URGENT // need portion control: the dilemmas of protecting the coast

URGENT // need portion control (pc: Photograph: Randy Mayor, Illustration: Brett Ryder)

URGENT // need portion control (pc: Photograph: Randy Mayor, Illustration: Brett Ryder)

This tangent is part of a private journal I am writing as part of my Phd. I don’t intend on sharing this journal (to often), however, today is one of those Phd days where I have realised that I am going to mad, I have put too much on my plate and need to go back to the beginning for some portion control. I wrote this motivation-journal-entry a few months ago and I don’t think I have progressed… mmm.


When your passion is your work and your work is your passion, negotiating the conflicting terrain between your passion and work will send you mad. I’ve spent hours, days, weeks, months and years trying to figure out the best way to negotiate conflicts. Conflicts that limit my passion and work to make a difference for Australia’s coast.

It is like being on a mice-wheel going around and around, going nowhere until the wheel falls off or I fall off.

I fell off a few years ago and now I find myself back on but on my own wheel. I didn’t want to be like the others and stay on the system’s wheel going nowhere. Instead, I signed up to do a Phd to understand why some stay on the wheel, why others fall off the wheel or how others find another way while on the wheel to make a difference. My motivation behind my Phd is part selfish, part selfless, because I didn’t want to be like those that stay on the wheel and go nowhere. I want to one of those that find the other way to make a difference.

I know that I am passionate about the coast and that I want to make a difference. But I am yet to know how and where I want to make a difference other than the entire system! I know I can’t research or make a difference to the entire system of coastal management. I have ideas (obviously) which have led me to begin a Phd in coastal management, and I am now at the crossroads of how, where and ultimately why I want to make a difference (and why bother at all).

I intentionally say difference rather than change because for my Phd what I do know thus far is that it is about being a difference maker. It is important to recognise this early on as the difference between difference maker and change maker is that difference makers focus on systemic change. Change needed for institutional-transformational change. Changing the institutions of coastal management is where I believe we need to make a difference (or at least make a dent in it), especially, to be able to address the unprecedented impacts that climate change poses on the coast. It’s a big statement and deserves critical attention (and has), and will seek the attention of many other Phds… not just mine.

Remembering that I am one of many who seeks such systemic change I start this Phd journal with asking myself, am I naive to think that a Phd on the cultures and conflicts of the coastal professional working in coastal management will answer the question we seek to know – how to influence systemic change to protect Australia’s coast?

The short answer is yes. So what, yes I am naive.

Anyway, it has now been 4 months of trailing through Google Scholar, attending conferences and symposiums, talking with coastal professionals, colleagues, students, friends and mentors. Each paper, experience and conversation has and will continue to shape my Phd. A Phd that will offer new insights before my (and other’s) passion turn into a nightmare, and have national and international significance. I also know the writing process (beyond my tangents) will help me document, scrutinise and re-imagine what could be possible to inspire myself, and perhaps other coastal professionals, to be difference makers to influence systemic change.

A hungry, starving disruptor

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-10-41-31-pmI’m beyond hungry, I’m starving. I’m starving for disruptors to make their mark and influence systematic change because the climate crisis is getting real and the normal coastal stuff we deal with everyday just keeps piling up. We need urgent, large scale action and we need to rethink and act bold to disrupt the system.

But when you are a disruptor of the system it’s a hard slog. Because you only make up about 10% of the system, so you are left convincing the other 90% to buy into your octagon looking ideas, rather than the normal OOB tried and tested troubleshoots. It’s even more of a challenge when those eight-legged wriggly, perhaps untested ideas don’t fit the system, perhaps a strategy or even more frustrating an Act. There is too much unknown and those who have the powers to say yes or no, are not convinced. Yet you know, because you are a disruptor of the system, an innovative change agent, know that they’ll work. You are a firm believer of the dream and know beauty will be the output of an unknown metamorphosis.

Following me? Hang in there.

Disruptive leadership is the buzz word for new leadership models. It sounds exciting, perhaps scary. But most of all, explosive when alongside the more traditional approaches to leadership, especially for change. For those who are swept up in the whole disruptive way of doing things, or scared of change (the other side of the spectrum!!), we must not forget about what goes before and after disruption, who else needs to be part of the systematic change process.

This leads me to my key point of the tangent, how can we influence the yay or nay sayers to say, YES, to disruption? Or simply put, a new way of dealing with the climate crisis and other pile of coastal stuff. How can we be of influence?

First up we need to recognise the value of teams, team management and team leadership. Because we have:
+ Dreamers: people who envision what could be
+ Designers: people who design the dream
+ Disruptors: people you find a way to make dreams happen
+ Disempowered: people who don’t believe
+ Disengaged: people with no dreams, or couldn’t be bothered to dream

You need to understand their assumptions and impact lenses to then string together theories (string theory… o no!!), to identify what makes them tick, perhaps, moved, touched or inspired. What get’s them moving and shaking.

Next up is how to string together the vehicles for change to influence for urgent, large scale action? Until then, don’t forget the dreamers, designers, disempowered and disengaged.

Next please

Naomi Edwards_selfie_on the beach

I was catching up with my friend Tom Fitzgerald the other day, who is a senior coastal planner at the Office for Environment and Heritage for the NSW Government, PhD student, coffee and coast lover, and a real top guy among other things. We were sitting under an outdoor heater in a café in the heart of Sydney. The coffee was good and the croissants were amazing!

Anyway, the point of this tangent is what I was left thinking about after our conversation. Cause if you know me I do a million things and have my fingers in many pies. That means my energy is sprawled across a million things and in many pies. Is that a good idea? Is that sustainable? Is that leading somewhere? Or am I just kidding myself?

At the moment I am in a pretty good position. I am free. I am happy. I am discovering who I am. I am living my passion. I am walking on the same path as my vision. I am single, have an amazing family and group of friends, have the cutest dog in the world, drive my dream car and when I think of an idea I know how to package it up and share it with the world. I am comfortable with the fact that I may not be able to act on all of my ideas and staring into a world where anything is possible at 3am is a regular thing for me. It’s just a while ago that void of spontaneous energy would have be exerted with sex. But I am OK with keeping that energy to myself – for the meantime at least.

I am at the stage of knowing something new is going to happen. I have just completed my Honours degree and so with three degrees under my belt and on the PhD pathway and an ideas factory as a brain what is next for me is to buckle down to turn my ideas into business ideas. Thanks to Tom and a couple of my dear friends who have been listening to my new way of communicating – with no walls, no resistance, no holding back – it’s time to get on with it.

My next phase is to register Happy Beaches as a company – with a social purpose. I have been wondering how to package my passion for beaches, coastal community engagement, and coastal management and not letting go of innovative ideas just because they don’t fit in the lines of bureaucracy (will have to learn how to spell that word without spell check one day). I love taking risks; being innovative and most importantly, I love to push to boundaries.

Bridging my studies and recent experiences with the Foundation of Young Australians Young Social Pioneer program and my Landmark self discovery courses I feel empowered and inspired to turn my inner capacity up a notch.

My vision has always been to provide innovative solutions to environmental problems with communities at the heart.

So, my Happy Beaches vision is to develop a boutique coastal consultancy group with a collective of innovative and passionate thinkers and probers who want to drive fast-paced change for beaches. I know exactly who I want on the team, so the next step is to approach them to see how they can come on board. I have no capital but I have a vision – a world with healthy beaches and happy communities.

In the meantime I know I will have to keep all my other projects afloat. But now I know and feel comfortable with my vision I will have to play the social entrepreneur card to make change happen.

Watch this happy beach space!