Mapping Dialogue

I traveled down to Calgary on the weekend to participate in the Viewpoints Alberta project which aimed to get the thoughts of a wide spectrum of Albertans about climate change, our energy future and what we need to share with the world when it gathers for COP 21 in Paris this week.  My role was to do some dialogue mapping.

An initiative propelled forward by a volunteer team led by Donna Kennedy-Glans, a former MLA and Associate Minister  of Electricity and Renewable Energy, Viewpoints Alberta gathered feedback online and in person.  I met Donna for the first time when she traveled to Fort McMurray to facilitate a discussion with a small group of us about what we would like to say in Paris during this conference that has the potential to be a watershed moment in the history of the planet.

Donna must have seen something in our brief visit that sparked her interest as she asked if I could contribute to the project by utilizing my artistic skills.  Her generous introduction of me to her team as an "artist, thought leader, humanitarian, former politician"caused a moment of pause when I first read it.

Who the hell is that?  I thought to myself, blushing gently.  But the truth of the matter is that I have grown into all those things having been immersed in several projects and processes that tackled wicked problems.

"How do you prepare for something like this?" asked my sister-in-law Kathryn.
 

In truth, I specifically didn't over prepare for the task of attempting to map the thoughts and views of the people throughout the province who raised their voices during this process.  


I did some preliminary sketches of some of the themes that seemed to emerge, thanks to the brilliant work of Quynn Phillips who had the delicate task of articulating patterns and synthesizing opinions without compromising or distorting the original contributions.  I really appreciated having him next to me during the debrief that happened yesterday around a dining table at Donna's house.

Quynn walked us through the long list of specific contributions which sparked incredible discussion and debate about what conclusions we could draw and how Donna can appropriately summarize when she adds our voices to the conversations that will ensue in the next couple of days across the Big Pond.


There were a couple of themes that emerged from this engagement process.  Generally, there is a recognition that change is coming with respect to our energy future with a inevitable growth in renewables and further efficiencies and improvements to our non-renewable energy stream.  Some are embracing this change, others feel that change is being thrust upon them.  There is also a wide spectrum of opinion as to how and when things needs to change.  Are we at the point that we need to hit the panic button or can we take a measured approach to making the transition from fossil fuels to renewables?

Based on the feedback that came in there is no collective vision of what our objective looks like.  What is that flag on top of the mountain that we are all working toward?

It was posited that one of two things is going to inspire the masses to make a meaningful shift to significantly slow the rate of global warming:  a catalyzing event or a big idea.  Ultimately, we need to get to a place where individuals, families, businesses, and organizations take accountability for their role in being a part of the solution.

I loved the idea of changing the language we use to describe this wicked problem.  Is this about making sacrifices in order to save the planet, or is this about energy mindfulness?  Thank you to Nola Bietz for that brilliant observation.  Looking at this through the lens of having to give something up is a lot less compelling than becoming mindful citizens of the planet.

This drawing is not meant to be definitive or representative of the opinions heard in a concise way.  Rather, it is meant to suggest patterns, themes, and a potential trajectory.  Collective vision will lead to policy change, massive investment during the transition, and a strong likelihood of some changes in our lifestyle.  What that will look specifically is anyone's guess.  But it is becoming clearer and clearer to Albertans and to the rest of the world that change in inevitable.  We can either wait for it to be done to us, or participate in the shaping of it.

My deepest thanks to the Viewpoints Alberta team for inviting me to participate in this fascinating process.  These are all volunteers who are doing this because they are passionate Albertans who believe that we have the capacity to overcome these wicked challenges and emerge a stronger, more resilient, sustainable and remarkable province.  Their belief in the promise of tomorrow is inspiring.

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