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Designing Outrageously Successful Projects – a Powerful Tool for Powerdown.

Rob Hopkins, Transition Culture
We were delighted at Transition Town Totnes recently to be able to host a one-day workshop for our group facilitators with John Croft from the Gaia Foundation of Western Australia on his model for the structure for the design of “outrageously successful projects”. John has studied thousands of groups and projects and tried to identify what works and what doesn’t work, observing why some projects work and others get stuck. The tools and insights he offered were very powerful and have given us a powerful approach that we will try and integrate into what we are doing.

He calls it Dragon Dreaming, and it is a tool to help a project through Four Stages; dreaming, planning, doing and evaluation/celebration. It offers great insight into where projects get stuck and the antidotes to it.
(19 Feb 2007)

Towards a Worldbuilding Pattern Language

Heath Rezabek, WorldChanging
A Pattern Language is a unique work in the realm of built design, because its singular goal is to empower individuals and small communities to tackle monumental works through a commonly understood toolkit for building places at all scales.

What is a Pattern Language?

“The elements of this language are entities called Patterns. Each Pattern describes a problem which occurs over and over again in our environment, and then describes the core of the solution to that problem, in such a way that you can use this solution a million times over, without ever doing it the same way twice.” – A Pattern Language, C.A., p.x

A Pattern Language describes the intense interrelation between acts of building which happen, each in response to those around it. Each Pattern names a spatial context, a problem, and a solution which resolves the conflicts at work there. In many cases, the name of the pattern itself conveys a directive version of its solution (ie, “Main Gateway” or “Roof Garden”).

The built world did not pop into being at random; a door is a door (and is also a rudimentary pattern) because of the human events which shaped its form (in this example, the act of entering and exiting a space was then developed into a solution to the problem of keeping elements out and warmth in). “This does not mean that space creates events, or that it causes them,” writes Alexander. “It simply means that a pattern of events cannot be separated from the space where it occurs.” (The Timeless Way of Building, p72-73).

In many ways, Alexander is suggesting that form and function or style and substance cannot be so easily disentangled as we would believe. If we understand this, then we can understand why the character of a given neighborhood is so difficult to restore once it is destroyed: to destroy a neighborhood’s forms (houses, etc) is very much to destroy its functions (communities, etc). Before the decimation of old-growth neighborhoods in the latter half of the 20th century, the interwoven patterns of behavior which governed a cafe below an apartment, or a small park by a school, or a home with a garden of one’s own, were everywhere. They had taken years to build up, each in response to the ones around it.

A single highway, built to carry the cars which brought on much of our present climate crisis, also cut swaths through intricate urban environments. We understand this much. But as we race against unsustainability to restore the urban environments we clearcut, we are forgetting that the new places we build will impact their environments and neighborhoods just as massively as our highways did.
(17 Feb 2007)
As we think about new structures for a post-oil age, the book A Pattern Language should be required reading. The concepts, once one sees them illustrated, are intuitively obvious – they describe places that one would like to live. The books themselves (there are several) are a pleasure to page through. Author’s website. Another group has produced an online summary of Pattern Language. -BA

GOP strategist Frank Luntz argues enviros are failing — and they’re mean to boot

Amanda Griscom Little, Grist
Frank Luntz, the famed Republican pollster and messaging consultant who helped to shape Newt Gingrich’s 1994 Contract With America, thinks environmentalists are mean.
The author of a new guidebook on politically effective language, Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear, Luntz is credited with popularizing use of the phrase “death tax” in lieu of “estate tax.” He became notorious in environmental circles in 2003 for a leaked memo [PDF] he wrote telling Republicans how to green their image. He advised them to tout their love of national parks, and to say “conservationist” instead of “environmentalist,” as Luntz believes the latter word reeks of political extremism. He also told Republicans to “make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate” over climate change, because “[s]hould the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly.”

…To find out why Luntz thinks enviros have an attitude problem, and how he thinks green messaging could be made smarter, I recently interviewed him while he was speeding in a cab toward the Los Angeles airport.

Luntz: …The problem the environmental community has is they don’t listen to their opponents. When I do my research, I spend more time studying the opposition argument because that’s what I need to respond to. The environmental community never listens. If they listened, they would have realized very early on that they would find common ground with other allies.

…Q: … Let’s say John McCain were asking you to advise a plan of action.

Luntz: The No. 3 point is the polar bears — they’re this generation’s spotted owl. They’re the previous generation’s bald eagle. Another animal that people can see, one that they have a soft side for, and the animal, the species, is under threat.

No. 2 is what Al Gore did, when you show people, when it’s visual, when they can see it. Basically what his movie is, it’s 30 different vignettes of exactly the same thing said in a very different way. And each one lasts about three minutes long, and you see sometimes it’s America-based, sometimes it’s international, sometimes it’s maps, sometimes it’s live footage, but it’s the same story that people can see. They gotta see it, not just hear it or read about it.

And then the No. 1 thing is to have a plan for a solution that is embracing rather than divisive. It’s not enough to complain and rant. The No. 1 thing is to have a solution for the problems that they identify.

Q: In your book, you say efficiency is one of the most effective words in the environmental realm or politics in general. And you’ve also advocated conservationist over environmentalist. What are some other words that you see as particularly strategic?

Luntz: Energy independence. Energy self-sufficiency. Energy security. Energy diversity.

Q: So these are words that connect the environment to other issues?

Luntz: Correct. I think in fact that the whole issue of environment would be much better sold, much better communicated, if it were done from an energy standpoint than from an environmental standpoint.
(31 Jan 2007)
Emphasis added.

Luntz is a master of persuasion and propaganda, one of the reasons that the Right has controlled the political agenda in the U.S. for decades. In comparison, liberals and environmentalists are babes in the woods.

To promote a message of sustainability (or peak oil or global warming), it’s critical to learn from talented practitioners such as Luntz. As he rightly says: listen to your opponents – self-rightousness is no substitute for skill and knowledge.

I note that this story from Grist was picked up by MSNBC. Congratulations Amanda and Grist. -BA