From H2O Theatre to Systems-thinking (Part III)

What’s the juiciest part of what we do?

The juiciest pieces of our Hub events emerge out of the facilitated dialogue sessions, where ideas, questions and challenges bounce one against the other and amalgamate into something extraordinary! Friction can be a key ingredient for innovative thinking!


Given the context of complexity, this time we hosted a World Cafe and we tackled these 2 questions:

1. How can we meet society’s energy needs with the least impact on our water resources?
2. Now, where do we go from here?

The insights and common threads that emerged from the collective wisdom of the group was a step in the right direction towards shifting perspective and employing systems-thinking. Dialogue was much deeper and richer than captured below, but this is simply a summary of highlights.

From a systems perspective, the group acknowledged a need to diversify Canada’s energy portfolio, a need for accounting for Virtual Water and a need through that, for making the connection more visible in the water-food-energy nexus. From a policy perspective, it was identified that there’s a need for more “equitable” decisions. An interesting idea that emerged is creating a City Bank (to help pay for infrastructure from a credit union – yet the challenge was: how can we ensure it is equitable?).

Biggest insight and common thread was a need to “make the invisible visible”: enhanced/ innovative methods for communicating data – KNOWLEDGE MOBILIZATION (as part of a larger strategy to reduce consumption). Much data is available, yet we still don’t know how much we exactly have and how much we can consume (because that data is not relayed). We need a better audit for what we have (how much water & energy resources are available?) and we need better mechanisms to communicate it in tangible ways (i.e labels, eco-revelatory designs, new unimagined options).

Technology certainly factored its way into the dialogue as a tool towards progress on our quest to reduce energy impacts on water resources and vice versa. Improved technology and installation of systems that for instance, reuse grewater in our toilets instead of using clean, fresh drinking water is already being implemented in other countries like Japan! City can for example begin to charge for and to supply greywater, as a way to encourage reducing fresh water consumption and as a source of income to help maintain infrastructure (deals with systemic contradiction of reduced water consumption = less $ for Toronto Water).

* A practical and creative toolkit designed and shared by Glen Markham inspired by Karen Kun’s provocation on leadership.


From a leadership perspective, the group identified a need to shift power and decision-making so that it is more tangible at the community level in order to enable engagement (greater involvement in decision making will spur more creative leadership). One example is, creating a parody to the Neighbourhood Watch program, by creating the Water/Energy Watch program. This can be a means to give tools to empower! Empowerment can result in leadership happening at all stages and all ages – not just at the top.

From a play perspective, and to tie the loop back to the first point made about communication and knowledge mobilization, the group identified a need for inventing processes that are fun, playful and engaging – aka DISRUPTIVE. Finding ways to onboard a tech savvy generation on the quest to steward their resources in a language they speak and understand requires creative disruption of conventional procedures (i.e a garbage can installation designed to generate a bomb echo when people dropped garbbage in it, which in turn resulted in people picking up garbage more frequently so they can play with it). … There are no limits to the imagination, and since the current status quo is not good enough, let us begin to think of new creative ways to solve our most pressing and wicked problems!

Pro-Action Cafe

As a great way to end the journey, we hosted a Pro-Action Cafe – which was a total hit with our group! As soon as we opened up the marketplace, 5 awesome projects were pitched and were offered 2 rounds of feedback each. Take a look at the photo below to get an idea of what the projects were.


What better way to conclude than on a note of gratitude?
“I’m grateful that you ‘broke my mind’! I was exposed to ideas and people who took me outside of my comfort zone”
“I’m grateful for the new perspectives I gained on my project: the first round was looking at what’s missing and the second round was looking at what I had never even thought about before!”
“First advice I was given was to speak louder, so here I am practicing speaking louder to share what my next steps will be”
“I have a lot of ideas that I want to follow-up on, so I will make sure to get the contact of my group members so I can stay connected and keep them posted with my progress”

… and the gratitude doesn’t stop here. I am always grateful for working in an organization where I get to meet incredible people on a daily basis, and where it’s part of my job to enable inspired spaces. See you at the next Hub gathering on March 19, 6-9 pm.

PS: HUGE thank you to the Co-creation team that helped with both process and logistics!


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