On May 11th, I attended the Sustainable Enterprise Conference in Rohnert Park, California. This conference has become a vibrant event in Sonoma County that fosters innovation and cultural change toward sustainability. Businesses, government and nonprofits are represented in this conference which presents both the best practices as well as the challenges ahead to create a sustainable economy and healthy community in northern California.
I have attended the conference in previous years and the program continues to be rich and energizing. It is one of those events where you can get inspiration and remember that “we are not alone” in the path to create a better future.
For me, the most valuable experiences were during the breaks and transitions between sessions: it is in the unstructured spaces when I met new people, reconnected with friends and colleagues, and learned about new opportunities. During lunch, for instance, I was part of a fascinating conversation about the emerging narrative in this community: everybody is telling a piece of the story, each project, initiative, organization is contributing something to our common future. The power of coming together resides in the commitment to learn from each other, to connect and create synergy, and to start to grasp the emerging possibilities beyond our control.
From an organizational systems perspective, I saw the opportunity to create more spaces for intentional dialogue. Yes, there is a lot of interaction and the event, by nature, provides wonderful networking opportunities. But what are the questions that we need to explore together? What are the lessons that are relevant for all? What are the patterns that are emerging and that can support and guide our next steps?
And then, there is the challenge of transforming an annual learning event into an ongoing learning process. What can happen throughout the year, from one conference to the next, that is informed and catalyzed by the conference itself? How do we start to weave the integration of the multitude of initiatives?
In a recent post on his blog “Worldshift Notebook,” Ervin Laszlo wrote:
“Cooperation on the global level is a new requirement in the history of our civilization, and we are not prepared for it. Our institutions and organizations were designed to protect their own interests in competition with others; the need for them to join together in the shared interest has been limited to territorial aspirations and defense, and to economic gain in selected domains. The will to cooperate in globally cooperative projects that subordinate immediate self-interest to the vital interests of a wider community is still lacking in the political and economic domains.”
The manifold sustainability initiatives in Sonoma County give me hope that we may be ready to take the risk for deep collaboration. I hope that the Sustainable Enterprise Conference continues to play a key role in creating the convergence and facilitating the synergy to curate a sustainable culture in northern California.