I am working on a resiliency project with an excellent consultant and wonderfully attentive owner involvement. I have been meeting with the consultant and one of the owner parties each week, to ensure I manage the project properly, as I am new to this role in my current workplace and it has been more than 10 years since I directly managed design teams. These meetings build relationships, as nothing gets a job done with more joy and ease than knowing your workmates. I also make sure we deal with the little niggly issues right away, rather than leaving them to a monthly meeting that may have given something small time to fester into something big.
It is going well.
I start each of our weekly meetings with an opening round, as per a dynamic governance approach. The opening round is sometimes a “What fun thing did you do last week?” (see the getting to know your team item above). Sometimes it is a project specific inquiry or a request to state a goal for the meeting, or a goal for the month’s work. Last time, I asked each participant, five of including me, to say what they wished could be in this project, and way. Broad resiliency projects are expensive, and sometimes, no, oftentimes, are limited in scope. This one is no exception. I encouraged them to not be apologetic, and to state what would be great to include, even while firmly acknowledging the limits of our work.
This was tough, but each said something interesting, and different, based on their varied perspectives. Things like greater living shoreline approaches, a more comprehensive understanding of other work in the same area, inclusion of community amenities such as bike paths, deeper projections of sea level rise and storm issues for a longer resiliency benefit, and more intense focus on community engagement. In the course of their listing the things they wished we could do, I realized something. I realized that they each, in some small way, felt that this project, limited mostly to installations of hundreds of bioswales, was not enough, was somehow insufficient.
My answer was that I wished we could see the results and build on them further, once the work was installed. And then I made a summary statement. The value of the work we are doing is much greater than you each realize. Bioswales in the public right-of-way are going to open doors to change that cannot be achieved by other types of infrastructure projects, even those with large dollar investment. Each bioswale will be an introduction to the neighbors of working WITH nature, expanding their minds to help them understand that nature is not an evil thing to be controlled, but a resource we can engage with to improve every choice we make. They will see water being managed, understand the seasons, engage in comprehension of larger systems thinking, all from this simple bioswale project. This project is the start of every change to come.
They accused me, with some quite reverent chuckles, of planning this discussion and my response and I said “No”. You see, it was only in interactions, in hearing their perspectives, that my ideas took form. It is only in working together that we can come to solutions greater than what we could have created on our own. It is only in co-creation of problem definitions and co-creation of solutions and approaches that we will grow, adapt, learn and succeed.
Even more so, it is co-creation with our teams and with nature that will help us move toward a strong, resilience and beautiful future.
Interact, listen, amplify, co-create.