“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
I was reminded of this famous quote by anthropologist Margaret Mead last week, reading the story of how the Danish island of Samsø has gone renewable and become an energy exporter.
The CleanTechnica article “Introducing Samsø, A 100% Wind-Powered Island” detailed not only WHAT had been done – it also gave some fascinating insight into the HOW. It told us something of the skilled process of innovation adoption applied by a local farmer and environmental studies teacher.
The HOW of Samsø’s ‘mid-course correction’…
‘ … Soren Hermansen … took up the cause. He spent months going to community meetings and talking up renewables.
The key, according to Hermansen, was to convince Samsingers to participate themselves. “There was a certain fear that the project was just another hippie bureaucracy project sent out by some smart Copenhagen top-down politicians and consultants,” Hermansen told RMI. “My job was to tear these presumptions apart and break it down to daily things that related to everyone in one way or another.”
He coined a term “commonity”— a combination of community and commons—which he referred to in his persuasive discussions with the locals to get them on board with the idea of becoming investors in local energy resources.
By owning the turbines themselves, people didn’t feel as if the technology was imposed on them, but that they were making a smart business choice. They also came to realize the benefits that the green development would bring to the island as far as new jobs, new businesses, and increased business from more visitors. The island’s tourism website … includes a major section on Samsø as a renewable energy island.’
Generative innovation is a practice
As Peter Denning and Bub Dunham point out in their excellent handbook The Innovator’s Way, successful innovation is the adoption of a practice by a community.
This is the real work of sustainability change agents – work that moves beyond fear, threat and obligation to deliver immediate, tangible benefits to individuals, communities, ecosystems and economies.
First and foremost, Hermansen practiced deep listening, to understand the concerns and drivers of the community. With this knowledge, he could craft an honest, rewarding offer to the community. He could practice and perfect a communication and engagement process about the benefits that ‘green development’ would bring – at a real world, individual level.
Like Ray Anderson and Jim Harzfeld of Interface, engineer Allan Jones MBE in his work at Woking, Steve Morriss of Australia’s Close the Loop and many other smart influencers, Hermansen is another skilled innovator influencing his way to a regenerative future.
No superheros, just skilled communicators delivering results…
Innovation adoption is now a known process with an identifiable skill set
primarily rooted in the art of conversation.
It’s increasingly understood that “If you can talk, you can change the world“. Think globally, learn the principles of regenerative business, start practicing the fundamental conversations of innovation adoption and then start looking for the opportunities on your doorstep.
If you’re not sure where to start, here’s my list of starting points.