I remember first hearing the term sustainability while a student at the University of Oregon in 1994. I directed my urban planning studies towards the implementation of sustainable practices and have actively worked to make the vision of a sustainable Los Angeles reality every since I returned here in 1997.
Over the last 16 years, I have watched the term sustainability migrate from the margins into the mainstream of society. I have also witnessed numerous organizations emerge to work on this issue. Over the last six years, I’m proud to have consulted for a wide variety of these organizations that play a key role in transforming LA into a sustainable city with alternative transportation, parks, community gardens, affordable housing, revitalized rivers and so much more.
Here is what I have learned: meaningful change transitioning LA towards sustainability is made by effective organizations. Effective organizations start with strong leadership. The leadership needs to achieve consensus on where they will collectively focus the organization’s energy. They need to use their time wisely in meetings and make decisions. They need to follow through on their commitments.
Successful organizations are intentional about building their own capacity. They recognize the value of having an outside facilitator work with their leadership to develop a retreat agenda and then facilitate the meeting. They support their leaders with training and coaching. They invest in building their own organization in the areas of fundraising, board development and strategic planning.
While there seems to be general agreement that this type of capacity building work should occur, too often organizations fail to prioritize this work or lack the resources to implement it. Yet, when organizations to invest in this work in my experience, it leads to improved results. The good news is that it doesn’t cost that much to invest in this sort of work (most of my facilitation, training and coaching projects with clients designed to enhance their organization’s effectiveness fall between $1,000 and $10,000).
If you’re affiliated with an organization working on sustainability (whether as staff, a board member, volunteer or donor), I encourage you to assess your organization. Is it as effective as it can be? Are there any issues or challenges holding it back? Are you achieving the results you want at the pace you need them to occur? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then I encourage you to contact me so we can discuss ways in which I might be able to support your work.