cross sector problem solving and Garnaut bewilderment

At Ergo we are unashamedly positioning ourselves to take advantage of an emerging opportunity in the market. Three things particularly qualify us … our core commitment to engaging the conversations that matter, our facilitation expertise and our experience across the three sectors; business, government and community / NGO.

The big questions of our day cannot be answered without engaging a variety of stakeholders. Fighting AIDS, adjusting to a low carbon economy, urban revitalisation, renewable energy adoption, etc are not challenges that can be owned by a single group within society, or even partnerships.

I was reminded again of the need over the weekend as I digested Booz Allen Hamilton’s efforts to solve problems using a multi-sector approach. Megacommunities: How Leaders of Government, Business and Non-Profits Can tackle Today’s Global Challenges Together. Theirs is an important contribution to the field, although they fail to acknowledge the excellent work already been done by the likes of Generon Reos. Below are a few insights that I found helpful:

  • In multi-sector problem solving, maximisation must give way to optimisation. When we think from the framework of a single organisation we naturally seek to maximize. However, when we recognise that we are part of a system, the key paradigm is one of optimisation. (This of course can be applied within an organisation as well.)
  • Collaboration is a less helpful mindset than what the authors call ‘permanent negotiation’. The primary skill when operating as part of a system is to negotiate … the art of giving, taking and compromising, and agreeing.
  • They describe what they call ‘permeable boundaries’. When different stakeholders come together, the spaces in which their interests overlap need to be held lightly. There must be a willingness to appreciate the fuzziness of where previously perceived boundaries of influence extend to.

Have a look at U-Studio to see what Ergo is offering to help meet this need.

On an different note: By all reports I have heard from people who know him, professor Garnaut is a brilliant and unswerving person. So I am as bewildered as many others by his report last week. I wish I knew what his logic is. He would be fully aware that a 10% reduction in carbon emissions from the benchmark by 2020 is not enough. As I have heard World Vision Australia’s Brett Parris argue convincingly, the conversation about emissions targets should not be allowed to stand independently (as it does in the public debate) from the correlating impact on temperature rises.

So, for example, by saying we commit to a 10% reduction is exactly the same as saying we are prepared to commit to a certain level of CO2 in the atmosphere (somewhere north of 500ppm from my understanding) which in turn translates into a particular temperature rise (in this case 3% gets locked in). For those of you who have got a basic knowledge of this, you will know that anything above 2% puts us in very dangerous territory.

10% reduction target means: increased droughts, tens of millions exposed to lack of water, up to 30% of species at risk of extinction, increased flood and storm damage, increased mortality from tropical diseases and the list goes on.

There is no question that we can’t wait for the government, but legislation is surely a critical component of mass mobilization so we dig deep as a community to assure our children don’t inherit a natural environment spiralling out of control.

The art of good leadership includes being bi-focal; doing our ‘close’ work with competence, while looking up and out, ensuring that we are up to date on the broader context. Engaging the relevant cross sector conversations and taking climate change seriously are not longer luxurious commitments for high performing leaders … they are a must.