Culture first, collaboration then just happens

The last two foundation years of building Intrepid Landcare has been a bit of a blur. It only feels like yesterday when I met Megan for the second or third time in a Sydney cafe in Chatswood only moments before meeting Landcare Australia to pitch our idea of a national movement that connects, inspires and empowers young people to act and lead with Landcare. Back then it was just the two of us, and our parents and friends who were probably like, yes, this is another great idea, “go for it and best of luck!”

I knew it was a great idea, and so did Megan.

From that initial meeting with Landcare Australia it took us about 3 months to figure out if we should be our own identity or be part of another identity. Having hindsight from many failures before with trying to setup young people movements I knew that we had to be our own identity. An identity for young people, created by young people so that it can become their identity. A movement becomes a movement when people embody the core of who you are, and part of this is your organisational identity.

So, how have we created an identity for Intrepid Landcare?

We soon pooled together a brilliant tribe filled with passions and skills that were similar yet different to our own passions and skills. We knew we needed what we didn’t have, along with having what we had lots of, that being energy! We pieced together a constitution, governance structure and without any face to face meetings we soon became an identity over Facebook chat, phone meetings and Google Hangout. We then raised enough cash through our initial crowdfunding campaign, which we are always grateful for the donors who initially backed us, to fund flights and food to pay for our first Board Retreat, our first face to face meeting. Thanks again!

It was as if we already knew each other but didn’t. We met in Berry NSW, and stayed in this beautiful log cabin filled with love and international treasures, the home of Bill and Leslie Pigott, who are worldly legends on all things Landcare and leadership. The Pigott’s opened their home to us for a weekend, and also baked muffins and refilled (and still do) our hearts with worldly insights into Landcare and leadership.

We had a packed agenda for this first face to face meeting (which we now call Board Retreats), yet somehow had lots of time for laughing, sharing stories and enjoying nature (which is of no surprise when you are around Megan!). First off the agenda was how we expected each other to communicate, recognising that we all are different, have different needs and work and live different lives and in different parts of the country. We started with this because we knew we wanted to create the right culture.

We are ever so grateful for this initial work we worked hard to get right, and still do! We continually put ourselves on the line to share our deepest flaws and greatest assets. We discuss what we like and don’t like to do, and work out how to share the load and keep us moving forward. We clearly know what we don’t want what people think comes inherently with organisations – gossip, hierarchical structure, power and generational indifference with gender, age, ethnicity and disabilities, among much more. None of us either have time or want to tread water through murky waters. Our cause doesn’t deserve the impurities of human beings’ inequalities, it deserves equality.

It has been two years and if we wrote a plan – which we kind of did – it wouldn’t have been filled with the characters we have met and the conversations we have had. Although while I think it is important to have a plan, it is not essential to be first off the rank with designing and defining organisations, rather, you need the right culture to be the heart of what is and has to come. This is my biggest lesson thus far, and it is the why of what Intrepid Landcare is and is becoming.

Culture is the beating heart of any organisation. We can talk about intellectual and emotional intelligence all you like, or the super-drivers of organisations. I think the most important part is getting over yourself and having the listening of others and granting yourself the listening of others that speaks what you or your organisation wants – collaboration and all that super-driver talk. What other organisations do not do enough of is working hard on the essentials, and that is figuring out what organisational identity do we want to create and need to have to be and do what those strategic and business plans suggest we need to achieve.

Once you have the right culture sorted (which is always in a state of flux, meaning that this part needs consistent work, and needs to be the heart of every conversation) in a blink of an eye your movement will have its own wings. The next challenge is not letting others’ impurities diminish your identity – it is best to leave gossip, hierarchical structure, power and generational indifference with gender, age, ethnicity and disabilities, among much more at the door 🙂

Hi Climate Council, advice worth more than a donation

I should share my insights more often. I got an email this afternoon from the Climate Council with a direct link to a donation page, which didn’t enrol me to donate… instead they got this reply that is probably worth more than a donation.

Hi Climate Council,

I love reading your posts and hearing about what you are doing. I used to donate money to you, but then realised my cash was better spent actually preparing the landscape for climate change and switched to donate to the Nature Conservancy. This is where the challenge lies with me with your call to action and support you into 2021.
As a Landcare champion, ambassador, innovator or whatever you want to call me I see and hear amazing landscape transformation that is happening from the ground-up. I also see people transform through social and cultural connection, and constantly hear inspiring stories from people about community action happening in their patch. When you fly across Australia you can start to imagine how action in these patches are making a difference, whether it is repairing a riparian zone alongside a creek, or piecing together critical corridors for biodiversity. I have seen first hand the efforts of community action to restore my local beach back to a coastal forest, 93ha of coastal dunes only a stones throw from the urban paradise of Surfers Paradise.
As a negotiate the contested terrain of the spaces and places I am caught in and deeply passionate about I know that the next four years will involve more trees being planted and see more solar panels of the roofs of homes, and my neighbours getting to know each other (more) and share the lemon myrtle tree that is out the front for a cuppa tea in the afternoon. I also know that the next four years will be challenging, but damn it is exciting to see industry groups, research institutions, councils (the good and bad), authorities, departments, agencies, groups and organisations starting to listen to each other and get that we get to drive the transformational change our great nation needs. And it is damn fun driving, planting this change – of which I am sure that you have had a huge contribution.
And as I walk the landscape with Landcare I get to see people changing the way they manage the land, change their species lists to plant for future climate patterns and along the way engage our decision-makers. I know we (especially Landcare) need to do more of sharing successes and outcomes of incredible projects, which could overpower and empower the doom and gloom I am frequently reminded of – especially by you.
I know there is no silver bullet, but what I have realised is that change comes from within, and we must nurture this change. I have nurtured people who would be perceived as definitely not on the green-side of change because I have shifted my preconditioned ideas on who wants to get involved. I have also sought out other ways of sharing stories and showcasing successes, and nurtured decision-makers through meaningful engagement and made sure they know that the next generation have got their shit together.
People can’t act with facts, but they can with tools. So perhaps your next four years can be about what we can do with tools for change. I think this gentle email is worth more than the $35 I was going to donate.
Best of luck, and bring on 2021 with more trees for cooler cities, repaired landscapes and shade for cows, and places to refuge for all creatures.
Have a great weekend,
Naomi Edwards

Change begins with rethinking

Change begins with rethinking

I have recently returned home, to the sunny Gold Coast on the east coast of Australia, after a 5 week tour riding the mountain motorable pass in the world in India, and engaging in thought-provoking conversations with coastal colleagues in Perth (Western Australia) then Airlie Beach (North Queensland). Back to back conferences after a lifetime adventure, hell yeah, my thoughts are flowing.

To kick start some tangents, here is a keynote speech that I was fortunate to share with colleagues at the Western Australian Natural Resource Management and Coastal Management conference, held at Curtin University (they have awesome coffee and hammocks to chill out on).

As the keynote is well over 5,000 words you can download it here –Change begins with rethinking

Here are some thought provoking quotes:

As a disruptor of institutions that is passionate about action and change, I would like to see more of us take risk whether you are an insider or outsider of the dominant institutions of our practice. Because whether we plan our practice with the best knowledge we have, in most cases that I have been engaged in it still doesn’t make a difference when it comes to getting others onboard. And in many cases it wipes the adventure, creativity and adaptability out of our practice.


I’ll quote Charlie Veron, which his new book, A Life Underwater is a must read…

… Most professionals today, whether they be in the sciences, arts, education, even sport, work within the cage of bureaucracy that controls most aspects of their working life. For most this works for them to ensure their needs are met… but for those that need time and headspace to think, something needs to change… and this change is being led by technology and the younger generation…although the scary part is that the younger generation are being bred to accept what to work on, when to work and how to work…

Unquote.


This failing technocracy-approach that scholars like Shelia Jasnaoff theoretically describes helps me to unpack the decay and almost U-Turn on historic environmental justices. In our world this has seen the dependency on specialists with the result of our institutional departments specialising to the degree which then can’t respond to widening issues, especially when departments are chewed to the bone.


Enjoy – Change begins with rethinking