From H2O Theatre to Systems-thinking (Part II)

H2O Theatre was only the beginning of our journey.

After getting a taste of how creativity and storytelling as a tool of communication can resonate with people far more than any spewing of technical information, we set out on day 2 of our journey:


Getting Creative: Unpacking Complexity, Rethinking the System

Our goal? To challenge the notions of conventional problem solving, to gain tools to navigate the complexity of the water-energy nexus from a design and systems-thinking approach, to explore the context of innovative leadership and to highlight the challenges at policy level.

Provocateurs’ Insights and challenges to the group:

Zahra Ebrahim on design thinking and play
Provocation- How can we use play and design thinking as tools to tackle complexity and think of uncommon solutions to conventional problems within the nexus (water-energy)?
Tools – 5 principles of design thinking:
1. Empathy (understanding who you’re designing for; putting people first)
2. Optimism
3. Collaboration
4. Experimentation (prototyping ideas)
5. Integrated Thinking

Karen Kun on enabling innovative leadership
Provocation – What role can innovative leadership play in learning how to navigating complexity? What role can we play as leaders?
Tools – 3 Self-reflective questions:
      1. How do you define leadership?
      2. Where are you on your leadership journey? 
      3. When do you need to say yes, and when do you need to say no?
Karen also shared this recent article:
“Traditionally, it has been the water experts that have rung the alarm bell [on the water crisis], but now we see an increasing number of business leaders, as well as experts from other sectors such as agriculture, energy, health and the environment that are becoming equally concerned.”

Adam Giambrone on Policy
Provocation – How can we communicate the need for 9% yearly increases in water rates for the next 10 years to consumers who will see their water rate almost triple so that the necessary investments can be realized?
1. Water quality and quantity issues exist in Toronto
2. Toronto Water is the largest energy user, second is TTC
3. We saw conservation in the last few year – but not due to cutting back on water use, but due to shutting down of large industries.
4. Inherent contradiction: Toronto Water loses $ when domestic consumption decreases
5. Can we think of a system where conservation does not have detrimental effects on $ needed to invest in and maintain infrastructure for water supply?

Brittany Luby on Aboriginal Experiences with hydroelectric dams
Provocation – What are the risks associated with an isolationist approach to  water-based enterprises? So, what does it mean to separate wastewater control from water power generation from commercial fisheries?
1. Dam construction on Anishinaabe territory led to mercury poisoning. In addition a nearby lumber mill was emitting effluent and with the Dam, the ability of rapids to oxidize was removed. This left detrimental effects on community, including Brittany’s uncle.
2. How far down the river should we extend our vision?
3. Do municipal boundaries that conflict with natural geography make sense?
4. If we continue to define boundaries by municipality or industry, how do we protect people on the periphery?

Marilyn Hamilton on Systems-Thinking
Provocation – What perspective do you hold today, and how can systems thinking help you shift this perspective?
1. What are systems? What is systems-thinking? What are principles of emergence?
A-B-C systems
A is for Anthropocentric Systems or human systems. We study these with Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, etc.
B is for Biological Systems – containing the living environment and life. We study these with Microbiology, Biology, Botany, Zoology
C is for Cosmosphere
– containing Universe, Earth and Matter . We study this with Astronomy, Cosmology, Math, Physics, Chemistry, Geology, Hydrology, Meterology.
When we can SEE systems – i.e. recognize a whole with a boundary containing elements – we are starting to think in the basics of systems thinking. When we can see how different systems are interconnected, we are progressing our systems thinking to a more complex level. When we use our consciousness to design NEW systems we are demonstrating our evolutionary human capacity to use emergence and adapt through being innovative and creative.
2. How can I shift my perspective? 4 steps

Curious about the harvest and insight sharing from group dialogue? Check out Part III of this blog.


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