Pre-thesis update on my course, with references

Below is a copy of an email that I just sent to some of the people back home who are working on sustainabilty-related issues. If you want any of the attachments I mentioned, or want to be put on the list to receive some of these more ‘professional’-type emails, let me know.

Oh, I just realised I should have metnioned in the email below how exceptionally good my marks have been!!! Am I allowed to be proud of that? – maybe the absence of any ‘tall-poppy syndrome’ amongst my classmates is starting to get to me : )

Check earlier posts for a bit of rundown on what I’m doing in Sweden: http://flowingmu.blogspot.com/2005_09_01_flowingmu_archive.html

Hi all, it has been a while since I’ve updated you on my course in Sweden, and my understanding sustainable development issues and solutions is much deeper and broader than last time I wrote. A quick overview of the coursework I completed is attached, with links to the program home page where you can find more information. Please contact me ifyou want further details or links for any of the topics, want copies of reports, or to get my thoughts on how these ideas might be applied back home.

Importantly, I am about to begin a thesis on a topic of my choice. I’m 90% committed to a thesis that will seek to answer questions about how to create, energise, maintain and grow networks for sustainability. I’ve had a range of ideas about how to explore the ideas I have encounte redregarding social and other networks, including testing their applicability to in different contexts e.g. projects, communities, ideas and businesses. As good fortune has it, our class was recentlysent a proposal ‘The Natural Step’ in France (by an ex-student of theprogram) to suggest new business models that may be useful for developing a network of community based partners with Interface for acarpet recycling network in Scandanavia! What they have sent us is intriguing and a little bit more about the idea can be foundat
http://www.interfaceinc.com/us/services/Reclamation/

If you are unfamiliar with Interface, they are the ‘prototypical company of the 21st century’ and pin-up corporation for the sustainability movement ( see http://www.interfacesustainability.com/and watch ‘The Corporation’) so this is a great opportunity. Although, I am on high alert to make sure that the lure of fame andfortune (ha!) will not affect how intellectually rigorous ourresearch is!

An earlier outline of my thoughts around the idea of networks is attached, and still forms the basis of my interest in this topic. Ifyou have any particular experiences, references, role models orcontacts that you can recommend from your own experience withnetworks, please pass them on! I will update you as we (myself and mytwo thesis collaborators, Richard and Miriam) develop our ideas further…hopefully in conjunction with Interface and The Natural Step.

Back to recapping on the first half of my course, I been able to investigate topics such as:

– ‘What would sustainability look like for whole region?’ I was inthe ‘Asia’ group and focused on the Koreas and Japan.
– ‘How could an organisation’s vision, values and strategic goals berewritten to be more congruent with sustainability?’ I was in a groupthat tackled Monsanto!
– ‘How could a detailed an understanding of the concept ofsustainable management of natural systems and increase theirresilience, contribute to creating a sustainable future’. Ithoroughly enjoyed this assignment, as it allowed me to explore newareas of interest in natural resource management and creatingsustainable, resilient socio-ecological systems.

…and have also sat in on presentations from my colleagues and tap their knowledge of whatever they investigated. This has allowed me to feel confident when asked about topics as diverse as: understanding complex social networks and how to use that knowledge to spreadchange, specific measures the WTO could introduce to make global trade fair, the best way to grow a learning culture in an organisation, and improvements that could be made to frameworks for carbon trading toactually meet reduction targets and minimise accelerated climate change! And that’s just the start….
The most remarkable thing is that despite the diversity ofbackgrounds, nationalities and interests, everyone in our class hasbeen able to communicate intelligently on these issues using ashared, scientific, principle-based understanding of sustainability.This has allowed us to see some ‘old’ issues in a new light, andidentify more intelligent, strategic ways to reaching agreement onthe right actions to get us heading in the right direction. This isin stark contrast to the usual arguing over people’s preferences forthe details of what is appropriate for their particular location, and misunderstandings between those of different disciplines.

The core concepts of our course (a scientific, principle-baseddefinition ofsustainability, and intelligent methods and frameworks for making ithappen), have made it easier to been able to interpret the mass ofinformation about various sustainability issues much faster than otherwise. Conversations with students of 4 similar programs across Sweden (during a recent fieldtrip) suggest that our program is unique in the way that ittakes a more ‘strategic’ approach to analysing the issues anddeveloping solutions. Applications are open ifanyone you know may be interested for next year’s course: visithttp://www.bth.se/tmslm

As a final note, I though I’d share a limited list some of the booksand resources that have been particular exciting for me over the past few months:

* Books: Economia (Geoff Davies), Linked (Alberto-Laszlo Barabasi),That Natural Advantage of Nations (Australian –www.naturaledgeproject.net), Permaculture – principles and pathways beyond sustainability (David Holmgren), Community Development (JimIfe), Hidden Connections (Fritjof Capra), One World (Peter Singer),The Fifth Discipline and another book called Presence (Peter Senge), Emergence (Steven Johnson)…

* Sources of policy and research papers: The Beijer Institute(
www.beijer.kva.se), The Resilience Alliance (www.resalliance.org -check their blog for great links to related topics), StockholmEnvironment Institute (www.sei.se), The Australia Institute(www.tai.org.au), and the Sustainability Institute (founded by Donella Meadows, and whose powerful pdf on points to intervene in a system is attached http://www.sustainabilityinstitute.org/)

* Online: CSIRO sustainability network and their fantastic newsletter(
http://www.bml.csiro.au/SNnewsletters.htm), Grist (www.grist.org),Worldchanging.com (http://www.worldchanging.com/), wirearchy (http://www.wirearchy.com/), Conservation Economy (http://www.conservationeconomy.net/), and the WA Collaboration with great links (http://www.wacollaboration.org.au/)

I look forward to keeping in touch throughout the new year, as part of trying to build and grow my own network for sustainability!

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