Where have all the simple problems gone? It seems that every group I work with these days is dealing with long-term, often intractable problems. Water management, ag land preservation, housing, climate change, and rural economic resilience all challenge the very way we think about problems and solutions. Multiple layers of complexity often obscure both the obvious and the not-so-obvious.
So what can we do? Clearly it is not enough to simply walk away from these complex challenges, nor is it enough to adopt simple fixes that often have unintended impacts as damaging as the problem itself. One answer is to use some of the tools from systems thinking.
I remember clearly the day I stepped into the role of president at Ag Innovations almost 13 years ago. My good friend and mentor, Michael Dimock, had handed me the reins so he could move to create great things at Roots of Change. I knew one thing then that is still true today. The work of Ag Innovations mattered and was worth fighting for. In the more than a decade since, Ag Innovations has worked at the heart of food and agricultural issues from pesticides to land use, from farm bill to farm stands--always with same promise, we help unstick stuck problems. Today I have the honor of passing the reins to the next generation at Ag Innovations.
Tags: Joseph McIntyre
Our problems today are shared. They're complex, interdependent and systemic. Where we face challenges in our food system and natural environment, Ag Innovations brings leaders together to move the needle.
Groups often hire facilitators to help them find a sense of certainty and a clear path forward through terrain that, in reality, can offer neither. So how do we serve our clients while also being true to the conditions of the challenges they are facing? One tool that we at Ag Innovations find incredibly useful is the process described by Otto Scharmer of MIT in Theory U.
It’s been four years since Sonoma County’s landmark Healthy & Sustainable Food Action Plan (FAP) became the Sonoma County Food System Alliance's shared vision for the local food system. Last month, over 200 food, farming, and community leaders came together to celebrate the progress made since the adoption of the FAP, and to shape the next phase of action and implementation.
Join us on May 2, as we co-host systems thinking pioneer David Peter Stroh at Sonoma State University. During this evening event he'll share his insights into what systems thinking is, how systems work, and how to use systems thinking to better understand and plan your change efforts. Whether you work for policy reform, on food and farming systems, or other work that seeks to affect change, we believe that there will be lessons for all to glean.
This is the first of two posts on how we work with the persistent stories that often shape the contours of the projects we faciliate. In this article, we look at the stories themselves. In our Spring Innovation Newswire we will look at how we work with them.
One of the most consistent challenges we face in working with stakeholders are concepts and stories that come to be accepted as 'givens'. These stories/concepts become the boundaries around which what is thought be possible must be constructed.
California's drought has surfaced multiple conflicting narratives--ag uses too much water, urban users waste water, or environmental interests are preventing solutions. When mixed together, these conflicting narratives can lead to only one place--gridlock.
Many of these narratives are stereotypes--generalizations about the character of other stakeholders that shape the way we think and feel about them. They tend to be based on our ideas about others and not direct experience.
Every day, a growing number of people come to realize how the changing climate is affecting (and will affect) our lives, economy, health, and environment. Though our solutions must include bold steps to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, we must also prepare for the coming crises - that preparation is called climate adaptation. Incidentally, that preparation also brings a host of other benefits that help our community, the natural world, and our society, thrive.
We are in an age of worthy challenges, interdependent and complex, that demand a new kind of leadership. Visionaries have realized that the only way they can really make effective change on these important issues is that they must collaborate.
Ag Innovations is pleased to announce that three of our most respected colleagues have recently joined our Board of Directors: climate scientist Juliet Christian-Smith, PhD from the Union of Concerned Scientists; retired USEPA water expert Jovita Pajarillo; and natural resources management consultant Mark Rentz. These additions bring a high degree of expertise and credibility to our governing body, providing valuable guidance, advice, and oversight during a period of exciting growth and transition at Ag Innovations.
- We're Hiring! Seeking a Talented Senior Facilitator to round out our team!
- We're Hiring: Senior Facilitator
- Current Ag Innovations Roundtables and Projects:
- Systems Thinking for Intractable Problems: From Problem-Solving to Emergence-Seeking
- From Forests to Farms: a Learning Journey with California Water Action Collaborative (CWAC)
- When Water Works with Fire: FireSmart Lake Sonoma
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2014 Salon Series: Finding Higher Ground
Joseph McIntyre, President of Ag Innovations, discusses how to move collaborations to action. Part of Ag Innovations' 'Salon Series' targeted to bring resources to leaders and food system advocates.
2014 Salon Series: Food 'System' Thinking
This Ag Innovations 'Salon' introduces viewers to the concept of systems thinking and how it can assist leaders in developing more effective and durable solutions.
2014 Salon Series: Using Teams Effectively
Groups who can effectively deploy action-oriented teams and committees can increase their impact in the community and more quickly achieve their goals. Watch this Ag Innovations 'Salon' On team effectiveness, through the lens of local food advocacy groups, to learn how to improve your collaboration.