What if we look at refugees from a different angle?

forbesI was pondering the phrase “Human Resources.” Do we really consider, value and uphold that humans are resources? Then I thought about the influx of different groups of refugees and borders and logistics in managing it all. If people are resources, then why can’t we have a significant rethink about our planet’s refugees? Both “refugees” and “resources” are R-words. What if we could see that Refugees=Resources, rather than Refugees=Reduction of Resources?



What does “resource” mean? According to Dictionary.com, “resource” means:

  • A source of supply, support, or aid, especially one that can be readily drawn upon when needed
  • The collective wealth of a country or its means of producing wealth
  • Assets
  • Means afforded by one’s personal capabilities
  • Capability in dealing with a situation or meeting difficulties



What if we explored Refugees as resources? What if we assumed that refugees fleeing danger and flooding new countries were valuable resources? How would we manage the challenges of welcoming the influx differently with this standpoint?

Collaboration amongst diverse peoples make for strong, innovative nations. Think of all the culture, experience, expertise, food, art, music, invention, problem solving capacity, creativity, imagination, craftsmanship, muscles, intelligence, and potential flooding the borders!

How would we look at solving the refugee crises differently if we, as nations, were grateful for refugees…these valuable human resources? What could happen? What if we looked at refugees as postentially strengthening our countries? What if we took stock of the vast wealth flowing across our borders and saw what a gift we were being given?



If we really understood people to be rich resources and looked at our refugees from this angle, world would be much more creative in the policies and management of this new wealth. And, with this incredible valuation of new peoples as national treasures, I also posit that the desperation and danger from which the refugees are fleeing would diminish in direct proportion to our collective high estimation of each and every individual forced to leave his or country and seek safety.

Gold, oil, science and technology flooding a nation are considered rich resources. What about people with their diverse knowledge, experience and understanding? These people fled their countries for a reason. They want to contribute and prosper. Wow…someone coming across the border to contribute, work hard and prosper! Such riches!

The need to innovate is urgent. We begin with innovation of thought and then continue with innovation of words. We build this foundation first. Then we will build innovative solutions to prosper everyone.

The problem arises from how we are viewing “refugees” to begin with. We can figure this out. Refugees=Resources. This opens up a world of possibilities.

Photo is from Forbes.com article: Refugees and Migrants: Europe’s Past History And Future Challenge






Young Social Entrepreneurs of Color Uplift Their Communities from the Inside Out

Ask the young people who are suffering from economic inequity and societal trauma for their ideas to solve the problems they face. Tap into their brilliance, creativity, depth and vitality to solve the problems they struggle with every day. Nurture them with mentoring and coaching. Give them access to the tools they need to succeed. Provide them with a place to collaborate and create. Enter Youth Impact HUB Oakland’s People’s Pitch. Glorious!


Gino Pastori-Ng, Co-founder and Co-director of Youth SEED

“Young people of color who have direct experience with what is not working in our current economy are our greatest asset.”

—Gino Pastori-Ng, Co-founder and Co-Director of Youth SEED

The People’s Pitch was held on May 23 at Impact HUB Oakland, 2323 Broadway. Explosively creative, energetic, positive, brilliant, organic, collaborative, human and real entrepreneurship. And there wasn’t a damn suit in the room. Refreshing.

“Many young people live on the margins of society, and in order to survive they have to be innovative. When you give young people the opportunity to be creative, the ideas they’re innovating are coming

Galen Sylvestri, Co-founder and Executive Director of United Roots

Galen Sylvestri, Co-founder and Executive Director of United Roots

from their resiliency. By giving these entrepreneurs a platform, they can take their life experiences and find innovative solutions for problems that are affecting them. These young people haven’t given up amidst the tragedies they have experienced throughout their lives and they’re using their resiliency to help the community.”

—Galen Silvestri, Co-founder and Executive Director, United Roots

 Nine teams of young social entrepreneurs, ages 16-24, from the Youth Hub Fellowship Program—a yearlong social entrepreneurship training and co-working program that is the offspring of Youth SEED and United Roots’ partnership—presented their proposals for social enterprises to create equity in low-income communities.

Edward F. Quevedo, J.D.  Business Review Panel, Youth Impact HUB Oakland’s People’s Pitch

Edward L. Quevedo, J.D.
Business Review Panel, Youth Impact HUB Oakland’s People’s Pitch

“It was humbling and inspiring. The wonderful thing about these entrepreneurs is that they believe that anything is possible, and to solve the problems we’re facing requires believing that anything is possible. I learned so much from these young people. I learned way more than I was able to contribute. I already plan to participate again next year.”

Edward L. Quevedo, J.D., Business Review Panel, Youth Impact HUB Oakland’s People’s Pitch/Director of Mills College’s Center for Socially Responsible Business/Research Affiliate at Institute for the Future Economy

The individuals pitching were a diverse group, with Mills College, UC Berkeley and Stanford graduates in the mix. The entrepreneurs’ individualities shone through with their business ideas. Beautiful collaboration and enthusiastic support of one another’s success made the Pitch event a rich experience. Again, a rarity in the entrepreneurship and innovation realms. This is world changing, and these youth social entrepreneurs are leading the way. They are shining examples of the way to get things done, utilizing human-based entrepreneurship and innovation, with unsoiled thinking and true collaboration. The key is self-expression throughout the process of growing an enterprise designed to benefit people, the environment and the local economy.

It Takes an Entire Village to Raise an Entrepreneur

The people behind Youth Impact Hub Oakland—Konda Mason, founder and CEO of Impact Hub Oakland, Gino Pastori-

Konda Mason, Co-founder and CEO of Impact Hub Oakland

Konda Mason, Co-founder and CEO of Impact Hub Oakland

Ng and aManda Greene, co-founders and co-directors of Youth SEED, and Galen Silvestri, co-founder and Executive Director of United Roots—lead by their shining examples. While there are seventy Impact HUBs throughout the world, Youth Impact HUB Oakland is the first collaboration of its sort with the intention to replicate the model at the other Impact Hubs.

“We’re on the proud cutting-edge of the Future Economy…of the Now Economy. Show up fearlessly and brave and know that you hold the power.”

—Konda Mason, Founder and CEO, Impact Hub Oakland

Impact Hub Oakland, a B Corporation, is a member-based co-working space and event venue for entrepreneurs creating positive impact. Youth SEED (Young Social Entrepreneurship for Equitable Development) supports the development of community-led social enterprises by providing training, resources and investment to young innovators who traditionally face barriers to economic opportunities. And United Roots—a nonprofit organization and Oakland’s first “green” youth art and media center—enables disenfranchised youth to engage with the green economy, cultural healing, performing arts, digital media and technology in ways that educate, empower, inspire and transform lives.

 “[Youth Impact Hub] is the answer to the question, ‘How can businesses and nonprofits engage youth in social entrepreneurship?’ Youth Impact Hub Oakland is creating a new type of relationship between nonprofits and businesses.”

—Galen Silvestri, Co-founder and Executive Director, United Roots

Each organization needed more resources than they possessed individually, so they came together and formed Youth Impact Hub Oakland. For example, Youth SEED needed a house for their organization, so United Roots provided them with a place. United Roots needed facilitators and mentors that could offer social entrepreneurship training, and the vision to transform their storefront community center into a co-working office space for youth entrepreneurs, so Youth SEED provided the facilitators and mentors and Impact Hub Oakland provided the co-working space model.

Chris Mann, CEO, Guayaki

Chris Mann, CEO, Guayaki

“I’m really impressed with Youth SEED and the Youth Impact Hub model. The program is vital. To be able to reach people at a pivotal time in their lives and provide excellent options, a set of mentors and peers to resonate with and get feedback from, is invaluable. It’s easy to get a lot of naysayers. A support network helps accelerate the idea. I’m happy that this exists and that it is thriving.”

—Chris Mann, CEO, Guayaki

And then there was the financial support. The following organizations generously contributed to help make the Youth Impact Hub Fellowship and People’s Pitch possible: Numi Organic Tea; Guayakí Yerba Mate; Nutiva; ALTER ECO;  Adobe;  Telestream,Inc.; Jonas Family Foundation; Small Planet Fund; Barb Reynolds; Clif Bar Family Foundation; the PG&E Foundation; and the Superbowl 50 Host Committee.

Jason Trimiew

Jason Trimiew, VP of Community Relations, San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee

“Innovation is not just about tech; it can help us solve social problems, too. Programs like the Youth Impact HUB and their People’s Pitch event are the very catalysts we are seeking to invest in because they will leave a legacy of impact well after the Super Bowl is played.”

Jason Trimiew, Vice President, Community Relations, Super Bowl 50 Host Committee

Mercer—Accountable Hip Hop

Mercer Music received $1,000 seed money, plus another big check from B.L.I.N.G.

Mercer Music received $1,000 seed money, plus another big check from B.L.I.N.G.

Roy Terry, Jr. and Shayne Johnson created Mercer, a hip-hop production company with a mission to neutralize the violence, sexism, and materialism so prevalent in today’s hip hop. They want to get back to the roots of hip-hop (think “Tupac”), hip-hop featuring “the new school with the old school notion that we use music to uplift and educate,said Roy, “hip-hop that uplifts women and conveys an intrinsic sense of self-worth.”

“Hip-hop is not doing its job and being accountable. We live in a world of monkey see, monkey do. Get an education. Listen to Tupac. We have a world full of people who degrade women. We have a world full of violence. We need to build curriculum for schools. It’s hard to bring positivity to hip-hop. We’re immersed in sex, violence. We don’t want to be thugs. Positive music is overlooked so much. It’s up to us to correct this problem.”

—Roy Terry, Jr., Founder of Mercer

Mercer began with four guys who had a rap group in high school. Roy’s partner, Shayne, was one of these guys and was eager to join Roy on his quest. The Youth Impact Hub fellowship opportunity came to Roy during a dark time in his life. He

Mercer pitching their business at Youth Impact Hub Oakland's

Mercer pitching their business at Youth Impact Hub Oakland’s “People’s Pitch”

had just been arrested and wasn’t working. “I needed to re-motivate myself,” said Roy.

“I ran into Youth Impact HUB at the right time. I was initiated in such a special way …”

The artists who sign with Mercer will need to sign an agreement to abide by Mercer’s vision of hip-hop that elevates society. Lamont Thompson and Zollie Fears, who are not Youth Impact Hub fellows, are also members of Mercer.

The Biz Stoop—From Responders to Activators

Desiré Simone Johnson and her partner, Erin Clark, cofounders of The Biz Stoop

Desiré Simone Johnson and her partner, Erin Clark, Co-founders of The Biz Stoop

Desiré Johnson and Erin Clark founded The Biz Stoop to support black youth and teach them their rights, good self-care, and how to pursue opportunities. The Biz Stoop provides gentle immersion into the work world. They work quietly and privately to help black youth. Desiré explained, “Predatory interests won’t allow us to go into full [marketing mode]. For the security and protection of the black youth, The Biz Stoop safeguards its multiple facets.”

“I was fortunate enough to follow up on opportunities. I had enough courage and emotional support and caring. It’s frightening for the black youth to look for work. You don’t know who you’re going to meet on the other side of the door. This fear comes from fatalism … they distance themselves. They say, ‘I’m never going to go there.’ It’s self sabotage. They give up, lose faith, lose hope. We don’t think we’re going to live. Sixteen was my cut-off time.”

—Desiré Simone Johnson, Cofounder, The Biz Stoop

A recent Mills graduate, Desiré said, “I needed a program to take me through the trauma into healing, into self-activation. I needed structure, timelines, due dates, a creative space that was Oakland specific.”

“I loved reading. I listened. I was a good listener. I was introspective. I asked myself, ‘What am I making in the world?’ I read my own poems and understood that I am more than what’s been done to me. It’s cyclical. I reached the point where I knew that I didn’t want to be in the cycle anymore.”

Desire2When Desiré was thirteen, she read God Don’t Like Ugly by Mary Monroe. “It was almost my life to a T,” she said. “No father and the men filling that role were abusers. At a certain point, you realize, ‘This is not normal.’ I was just a responder in life. I didn’t get to activate. Black children are not granted innocence. We get forced into adulthood.” The Biz Stoop takes these kids and transforms them from responders to activators.


Fuerza Indigena—Indigenous Blouses with a Mission

Linda Sanchez, founder of Fuerza Indigena

Linda Sanchez, founder of Fuerza Indigena

In addition to her full-time job at American Friends Service Committee, Linda Sanchez founded Fuerza Indigena, an indigenous women-run social enterprise. She became aware of Youth Impact Hub at a United Roots event that mentioned Youth SEED. “I went for it,” she said. “Youth Impact Hub pushed me to set the time, be disciplined. A lot of the fellows are full-time students, work full time, and/or already have kids.”

“I want to show the beauty and complexity of indigenous cultures.”—Linda Sanchez, Founder, Fuerza Indigena

Linda, a Zapotec from Oaxaca, Mexico, grew up in Orange County but moved to the Bay Area in order to attend UC Berkeley, where she received her BA degree in May 2014. Her business partner, Alejandra, 15, is an indigenous Mam from Guatemala and is currently attending high school and interning with 67 Sueños.

“Youth SEED was very nurturing and loving. I made some great friends. My mentors and peers were visionaries. I never had a moment of doubt. It was empowering seeing my peers being empowered and receiving the tools to uplift themselves.”

Linda hopes to create environmental cultural revitalization for the indigenous community. She watched her mom and aunt struggle to make ends meet. She realized that indigenous women have the skills, but don’t know how to capitalize on them. Last, but not least, Linda hopes that Fuerza Indigena creates exposure to the community and builds greater awareness of indigenous cultures. Sell a beautifully stitched organic cotton blouse and people will know a little bit more about the culture.

Plus 6 More …

Daisy Ozim’s Resilient Wellness and 13th Goddess

Daisy Ozim’s Resilient Wellness and 13th Goddess

Unfortunately, there wasn’t time to talk to all nine teams of dynamic entrepreneurs. But just to give you an idea …

TJ Ransom and Jose Martinez’s UpBeat Games Oakland, whose first game, LUCID, is to help young people work through grief, along with a curriculum component for the schools.

Isaiah Teague’s goDDli a worker-owned cooperative selling eco-friendly apparel designed with positive and inspirational messages for “a sense of self.” Isaiah said, “My passion is fashion to help people grow in spiritual knowledge. There is so much hurt. I plan on being original and truthful with my business.”

8 Feet Tall Promotions, founded by Ajman Thrower, is already well on its way with some significant clients. It’s vision is to provide professional promotional services at discounted rates in order to help take ideas and artists to the next level … to help them make money from their own ideas … to build these Latino and blacks in the surrounding communities up. The company got its name because it began with eight people helping Oakland to feel 8 feet tall by spreading ideas and supporting its artists.

Dasha Savage of Merry Stem, bringing healthy food, nutrition education and community through growing vegetables.

Dasha Savage of Merry Stem, bringing healthy food, nutrition education and community through growing vegetables.

Merry Stem’s Dasha Savage and Jessica Sarmiento are on a mission to mend the disconnect between food and community, by encouraging and teaching residents to each grow a vegetable to share with their other neighbors, a type of barter system. The ultimate goal is for the community to get to know their food and their neighbors better. During their pitch, Dasha said, “I was an inner-city fat kid. Our modern life has wrenched us away from what it means to be fundamentally human. It’s hard to eat right when you don’t have a stove or an oven in your kitchen.”

United Roots Media is being launched by Quayshawn Presley and Malik Hardcastle as an “earned income strategy”for United Roots. Youth graduates of United Roots’ advanced training in media arts offer a variety of services through United Roots media. In response to their pitch, panel member Edward Quevedo said, “My life has changed because of your presentation.”

Daisy Ozim’s Resilient Wellness and 13th Goddess. Daisy created Resilient Wellness—a health education program for communities of color—and 13th Goddess, an environmentally friendly shoe line catering to women with longer soles. Resilient Wellness will provide “culturally relevant mental health services” to help people of color deprogram from “traumatic slave syndrome and the legacy of colonization.”

Seed Funding


Each team pitched to a panel of local community leaders for $1000 in seed funding provided by The Pollination Project, which funds “ordinary people doing extraordinary things…every day in every corner of the world.”

All nine teams received seed money, with five of the teams receiving it “unconditionally”—they were ready to receive the money immediately—and four receiving it “conditionally,” i.e. based on their ability to address feedback from the panel. BLING, a youth philanthropy internship group “committed to supporting other youth and their ideas to create social change in their schools and communities,” awarded an additional $2,000 to be shared among three teams.

The Entertainment

Jax--An astounding group! All siblings, with the oldest being 15, they write and compose their music.

Jax–An astounding group! All siblings, with the oldest being 15, they write and compose their music.

People’s Pitch was rowdy and fun, too. The pitches were divided into three groups and, in between each group, there was seriously, outrageously magnificent cultural entertainment. Why aren’t all entrepreneurial events this much fun? For example, there were live cultural performances from Young, Gifted and Black, Jax, and DJ Adamah. Tamales La Oaxaqueña  made the day even more delicious. And a marketplace of local entrepreneurs—which included 67 Sueños, DetermiNation Media Group, and Mandela Marketplace, RYSE and The Real Oakland—rounded out the energy.


In Conclusion

Gino Pastori-Ng, co-founder and co-director of Youth SEED, wraps it up perfectly:

“My motivation for creating Youth SEED is based on my experience growing up in Oakland and witnessing my most creative and innovative peers slip through the cracks. There was a severe lack of opportunities for them to engage in their community in a meaningful way, and many of them ended up dropping out of school and becoming entrenched in the criminal justice system. No one was asking them what they wanted to create in the community or providing any resources to make it happen. I’m passionate about social entrepreneurship as a tool to engage youth in low-income communities because it combines the best of activism and business. It addressees the reality of economic inequality and the need to generate revenue, while also being critical about the status quo to ensure that we are only creating businesses and organizations that support people and the planet.

“The youth we work with are the most brilliant people I know. They have been through extreme adversity, yet they are taking risks to pursue their visions for a more equitable economy. Their ideas are simultaneously simple and revolutionary. Their lived experience has provided them with a critical lens, which they are using to re-imagine their communities. They are the leaders of an emerging, new economy, and the Youth Impact HUB is a platform to connect them to the network and resources needed to implement their collective vision.”

What more is there to say?

Rethink, Refresh, Rebound…The Sustainable Enterprise Conference 2015

I was planning to write an article with all the details of the Sustainable Enterprise Conference on April 30 in Rohnert Park, Sonoma County, California at the Net Zero community, Sonoma Mountain Village, but I don’t want to do that. The details can be found elsewhere.

Christine Walker of SeeShape Visual Thinking captured the big ideas being shared by the Sustainable Enterprise Conference keynote speakers.

Christine Walker of SeeShape Visual Thinking captured the big ideas being shared by the Sustainable Enterprise Conference keynote speakers.

Instead, I want to share my feelings and the inspiration that found me at the conference. I want to share that very smart, caring people from the public, private and education sectors are working incredibly hard together to create a sustainable future with great (and profitable) results. I am eager to reveal that many big companies, such as Traditional Medicinals, Patagonia, and Guayaki Yerba Matte Tea, and thousands of small companies, too, are making sure that no one is harmed in the making of their products. The conference traveled far beyond “damage control” of the environment and its peoples to designing and building a good way to take care of people, grow businesses, and value our resources.

Everything We Need

I became increasingly excited as the conference unfurled. Mine was a simple epiphany: The collective intelligence, heart, understanding, social and intellectual capital, technology, humanity, experience, passion, ideas, science, words, and everything else we need to create sustainable enterprises are right here, right now. We’ve had it all along, but the urgency to act is causing many to step it up.

B Corps

I am excited to have learned that even as big a corporation as Unilever is becoming increasingly sustainable and moving toward becoming the new category of corporation, a Benefit or ‘B’ Corporation. In case the term is new to you, a “B Corp is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to milk. B Corps are certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards for social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.” Source: www.bcorporation.net.

In Awe and Motivated

But let’s begin at the end. While most conferences have left me feeling “peopled out,” drained and asking myself, “What of value did I really glean from this event?” I left the Sustainable Enterprise Conference inspired, uplifted, in awe, and motivated to do my part. I left feeling more knowledgeable and aware of the very real potential of business to benefit people, the planet and profitability.

“Business is the vehicle to end climate change and to bring about equality/income.”

—Blair Kellison, CEO, Traditional Medicinals

And I left feeling secure that there are people who have stepped up to the plate and have accepted the position of humble steward of the environment, and who are teaching others to do the same.

An Invitation to the Conversation

There was, however, one expected element missing from the Sustainable Enterprise Conference: blame. There were no hatred, angry rants, disparaging comments about “those who don’t give a damn,” or hopelessness and fatalism that we’re all going to hell in a handbasket as far as the planet is concerned.

“There are signs that sustainability is making it into the mainstream.”—Charlie Stauffer, PE, Nordex Wind Farms

Also noticeably absent was moral superiority or a “them and us” attitude. The Conference was a “we” event. An invitation. All-inclusive. There was nothing anti-establishment or hippydippy about it. It was a confluence of manufacturing, education, technology, communication, business, finance, and resource management innovation. In fact, the conference was the most innovative event I’ve ever attended, even more so than a conference a couple of years ago on innovation!

The Company We Keep

When is the last time that you kept company with people who were 100% solutions oriented? People who continually ask, “How can we educate, connect, inspire, bring out the best behavior in everyone? How can we show that being more environmentally sustainable and paying acute attention to people’s wellbeing can yield the same or better outcomes for the company, the people and the planet?”

“The old, loveless ways don’t work anymore.”—Tim Sanders

The best route is most often not the shortest. Enterprises of all shapes, sizes, and industries are proving that it pays to pay attention to a company’s every touch point. The conference was chalked full of living, profitable examples that sustainability is good for everyone.

Seeing and Being Differently

This conference changed everything for me. A serial entrepreneur, I am beginning to see and be differently. I am much more conscious that every penny I spend is a vote as to how we do things. A professional communicator, I no longer want to write for just any company. I want to write for and about successful, sustainable enterprises that do good, not evil. I want to be a Sustainability Storyteller. No, nothing is the same. Thank goodness! I examine my assets and resources through different lenses now.

Resiliency and Collaboration

“Resiliency” cropped up everywhere at the conference. Resilient … springing back … rebounding … returning to the original form or position after being bent, compressed, or stretched … recovering readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like … buoyant.

Resilient design. Resilient economy. Resilient investors and investments. It really does take an entire village—scientists, educators, forward thinking entrepreneurs, environmentalists, financial institutions, corporations, communicators, and many, many others—to design, refine and align our personal and collective attitudes and practices with sustainability. It takes collaboration.

 Investing in the World We Want

One of the most radical aspects of the conference was the representation by sustainable finance companies. In the kickoff keynote, Investing In the World We Want, Marco Vangelisti, founder of Essential Knowledge for Transition, illustrated just how unsustainable the finance model of Return-Risk-Liquidity is and called it the “narrow lens of conventional finance,” He said that the Return-Risk-Liquidity model was born of greed and fear.

“It’s very difficult to make a man understand something, when his salary depends on not understanding.”—Upton Sinclair

Vangelisti shared that the destruction of forests was the type of transformation that impelled him to leave the finance industry. He said that the financial industry’s quest for “perfect assets for perpetuity is not a right afforded to trees. According to finance, a tree is worth more dead than it is alive.”

Financial Intensity

“There is too much capital floating around the world, and it’s all created by debt,” Vangelisti said. “We have too much money around the world, and that money is not as real as we think … we already have more [fossil fuels] than we can burn …” Vangelisti explained that we don’t take our Natural Capital into consideration, but treat nature “as a business in liquidation.”  He referred to himself as an “Angel Divestor,” investing in local businesses, with most of his investment being in food and farming.

Empathy and Biophilia

What if we were to think differently? Vangelisti urged the audience members to ask themselves, “What would my portfolio look like if empathy and biophilia [a love of life and the living world; the affinity of human beings for other life forms] were its drivers?” Vangelisti ended his startling keynote with a call to action: “Assess your net worth. Take 1% of your money and invest it in one of the businesses here today. Then email me and tell me about it.”

The Future of Water

The public, education and private sectors converged for the panel conversation on The Future of Water—Cordell Stillman, Deputy Chief Engineer of Sonoma County Water Agency; Claudia Luke, Director of Sonoma State University Preserves; and Eppa Rixey, Strategic Planning Manager of Lagunitas Brewing Company.

Ninety-five Percent!

The challenge of educating children and adults in ways to evoke behavioral change arose repeatedly. Sonoma County, the county in which the conference took place, is an award-winning water conservator and has a robust water education program in its elementary schools. Ninety-five percent of Sonoma County’s citizens support having environmental education programs in the schools.

“Water is the foundation of everything we make and everything we know.”—Claudia Luke

Luke said, “Americans are, by and large, uninformed and misinformed. The challenge is that students entering college have had very little contact with the natural world.”  Luke shared that partnerships of the public, private and education sectors that encourage investigation, outdoor learning, and place-based learning are key. To accelerate water education, Sonoma State University’s (SSU) Water Collaborative links faculty advancement to community engagement. SSU also offers Watershed Year, a freshman course founded by the National Science Center for Sustainable Communities.

Water Management Innovation

Sometimes innovation means using existing technologies and resources differently…connecting previously unconnected dots. Water management is complex. Surface water, recycled water, groundwater and water conservation all need to be addressed. “Groundwater plays an important role in building resiliency,” said Stillman. Sonoma County Water Agency’s strategy includes combining storm water management and groundwater recharge; a groundwater banking schematic, which includes aquifer, storage and recovery; and forecast-informed reservoir operations.

Same Quality. Same Output. A lot less water.

Rixey of Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma shared two vital water-aspects of beer making: water quality and water availability. The majority of the brewery’s costs are tied to wastewater, rather than incoming water. For example, Lagunitas spends $26k per month on incoming water and $180k per month on wastewater removal. They analyzed their processes to see where water is being wasted. And they reduced their wastewater loading by 70% using Cambrian Innovation’s EcoVolt technology. They’ll recoup their multi-million dollar investment in 1.5 years. Not bad. Win/win. Save money. Use less water. Create less wastewater. And achieve the same or greater high-quality output.

In Conclusion …

This very long article is only the tip of the conference-berg. I could write a tome. There were many astounding keynotes, boardroom sessions, and 10-minute breakouts. The entire day was abuzz with productive conversations among new and old friends.

The Sustainable Enterprise Conference, now in its tenth year, exuded sustainability through every pore. Oren Wool, the conference’s director, made certain that all the finer details were lovingly attended to. The meals were organic, fresh and delicious. The wine and beer were superb, along with the tea provided by Guayaki. Gary Tharler, LMT, of Touch and Go Massage (corporate massage) provided free neck and shoulder massages. A diverse trade show that covered everything from Sunspeed Enterprises, a company building solar-powered Electric Vehicle charging stations along Highway 1, to RSF Social Finance company and one of the authors of The Resilient Investor: A Plan for Your Life, Not Just Your Money, Christopher Peck…and more. Christine Walker of SeeShape Visual Thinking added another soulful touch as she drew the big ideas being shared by the keynote speakers. Glorious!


P.S. A Few More Morsels from the Conference

  • Trending: a flight to quality and a demand for transparency
  • “We have to be resilient and rigorous in how we maintain our focus.”— (Blair Kellision, Traditional Medicinals)
  • Sustainability is where the environment, social and economics intersect.
  • There are 18 million companies in U.S. and 90% of them have 1-100 employees.
  • “80% of life is just showing up.” (Blair Kellison, Traditional Medicinals)
  • Top 2 issues: Income equality and climate change
  • “We are each the problem and we are each the solution.” (Blair Kellison, Traditional Medicinals)
  • “Who must do the really hard work? Those who can. Can you?” (Traditional Medicinals)
  • Website: SustainableInnovations.com
  • Book: The Good Company by Robert Girling, PhD, cofounder of the Sustainable Enterprise Conference. (And stay tuned for Dr. Girling’s forthcoming book, The Good Company in Hospitality, Tourism and Wine.)
  • “We’ve streamlined everything we do and have almost no waste because we’re ‘really cheap,’ and want to keep costs down. Little things make a huge difference.” (Tara Sharp, Sonic).
  • “Constantly be questioning and evaluating everything you eat and pay for. Every time you purchase something, you’re voting/investing.” (Tara Sharp, Sonic)
  • “We’re the little company that’s trying to disrupt the space that’s screwing everyone over.”(Tara Sharp on Sonic)
  • “We’re too happy, too comfortable. We’re in a bubble. Step out. People are still very disconnected from it [sustainability, the environment, the reality] and we have to make the connection stronger.” (Charlie Stauffer, Nordex Wind Farms)
  • “Everybody should be nice. Our entire culture is about being nice. The culture of nice. The impact of ‘nice’ is astounding.”(Tara Sharp, Sonic)
  • Mobile App: GoodGuide

How Much Support Does Your Organization’s Leadership Give You?

no_listeningI shared with one of my friends who is passionate and extremely savvy about organizational development that I felt that I had failed in my last leadership role in a nonprofit. Frankly, things went to hell and I couldn’t find my footing again. It was anarchy, rebellion, and complete dysfunction. And I took full responsibility.

Then my friend asked me why I felt that I had failed. Hadn’t she heard me the first time? So I repeated my story, this timehead_in_the_sand with more details of my failure. Then she asked me if I had had the full support of the leadership (in this case, the Board of Directors). Absolutely not. In fact, the leadership disregarded, dismissed and undermined me at every turn.

“Jennifer, without the leadership’s support, there was no way you could succeed in your role.”

I just stared at her for a few minutes. while what she had shared sank in.

“Oh,” was all I could muster.

She shared some of her own challenges directing large nonprofits.. I felt lighter.

Then I thought of my work for another nonprofit, the board president of which was completely supportive of my new initiatives and innovative ideas. He gave me his full attention, responded quickly and quietly, and we were able to accomplish more in 2-months than the organization had accomplished in a decade. That was the difference.

So I learned two big lessons:

#1: Pay attention to the leadership of the organization, before I take the position. Make sure there is alignment of goals and the willingness to do whatever it takes to change, in order to move forward.

#2. Success is never a one person outcome. Nor is failure. Maintain perspective. Do my best. And, if I do find myself in a no-win position, know that it’s time to walk away. (Unless their behavior is so egregious that it’s hurting and deceiving the organization and its stakeholders. Then it is time to muster all the moral courage I’ve got and blow the whistle. (Yet another nonprofit experience.)

Happy Thanksgiving!


Take the holidays one moment at a time.

Refuse to be in a hurry.

 Let no kindness go unnoticed.

 Relax. Enjoy. Blaze new trails. Stay safe.

Remember you are never alone.

 Reframe where needed.

Soak in the beauty.

 And wrap yourself up in all the joy and love swirling about.

Put a gorgeous bow on your head.

And give yourself to everyone who needs you.

What is your triple?

I’ve analyzed the areas at home that breed chaos if not attended—the areas that, when diligently attended to, keep everything else running smoothly—laundry, trash and dishes. When the trash is stinky or overflowing, the dirty laundry is piling up or the clean laundry is not put away, and the dishes are in the sink, remain in the dish drainer, or stay in the dishwasher, then operations clog, the environment tanks, and it’s difficult to get anything done (ever try to cook a meal when the stove, counters and sink are filled with dirty dishes?).

I’ve put this theory to the test and sure enough, when the laundry, trash and dishes are taken care of, things run much more smoothly. The house tends to stay in order. There is less procrastination in other areas, too. And everyone feels better.

What are the key areas in your business that keep your company house in order? Observe people. Observe yourself. What frustrations or obstructions do you encounter repeatedly at work? What is keeping your company, division or team from being more efficient and productive? What drags on morale?

The answers might be simpler than you think.

The Anti-Me

Lately, I’ve been paying attention to those mental suggestions that keep me from beginning what I need to begin. It doesn’t matter if that something is a report, a painting,  emptying the dishwasher, a list of thank you notes that need writing, cleaning the bathrooms, a jog, crafting a business plan, writing that book … you get the gist.

We are all capable of more than we do.

—Mary Baker Eddy

I call those thoughts that would keep me from doing what I need to do the anti-me. Here is my shortlist of  anti-me suggestions, aka inertia.

1. Time. The misconception is that I don’t have the big chunks of time I need for a particular project or activity. Bologna! Begin. Unused moments flood our days. Use them. Often, when I’ve overcome this inertia—when I begin—I’ve found the project takes far less time than I imagined it would, or the way opens up to get my project done. Begin.

2.  Perfectionism. I cannot begin this project because I don’t know everything I need to know yet to do it. I want it to be so wonderful and perfect, that I dare not begin. This has to be perfect; I must impress everybody. Perfectionism is a problem. So often, we are praised for it but it is the anti-me. . Let go of perfectionism. Embrace intelligence, curiosity, trust, reality. Begin.

3.  Mañana complex. Tomorrow. Some day. When I retire. When I win the lotto. When my ship comes in. No. Begin. We waste so much mental real estate trying to keep track of everything we need to do tomorrow.

4. Revolving door policy. Everything is a high priority. I’m needed to solve every problem. Because other people say it is an emergency, it is an emergency. I need to be accessible to others all the time. I cannot live without my phone. Ever feel like a pingpong ball on the ocean … moved whichever way the winds and currents you? Value your time. Guard it. Begin.

These are just a few of the types of anti-me suggestions that would keep us from beginning our most important and joyful work. When we’re alert to suggestions that would obstruct, delay or deprive us … when we begin in direct opposition to the anti-me, surprising things happen.

As I practice beginning, there is a lot more grace … more flow to my days. There seems to be more time and more joy, too. And … I’m looking forward to learning more!


Beyond Desire for Success … Willingness!

Backstabbing, open attacks, passive aggressive behavior, criticism, anarchy, hijacking, subterfuge, deafheartedness, petulance, constant interrupting, and lack of vision. Recalcitrant focus on administrative details and time-sucking decision-making  about things of no real import that keep the organization mired in yesterday. Moving forward feels like trying to run in jello. The historical track laid is the elephant in the room. Yes, there are glimpses of light on occasion … a few breakthroughs. But these seem fleeting and then it’s back to business as usual.

Sound familiar?

After several such experiences, I decided it was time to think more deeply about the aforementioned dysfunction. I had experienced it too many times—in both leadership and team support positions—to believe that it was particular to a certain group of people. As I was pondering, the proverbial lightbulb appeared over my head:

Wanting something wonderful isn’t enough. We need to be willing to have something wonderful, which means we need to be willing to change individual and collective behaviors that are holding us back. Without this willingness, we can want something with our whole hearts but to no avail.

People often express their sincere desires to have an effective, outreaching organization, but I often see very little, if any, willingness to change behavior in order to achieve this. In fact, I often see a re-entrenchment of the behavior that led to the monotone and monochrome mediocrity that had been standard before the opportunity to rethink or change was presented.

“What am I willing to have?” and “What do I want?” are two very different questions.

I began to examine my thinking and actions to see if they lined up with what I desire. I also looked closely for indications that, although I desired certain things, I had thinking/behavior that was obstructing the way.

I asked myself, “How am I behaving—thinking, acting, conducting myself—that indicates an unwillingness to have what I actually want? I have a vision, but what am I willing to do differently or let go of to realize it?

I’m learning that desire is not enough. Without the willingness to change behavior, desire is a mere specter.  And … I’m so grateful for my experiences with these organizations … for the lessons learned. Yes, it seemed bleak and traumatizing when in the midst of the fray. And, yes, I often felt like I was failing the organization because I didn’t identify the core problem of unwillingness to rethink thoughts and behaviors … individually and collectively. I assumed that if people wanted something better, of course they would understand inner change must occur before a real, positive outer change could take place.

I will be very careful before I accept another leadership role. I’m still sorting through the last one. Do people who say they want to create a wonderful organization really want to do the real work—the self-examination, the humility to rethink and behave differently, the willingness to be honest with themselves and others, and to focus on the collective vision, rather than their own personal agendas? I’m sure that these experiences will continue to unfurl new insights and lessons for a long time yet.

Admittedly, I’m a little gun shy after my last foray. But I’ve learned not to assume anything.  I’ve learned to interview the organization as much or more than the organization interviews me and to ask better questions before  I accept the position. And I’ve learned that it really is vital to get the right people on the bus in the right seats, and the wrong people off the bus, if things are going to move forward.

The big question for me is:

How do I address the core issue of being unwilling to reconsider thoughts and behaviors, both individually and collectively?

I am going to begin by examining my own thinking and behaviors, and making sure I am willing to do what it takes. As for the rest, stay tuned.


Divine Spontaneity and ‘Inner-vation’

Divine Spontaneity … by divine I mean supremely good, intuitive, inspired, visionary, positive, all-inclusive, loving, and so much more. Rigidity, personal policies, inflexibility, business as usual, and train track thinking are the opposite of Divine Spontaneity. And they obstruct true innovation.

Divine Spontaneity is the key to Inner-vation—that sacred place where innovation begins … in usInner-vation often comes in whispers, rather than at full volume. It tiptoes and sashays, rather than marches. We will miss it, if we do not consciously commit to being divinely spontaneous. And this directly relates to our spiritual adventure and growth.

Personal and behavioral policies, thought grooves, could also be called “Always and Never Thinking.” I always do this. I never do this. But what if the exigency of a situation requires us to reach for a fresh and immediate response that violates our always and never mediocrity? When we adhere to Always-and-NeverThinking, we are limiting our experience, capping our ability to innovate, and building our own prison cell. 

Every moment presents the opportunity for spontaneity. Spontaneity is openness and freshness, receptivity,  responsiveness, creativity and pragmatism. The minute we forfeit this Divine Spontaneity, we become entrenched and slip on our cement shoes. We slog along instead of sprint and spring forth.

There are so many ways to remind ourselves to be divinely spontaneous … and there are many, many ways to stimulate and feed our spontaneity. We will each have our own style, but the point is to do it without fail everysingleday.

For example, one of the ways I feed my Divine Spontaneity is make sure I get some deep quiet every morning. I have made this my top priority. I cannot function without it. Another is that I expand my horizons with a variety of thinkers. And I ask questions to make sure that I’m not running on assumptions, policies, or Always and Never Thinking. The clue that I’m entrenched in train-track-thinking emerges when I keep experiencing the same difficulties or problems over and over and over. Of course, there are times I go on automatic and think checking a lot off my to-do list is my top priority. When I slip up, I’m miserable pretty quickly, recalibrate and begin again. It’s a mostly upward spiral of learning. The more I practice Divine Spontaneity, the faster I become miserable when I am off track.

What made me ponder Divine Spontaneity was an article in the local paper about formulating policies for interacting with the homeless. Always do this … never do that. I found it abhorrent. What if it’s right to do something else? We must respond to one another. Policies allow us to forfeit our responsibility to respond, while destroying the benefits we get from responding spontaneously. I (and probably many others) could regale you with stories of how Divine Spontaneity helped others and how the lack thereof hurt people.

Curiosity and receptivity to good … to consider things in a fresh light … and to listen deeply to others feed Divine Spontaneity, too. And this Divine Spontaneity then feeds Inner-vation which then inspires Innovation of the right sort.





One Life

How many lives do we have? Why do we compartmentalize, fragment and separate our one life into two lives—professional and personal? How would we feel and act if we stopped separating the two and claimed one seamless life … with the same core values and passion and curiosity and love whether we were at home or work or on vacation or out with friends or … or … or?

I’ve been conducting an experiment for some time now. One life. This means that I have poured as much affection, interest, care and art into my work as I have into my family and friends and home. It also means that I am as curious and innovative at home as I am at work. You get the gist. There is no tear or gap between who I am at work and home (or anywhere else, for that matter). Geographical coordinates, building architecture, the people I’m with and other descriptors … none of these affect my sincerity, desire to communicate well, gratitude, affection, curiosity or care.

Doesn’t it make sense … this one seamless life? Whyonearth would we be willing to spend more than a third of our lives at work believing that we cannot express affection or experience love in a professional setting? And why would we go on automatic pilot at home and quit seeing challenges as opportunities to innovate? Doesn’t this separate-lives-view smack of hypocrisy? Why are we so afraid to let people get to know us at work? Or why would treat our family with less consideration and follow-through than we do our colleagues?

Let’s quit compartmentalizing our professional and personal realms and claim one beautiful life and seek to live, be and see seamlessly for more happiness and love … for better relationships and richer opportunities. Yes, it takes discipline, alertness and focus, but it’s worth it. And let’s make sure to allow others to do the same. Let’s make room for the people in our LIFE to be themselves and excel.