingly chaotic, decentralized play and crafting and innovating with the resources at hand, what had previously been a dormant, sleeping, impossible dream is now a living reality!
Once the Oasis has been built, its time to celebrate this miraculous birth! At the end of the second building day, we party down, and also sharing what we have learned in the process. It is important to bask in the beauty of this new Oasis, and set a good precedent for the use of the space. The Oasis is christened as a place to play, share gifts, and keep dreaming.
Don’t stop now! This is just a seed of what is possible! The drive for a new cycle of accomplishments, uniting a web of partners and collective dreams in a movement to expand and transform. We must use the momentum, energy and excitement that has been built in the community to realize more dreams! To do this, we build a sense of Belonging to reinforce people’s sense they are part of something important and incredible. We continue Spreading the network of partners, dreamers, builders and participants which will open up greater potential, new resources, and expanded scale. We Restart the process from the very first step, letting go of our assumptions and starting fresh with new eyes.
So there’s your 3,000 foot view of the basic process of a Game. There are also Characters like Ninja, Gnome, Angel, etc that each player takes on in the game to provide different functions within their team. There are specific tasks and missions within the seven steps that constitute the action of the game. If you want to learn more, you’ll have to attend an Oasis training or talk to someone who has done an Oasis Game!
If you’re still reading, and really excited about this stuff, here are a few videos about all the incredible Oasis that Elos have facilitated:
Last week I attended a two-night lecture by sustainability journalist Alex Steffen. Alex is the co-founder of Worldchanging, a forward-thinking news site (and book) that reports on the smartest solutions for building a better world. See his TED talk here. (Check back in a few days, when video recordings of the talks will be available online)
The first night Alex spoke on the global context of climate change, outlining the stakes, the timescale, and the strategies that provide the best potential for large-scale transformation.
(In case you didn’t get the memo, it turns out that global warming is happening much quicker than mainstream estimates had anticipated. We have already surpassed the level of atmospheric carbon where, if it were to stay this high for more than a few decades, catastrophic and irreversible climate change would be likely. Essentially, mankind has to eliminate all emissions ASAP. So the swiftness and efficacy of our solutions is critical.)
Alex reminded us to look deeply when we consider sustainable solutions. One example he used was electric cars. Even if all of the electricity to charge the car is produced renewably, roughly 35% of the energy footprint of the car is embodied in the car itself and the infrastructure that it uses. The sheer mass of all the highways, gas stations, repair shops and car factories means that cars –however they might be powered- require too much infrastructure, effort and energy to maintain. A more elegant design is to simply live in close proximity to all the services and accoutrements that would otherwise require a car trip. The most efficient trip is the one we never had to make!
Alex highlighted ways people are re-framing the conversation about sustainability. We don’t actually want a car, we want dependable transportation. Deeper than that, we really just want to access to services, people, and experiences. So the best solutions actually pioneer new business models and patterns of interaction.
One promising business model is to turn a product into a service. Instead of just manufacturing a physical product which a consumer buys, uses for a while and then must dispose of, the “product-service” model is similar to a lease or a time share. The business retains ownership of the equipment and simply charges the customer for use (think Zipcar). Since the equipment is both the asset and liability of the company, there is an incentive to make it repairable, recyclable and energy efficient, because the business pays for replacement, repairs, disposal, and energy use.
The average electric hand drill is used for between 5 and 20 minutes in its lifetime! What an insane waste of resources! What an opportunity to create a system for an on-demand tool library! Sharing becomes easy when we know who has things, and where they are located. Luckily this type of information is made greatly accessible by the internet and mobile phones! When people also live in close proximity to all these resources and services, resource sharing is even easier. And as a side effect, you will have less random junk, and more opportunities to build relationships with your neighbors!
On the second night, Alex spoke about the local context here in Seattle. He inspired us to be ambitious, affirming that the only worthwhile goal is to make Seattle a carbon neutral city by 2030! It’s actually what the climate science demands that we do, so anything less is….risky.
This may sound like an ambitious or unrealistic goal. Why is this? Because business-as-usual is so engrained in our culture? That’s a pretty lame excuse for humanity to commit suicide. Our cultural and business habits must be out-of-date if they seem to be driving us toward self-annihilation. This is everyone’s problem but no one’s responsibility. Luckily, there is some real political will here in Seattle.
Alex was introduced by President of the City Counsel Richard Conlin and Mayor-elect Mike McGinn. Those are probably two of the most significant government posts in the city. Their presence represents the serious popular energy to re-develop Seattle as a contender in the race to achieve carbon neutrality. Vancouver and Portland are ahead of us, each considered among the very greenest cities in North America, if not the world. The northwest could be a powerhouse region if Seattle ambitiously bootstraps for carbon neutrality and zero waste!
I’m incredibly motivated to work toward this compelling vision of an EcoCity, and I feel like everything I am doing is focused on catalyzing that transformation. We know many of the physical solutions, or at least where to begin. The task at hand is to use this political will, develop successful new business models and build an even stronger community of change agents working in concert toward a collective vision.
What are the social, cultural and political elements that will be conducive to this beautiful transformation? New economic models? New lifestyles and paradigms that are better aligned with the undeniable facts of resource limitations? New conversation patterns that move beyond protecting individual interests and allow us to identify our common interests? I’ll continue to address these questions through this blog.
What are your “big questions”? What can I do to focus my energy into the most productive avenues?
Last week I attended a two-night lecture by sustainability journalist Alex Steffen. Alex is the co-founder of Worldchanging, a forward-thinking news site (and book) that reports on the smartest solutions...