Greetings from Toronto, Canada where I am a guest at the annual meeting of the Canadian Association for University Continuing Education. We are just finishing our first day of sessions and it has been a great experience for a number of reasons. First, it has given me the opportunity to experience how other associations handle their annual meetings. I give high marks to this group because they’ve found a way to make everyone feel welcomed, and good heavens, I’ve already been introduced two or three times at the plenary sessions.
There is also a sense of community that is encouraged by hosting conference-wide meals where we’ve had very good keynote speakers. I’ve been impressed by how the sponsors are included in all activities, as well as given an opportunity to give “sponsor sessions.” I attended one this morning related to carbon neutrality and the purchase of carbon credits. Interesting ideas related to enhancing the support of our vendor partners as well as enriching the sponsors’ experiences.
Our keynote this morning, Geoff Cape, is the founding chair of the Sustainability Institute and co-founder of Evergreen, a Canadian national charity that “makes cities more livable” (www.evergreen.ca). He provided an excellent start to the conference with a wonderful reminder that sustainability is a very robust area. As my colleague and conference planning committee chair David Schejbal always reminds me, sustainability is all part of interactive systems, which is why our 2012 conference them revolves around it.
In Geoff’s and Evergreen’s work with sustainability in the Toronto area, they’ve looked at sustainability from a very broad fashion. Evergreen looks at sustainability and green spaces in the following ways:
-how it impacts our health–building and nurturing green areas in the city that provide an area for people to gather, to rejuvenate, to celebrate;
-how it impacts what we eat–creating areas where local products can be grown and sold;
-how it impacts our children and grand children’s learning–taking playgrounds that are built more like prison yards and creating spaces that encourage play, exploration, learning–creating a space where “no child is left inside” (give credit to Geoff for that one!)
If you want to know more about Evergreen see http://www.evergreen.ca/en/about/who-we-are.sn
In listening to Geoff and the story of Evergreen, I was also reminded of some leadership lessons. So for lack of a better title, here are Evergreen Lessons on Leadership:
Be true to the mission–Geoff admitted that Evergreen has grown so much he hadn’t gotten his hands in the dirt to plant a tree in two years. This is a great reminder that we all need to reflect on and act on our core mission, and sometimes get our hands dirty.
Reframing the issue–when Evergreen sees a playground, they don’t see a hard flat service, they see a garden. As leaders we need to be able reframe challenges as opportunities.
Ready, fire, aim–Geoff was clear, Evergreen would never have gotten off the ground if they had waited for “everything” to fall into place. Like Geoff, we as leaders need to take risks, calculated but still risks, in launching programs to meet an immediate need.
In the end, Geoff and Evergreen seem similar to continuing education in that they bring together multiple constituencies (private foundations, universities and colleges, school divisions, corporations, concerned citizens) to make the right things happen.