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Posted - 11/04/2014
Pause for Process by Kelly McVicker, ITP Grants Administrator
At our recent Invoking the Pause Grant Partner Gathering, 16 groups of Grant Partners (28 people) came together to share stories of their respective "Pauses", build connections, and collectively brainstorm on future pathways for their work. One theme that resonated throughout the day was the idea that careful attention to the “process, or how we go about creating change”, is essential if we are to unearth new solutions to the challenges facing our planet.

This idea is a cornerstone of our ITP approach and philosophy:    
    “Our work seeks to drive the 'how' of the process more than the 'what' that gets generated. We care about and want to see results, but appreciate the complexity inherent in the process of changing mindsets and nurturing collaborations.”

This complexity is particularly present when bringing together people from different walks of life.  One of this year’s ITP grant recipients — Alliance of Nurses for a Healthy Environment (ANHE) — used their funding to bring together artists, scientists, nurses and environmentalists for a four-day retreat.   This “allowed members to press the pause button on their extreme sense of urgency and their individual campaigns to consider how we might weave together a renewed and stronger movement if we take the time to listen to members of ALL our communities and specifically include the most impacted communities.”

This group had never before come together, and ANHE noted that it was challenging to get everyone on the same page in terms of the retreat’s agenda and pace:

    “Many at the retreat are also very product driven and there was tension at various times throughout the retreat because we weren’t focusing on a specific product or outcome.”

Working with a skilled facilitator during the retreat helped the group address this tension and other group dynamics, and ultimately create deeper relationships that will sustain the movement of nurses working with other stakeholders to achieve a carbon neutral future.

Another grant partner had a similar challenge of bringing together people from different walks of life. Environmental Entrepreneurs  (E2), convened an eclectic group including clean energy entrepreneurs, evangelical leaders, former elected officials, former military officers and a former NFL player, along with communications consultants, policy experts and facilitators.

    “The objective was to learn from each other best practices on how to develop and tell personal stories emphasizing the economic and environmental importance of clean energy and the need for the new federal Clean Power Plan – and then put our learnings to work.”

E2 believes the diverse makeup of their group was a key factor in getting them a one-on-one meeting with the Governor of Iowa (who had previously declined meetings with environmental groups) to share their stories and encourage him to support the Clean Power Plan. The unique ideas and insights that emerged from this collection allowed them to speak about climate change from multiple perspectives:

    “Our ex-military members, for instance, gave their perspective about climate change through a national security lens. Our business leaders brought the perspective of economic prosperity. Our evangelical gave insight into the need to care for God’s creation. Others came from perspectives of concern over social issues, altruism and leaving a better world behind.”

After their meeting, the governor paid a personal and well-publicized visit to a solar project led by one of the group’s members. Several collaborations, including some new connections from our Grant Partner Gathering day, have emerged as a result of the Pause.  One result is that E2 is interested in working with the ANHE, as E2 continues to work on the Clean Power Plan with a strong and growing cohort of trained messengers.

Given the urgency we feel around climate change, it can be hard to shift our focus away from clear outcomes and results. It’s easy to fall into the old habit of results-based thinking, celebrating the neat & tidy outcomes as ‘successes’ while viewing challenges as something less-than-ideal.  

We at ITP believe in funding risks. If we approach our work from that assumption, we must also believe in the inherent challenges of this process— in bringing people together trying to merge their perspectives into one cohesive vision.  It’s not realistic to expect that things will all go along smoothly without any setbacks.  In fact, when we hear from grant partners who candidly express their difficulties, not only do we feel appreciative of their transparency, it affirms for us that we are on the right track!