The Lundquist College of Business and Grist.org convened a hand-picked group of committed changemakers together February 28 and March 1 at the University of Oregon’s White Stag Block in Portland to harness partnership and collaboration to address specific challenges in climate change.
By gathering people from a range of professions and backgrounds in an environment where all are on same footing, traditional power dynamics were removed and the scene was set for action.
Researchers, students, and business, nonprofit, and government leaders joined partners from AECOM, Alaska Air, Bonneville Environmental Foundation, Seneca Sawmill, International Society of Sustainability Professionals, McKinstry, and Whole Foods—along with some of the Grist 50 Fixers—a filmmaker, a modern farmer, an activist scientist, a chef, an equity advisor, and an organize—to connect and tackle some of the most pressing issues in the age of climate change by seeding partnerships.
The power of those partnerships—a main theme of the day—was explored in real time during a series of exercises with facilitators Martha Enson and Kevin Joyce of EnJoy Productions. One of those exercises included a “partnership challenge,” allowing attendees to brainstorm unique projects leveraging each small group’s individual’s expertise—from a brand and PR consulting firm to a reality show. It revealed some fascinating insights, such as how positive reinforcement of others’ ideas can also lead to unsustainable project scope creep.
Another challenge involving achieving a task with non-verbal communication revealed “the more we failed, the more information we got,” according to participant Anthony Rogers-Wright, deputy director of RegeNErate Nebraska, part of the global Regeneration Alliance, whose mission is a transition to regenerative food, farming, and land management for the purpose of restoring climate stability.
Perhaps most remarkable aspect about the event was how bringing students and professionals together produced very real interactions and actionable feedback.
The most potent example being the capstone lab activity which involved revising a personal Wikipedia page—about one’s self, a project, or an organization—with written input from the group, including names of contacts and possible solutions for moving forward in concrete ways.
“The Grist/UO workshop was an amazing and eye-opening experience,” said Lindsey Naganuma, a University of Oregon MBA ’19 candidate who is also in the process of earning her Master of Architecture. “It was amazing to learn more about other's work in industries and fields I was not familiar in. It was also very enlightening to be pushed out of my comfort zone, and really put my ideas out in the open. To find agreement with other leaders and professionals was such an inspiring and refreshing experience.”
Ecosystem ecologist Jane Zelikova, a scientist at the University of Wyoming and cofounder of 500 Women Scientists, noted that collaborations between the old guard and the new can be really powerful, especially when harnessing valuable learned experience with new ideas.
“Now, more than ever, solutions require unexpected partnerships that spark the catalytic change needed for long term impact at scale,” said Izabel Loinaz, director of the Lundquist College’s Center for Sustainable Business Practices. “We are thrilled to have this opportunity to showcase our own unexpected partnership with Grist by providing a platform for our diverse stakeholders and partners to stimulate those catalytic opportunities. I am blown away by the enthusiasm, creativity and outcomes that resulted from our Fix Lab and excited to see these partnerships grow.”
—AnneMarie Knepper-Sjoblom ’05