Learning to Dance: Discussing Ways to Improve Partnerships for Sustainability

“When Giants Learn To Dance” was the title of Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s classic book about how corporations can be giants and innovators. Guy Clark’s muscial advice is “You got to dance like nobody’s watchin”. But what if you are a large corporation, your dance is sustainability, and everyone is your dance partner and wants you to dance to their tune – your employees, shareholders, customers, and neighbors? This is the topic I’d like us to discuss during the 2010 Solutions Labs.

Last year I attended the DC Unconference organized by EDF, Ashoka and the Green Innovation in Business Network as part of a series across the country. The conference topic is driving green innovation in business. An ‘unconference’ is different from a traditional conference in that the agenda is created by participants at the beginning of the day. Anyone can bid to run a session as long as people are interested in attending it and most sessions are moderated discussions rather than presentations. As you can imagine, it is pretty free form and I found that invigorating.

This year the series has been renamed Solutions Labs 2010 and is running in nine locations across the country. They are a great opportunity for corporate responsibility practitioners to gain input from a broad range of stakeholders from outside of the corporation.

I am interested in using the opportunity presented by the Labs to explore the relationship between corporations and civil society on sustainability – the sustainability dance. Are those relationships well positioned to deliver sustainable solutions and behavior? (We might think for example about the contrasting relationships between the company and the employee, the shareholder and the customer). What changes would we like to see in the corporations themselves and in the relationships between the corporations and the stakeholder to accelerate positive change.

I am hoping to encourage attendees at different events across the country to run and attend sessions on that theme and record and post the findings. It will be valuable to build on each-other’s findings and also to identify commonalities and contrasts and see if we can explain them. We have some volunteers to lead sessions already and I will be running a session myself in DC on May 27th.

Are you attending a Solutions Lab in your city? Would you be interested in leading a session on these topics and collaborating in posting and comparing the outcomes? Leave a comment below and include your name and location if you would like to lead or help with a session, or add your name to the Wiki. The potential for diversity of approaches promises to be one of the most valuable and exciting aspects of the event series but for those who want it, we will prepare some questions to help leaders frame the discussion.

Full details for the series and how to register at Solutions Labs 2010 (and yes that is a photo of me from last year’s event. Don’t worry, I’m not dancing!)


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