Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Dancing With The (Sustainable Event) Stars?

Coming to the end of Season 13 of Dancing with the Stars it dawns on me: The sustainable event world could learn a little from Ricki Lake, Rob Kardashian and J.R. Martinez.

Yes, I confess I'm a fan. Ever since I was a kid I've been a sucker for dance musicals: Annie, Flashdance, Footloose, Strictly Ballroom, all the way through Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dance and Charm School. Even an occasional episode of Glee. So a TV show where I could watch someone learn how to become Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers? Well, history tells me I'm likely to be a goner for that.

This year's end of season finale had me in a conundrum though. Who could you possibly pick for the Mirrorball Trophy? I mean you have tough options:
  • Rob Kardashian, a come-from-behind guy who had two left feet when he started, living in the familial shadow of far more famous entertainers, who worked hard and found his rhythm to improve beyond anyone's expectations.
  • Ricki Lake, a keen, technically proficient, hard-working woman determined not to quit until it was a perfect 10, listening and adjusting to every bit of judge's critique thrown her way.
  • J.R. Martinez, a war hero with enough charisma and charm to inspire an audience to its feet with a simple, refined and smoothly executed basic step.
Most improved, most technical, most charismatic.

And it dawns on me: this is a metaphor for sustainable events. We reach for continuous improvement. We look critically for high technical proficiency. We are inspired by stories of success in overcoming challenges. Finding all of these together is not easy. But is one more worthy to 'win' than the others? I don't think so.

All three could be winners. All three really are winners.

So what is most important for sustainable events? Improvement? Technical proficiency and consistency? Charisma? They all matter, but in some respects who cares? Let's just get out on the dance floor, start moving and find our rhythm.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011


Today police are searching a town about an hour's drive from were I live for a stabbing suspect. Was there a domestic dispute you ask? Or maybe some kind of gang activity?


A man asked a group of people to pick up some litter they'd tossed beside a garbage can on a street corner. And when they didn't do as asked, he went to do it himself and was assaulted.

Shocking. Sad. Would I walk up to a group of four people and ask them to do the same? I'm not so sure. And if I did, I confess I'd be scared. Scared about what acting on my values might risk, and how it might hurt me.

With all we demand of people who put what is responsible, ethical and sustainable first it strikes me in this and other examples that what we need most of all these days is fearlessness. Fearlessness to say:
  • There is a better way to do things.
  • This is not okay with me.
  • This is causing harm, is unfair or irresponsible.
  • You have a role to play in making it better.
Last night Paul Hawken addressed the Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver with a sobering statement:

Hope less -- What we need now is fearlessness because times are so extraordinary.

In today's world where you risk so much standing up for your values, are you prepared to be fearless? What does that look like to you?