EMERGE in Canada: Alumni Dawn Smith carries EMERGE message to peers in Ontario


Dawn Marie SmithIn early March I had the pleasure of bringing Emerge to the conference of the Ontario Natural Building Coalition (ONBC). The ONBC had expressed interest in the work of Emerge, and I had accepted David Eisenberg’s invitation to present a two-hour distilled version of the full two-day workshop with him, attempting to relate the highlights of the material to a room full of builders, teachers, and interested locals. I had attended Emerge as a participant for the first time only a few months before, but had quickly realized the applicability of the material and its incredible interconnection with so much of my own avid reading and experience. Now I was attending with my shoe on the other proverbial foot: as a co-presenter instead of a student.

Co-presenting also challenged me as a young woman working in green building to bring my voice forward and speak honestly to my colleagues about the leader I want to be, the kind of leaders I call on them to become, and the shared bright future I hope we will walk into together. I am profoundly grateful for the opportunity to present the material with David to our colleagues in Ontario, and to understand myself within the movement we share on a deeper level.

ED Note: Dawn Smith attended the December, 2013 Islandwood EMERGE Residency. Sign up for the next Island Residency now! Photo credit: David Eisenberg.


Join in discussions with your EMERGE Community via Google Hangout

Upcoming Google Hangout: Thursday, May 8th  3:30 p.m. PST

Google Hangout

Google Hangouts are a wonderful way for the EMERGE Community to stay in contact and keep the connections and collaborating going.  During the most recent Portland workshop our Guest Faculty Steve Loken raised the issue of (re)creating cities in a way that would incorporate the lessons of nature, but reflect the reality that some of us “like things the way they are!”

Hence the topic for our next discussion: What does the truly sustainable city look like? And given the reality that some of us (perhaps many of us) “like things the way they are” what can/should we do as emergent leaders?

If you would like to attend please email us at:  holliemc@comcast.net

This Hangout does not have a cost associated but in order to attend you will need create a Google plus account and once you RSVP to attend you’ll be sent details on how to set that up.

We’re looking forward to sharing insights and creating community with you then!




January 2015 Islandwood Residency Expanded in Response to Demand

Suspension BridgeThe annual EMERGE Leadership Residency at Islandwood is about to undergo a CHANGE!  Ironic, isn’t it, since the workshop is all about helping us become better change agents?  Many alumni have felt that the residency at Islandwood merits more time to digest the experience of EMERGE, and to simply relax and take in the beautiful natural setting that the Islandwood Environmental Education Center avails us. In response to this desire, the schedule for the next EMERGE workshop at Islandwood will include Friday evening.  Friday evening’s session will focus on connecting (to people and place), and allow participants to be fully present for Saturday’s work sessions.  (It also means you won’t have to take that 6:20 am ferry to arrive on time for Saturday’s opening session!)

So if, in addition to downloading lots of good learning,  you are hoping to experience a retreat from your everyday life…pencil in January 8-10, 2015.  We’ll be uploading registration information soon!

The commuter-version schedule for the workshop will remain two-days. Information on commuter locations will be forthcoming.


A belated tribute to International Women’s Day, 2014

A-PHurdatGLYI have recently been privileged to be witness to some powerful women. These gals are willing to tell the truth and lead from a place of integrity.  At the Puget Sound Chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction Forum held on March 7th at GLY’s Office in Bellevue, Washington, we shared the stories of our professional lives, which naturally included times when as women we have faced  difficult, sometimes even hostile circumstances in a male-dominated industry.

A sell-out crowd of women ranging widely in age and backgrounds, we revealed failures, we celebrated victories, and we shared solutions. A-P Hurd, keynote and author of “The Carbon-Efficient City,” discussed how important it is to “take your whole self to the table” and that means we need to “get familiar” with that whole self. She suggested techniques including everything from finding role models and affirming companions to challenging ourselves from time to time with travel, physical adversity, and “making space for others to be different.”  A-P described how important it was for her to hear from a male mentor once: “be deliberate about your legacy…know what legacy you wish to leave behind.”

WICPanelatGLYThis last statement resonated strongly for me, as I was invited to the Forum to present the story of my own professional arc, how it helped shape the leadership model I used to succeed, and how it can be used by anyone called to being a change agent.

By the very nature of being a minority in the building field, women represent change, so like it or not we are change agents. This perception is only amplified when the individual woman is also intent on bringing concepts such as green building to the design, construction, and/or development process.

My legacy project is to pass along a leadership model that my personal experience and studies tell me works for all, as well as skills this model requires, and to do this through training, mentoring, speaking, and writing. In my mind, the EMERGE Leadership Model is far more conducive than conventional leadership models to creating the transformation that urgently needs to come within and through our built environment.  Explicit in this form of leadership is an integrated collaborative approach, which most thought-leaders in the field agree creates more resilient, more innovative solutions. Studies show that the more diverse the teams involved in the design process, the better the results. So everyone – not just women — bringing their “whole self” to the table is a good thing.  The other reason I am a proponent for emergent leadership is that it addresses the urgency of our times. We need lots of leaders and we need those leaders acting effectively and deliberately at multiple and varied vantage points within the systems that create and impact our built environment. The principles of emergent leadership work whether you have positional authority or a forceful personality.

And at the American Writers & Writing Programs Conference in Seattle, I absolutely fell in love with Kathleen Dean Moore, who was sitting on a panel to discuss social purpose writing (The title of the workshop was “So you want to change the world.”)  Kathleen encouraged the writers in the room to speak the truth, practice “relentless citizenship,” and to use our art to “creatively disrupt” the status quo.  Kathleen recently retired from teaching at Oregon State University as Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, and is focusing on her legacy, speaking and writing about our moral responsibility to address climate change. Her newest book is Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril.  In her talk, she discussed the importance of humor as part of truth telling, and she is amazingly funny given the seriousness of her message.  After a genuine hug, Kathleen pointed me to her website where today I found a riveting video entitled “Climate Activism: If your house in on fire.”  Check it out. And guys, its okay to cry when you do.

EMERGE Leadership Community Just Got a Boost!

Hollie headshotHow many of you have ever felt alone or even burnt out in your advocacy for sustainable building in your design, construction, planning, or policy work?  I’d be surprised if you haven’t!  Those of us “assigned” by life to bring forth sustainable solutions in our built environment are practicing a form of leadership that goes beyond ensuring personal or even organizational success. Emergent leadership aspires to create a greater good in society.

Thich nan Hanh, Vietnamese Zen Buddhist Monk, and peace activist wrote in his book “Teachings on Love” that if you are doing aspirational work including “working for the environment” you “need a sangha.”  Sangha technically applies to a community of Buddhist monks and nuns, or of Buddhists in general. But Thich naht Hanh is using the term in the larger sense of a community that shares a practice for the greater good.  This community can support each other in the work, practically, and emotionally. Joanna Macy, in her book “Active Hope” dedicates an entire chapter to the importance of “Building Support” to maintain a positive and effective approach to aspirational work.  We can’t do it alone.  And nature shows us that in order to thrive, we must engage with others who share our primary purpose. As Meg Wheatley notes, “nothing living lives alone!”

Thus a key aspect of the EMERGE Leadership Project is to offer “community” to those called to bring forth life sustaining solutions in our built environment.  To date, this has been in the form of social media groups (an EMERGE Alumni Group and an open EMERGE Leadership Group on LI and the Emergent Social Media page on FB), newsletters and email news blasts, and two in-person “clinics” (one in the Seattle area, one in the Bay area).

Thanks to Hollie McIntyre, the EMERGE Leadership Project’s new Community Engagement Coordinator, alumni, faculty, newsletter subscribers, and our social media followers are about to see an even greater emphasis on connecting the EMERGE Leadership community to each other – both for moral support and for continued shared learning.

McIntyre attended the EMERGE Leadership workshop at Islandwood this last December, so has an excellent feel for what members of the EMERGE community are looking for and can offer each other in the way of a “sangha.”

McIntyre recently concluded a seven-year stint in residential energy efficiency program management. Before that she worked for the Earth Conservation Corps.  In addition to volunteering for the EMERGE Leadership Project, McIntyre is taking a break from work to study Global Health Issues.

Says McIntyre, “My goal is to assist in bridging meaningful connections, to help foster study, practice, reflection, and sharing among our community members, and thus encourage the vision of emergent leadership. I’m super excited to be given an opportunity to do this work, and look forward to connecting with everyone.”

Engagement plans include check-ins, topical online hangouts and videos, and an uptick in social media connectivity.  If you are an alumni, faculty member, newsletter subscriber, or EMERGE follower and have ideas for building the EMERGE community, please let us know by emailing Hollie at: holliemariemcintyre@gmail.com

And don’t be surprised if she contacts you!



Could Seahawks’ Coach Pete Carroll Be An Emergent Leader?

Kathleen O'BrienWhen I got an email yesterday from an EMERGE Alumni suggesting (with a giggle) that Pete Carroll, the victorious Seahawks coach, might be an emergent leader, I didn’t laugh it off. I’d read an article Jerry Brewer wrote for the January 31st Seattle Times on the subject of Carroll’s leadership style and insisted my husband read it, along with all the other pre-game stats. I found it intriguing.

Reading Brewer’s article (and then some other internet blurbs) I didn’t come away thinking Carroll was an emergent leader per se. The model we use for the EMERGE Leadership Project requires an explicit commitment to being a force for social change in the world (beyond one’s personal and/or organizational success) and I don’t know that about Carroll.

First, I need to confess that I am the least likely to be writing about a football coach; my leadership considerations for the last 30 plus years have been focused on one thing only – creating a sustainable built environment.

However, some things did catch my eye. The fact that Carroll gives people who others have dismissed a second chance. Brewer claims this “ability and willingness to get the best out of people who others would dismiss as too much trouble…is the secret ingredient to the Seahawks’ success.” Says Brewer in his article: “(Carroll) looks for the best in people. He considers all challenges an opportunity to do something extraordinary. So he can interact with people on the margins — in terms of character or even talent — and cull greatness.” When I read this, I thought of the centerpiece of the leadership component of our EMERGE Leadership Model — Servant Leadership. As those familiar with servant leadership know, the “The best test (of leadership)…is: do those served grow as persons, do they grow while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?” It does seem like Carroll looks for talent, but asks for personal growth and in the end — performance. And he certainly got it at the Superbowl this past Sunday.

And, apparently the example of Carroll’s leadership style has now filtered into local activism. Brewer’s article reports how a former gangbanger uses the coach’s philosophy for his youth outreach efforts.

Another thing that caught my eye in post-game reviews is both the emphasis on team performance over individual stars, as well as the use of special teams within the team to accomplish their win. Okay, Carroll clearly gets the bounty of collaborative process and has somehow convinced these BIG guys of the same. Collaboration is the foundational piece of the Community component of the EMERGE Leadership Model.

So from this very distant vantage point, Carroll does seem to exemplify some significant aspects of the emergent leadership approach. And you do have to like the results. Go Hawks!

PDX EMERGE Schedule Changed, Enhanced With FREE Intro/Info Session

The PoWorkshopsrtland EMERGE Leadership Workshop has been rescheduled for March 14-15, 2014. That’s still a Friday/Saturday but should provide some time to work out the kinks in your personal calendars!  We’ve also added a FREE EMERGE Leadership Intro/Information session that combines a 1.5 teaching (which earns you 1.5 GBCI-Approved LEED CEUS) with a .5 hr information session to answer questions you might have about the full 2-day workshop. EMERGE Alumni Ken Hall (Gensler), Howard Thurston (Paradigm Engineering), and Hollie McIntyre (recently of Conservation Services Group) will be in attendance to answer questions about their experience.

Anyone who attends this “mini-workshop” and info session will receive a PROMO CODE for a special $25 discount off your applicable registration rates (you may qualify for other discounts too — for example membership in Cascadia Green Building Council, the NW EcoBuilding Guild, credentials such as SHP, EA Broker, and SBA or earlybird, which has been reinstated for a brief period of time.)   for the Intro/Info Session:  Kathleen@emergeleadershipproject.org. Questions? Call 206-200-1864.

Details on the full workshop can be found at http://emergeleadershipproject.org/emerge/events/emerge-leadership-workshop-portland/



Learning and Leading in the New Year: New Resources

photoLife-long Learning is the mark of an emergent leader, so I thought I’d share some new opportunities that are in line with the EMERGE Leadership Model. To that end, I’ve just updated the EMERGE Resource List to include a couple of books I can’t put down. The books include Otto Scharmer &  Katrin Kaufer’s Leading from the Emerging Future: From Ego-System to Eco-System Economies, and Rotman on Design: The Best on Design Thinking from Rotman Magazine.  Both are filled with nuggets that I’ve underlined, starred, and annotated with marginalia.

One taste from Scharmer & Kaufer:  “We cannot solve the current..eco-system problems with the…ego-system that created them.”  Yes!  One of the main goals of an emergent leader is to create the space for shedding mindsets that no longer serve us! Scharmer is originator of Theory U, the theoretical framework for change processes such as transformative scenario planning (and Kahane’s book on that subject is also on my reading list).

And a pearl offered by Jeanne Liedtka and Henry Mintzberg from the Rotman compilation: “Conversational design challenges leaders in ways that formulaic and visionary design do not. Business cultures that centre on hierarchy, expediency and authoritarian leadership get in the way of good conversations…(and R)ecognizing the role of conversations in exploring new possibilities can produce dramatic innovation.”

I’ve also added a few TED Talks that were featured at SPARKS, the annual TED-like event sponsored by Puget Sound iSMA, as well as several that were recommended by EMERGE participants at the last workshop.  The video topics range from strengthening body language to urban guerilla gardening, but the messages share the same intent: To inspire and equip us individually and collectively to more strategically and effectively intervene within and through the systems we find ourselves.


EMERGE Leadership Family Continues to Flourish and Nourish

This past weekend, 26 participants and faculty convened at the Islandwood Environmental Conference Center for the 7th EMERGE Leadership workshop. Once again, it was in the words of several attendees — magic!  From BC to Tucson, parts North, East, and Western Washington, we laughed, cried, and most definitely learned!  Designers, contractors, developers, analysts, technical consultants, entrepreneurs, planners, outreach and marketing specialists provided diverse DNA at the gathering and join over 100 others who have now gone through EMERGE Leadership Workshops at Islandwood, Naturebridge (Sausalito) and Earth Advantage (Portland).

Team - Cooperative Business2I was particularly impressed at how clearly many participants were able to articulate the leadership focus they were bringing to the workshop — while I always appreciate the humility of individuals who come bearing the simple (not so simple!) question of “what” IS my leadership focus…who am I to become?   Individuals and organizations that attend are usually undergoing a transition — either self-assigned or life-assigned.

Scenarios,  this time, included a business development ideas,  a cross-sector policy initiative, a succession plan, and development of a company’s sustainability program.  The teams outlined practical steps for advancing these ideas, while explicitly observing their process and absorbing emergent leadership concepts along the way. Although the lesson of EMERGE is that anyone who wants to lead can learn to lead and serve, I cannot deny that very special people seem to be drawn to our workshops.

Kelly-Dec13A huge component of the success of EMERGE Leadership workshops are the guest faculty that bring their experience and courageous examples to the table: In this case, Kelly Lerner and Alli Kingfisher shared their dedication to participatory leadership and were willing to practice it on us!  In a “Bill Moyers-like” format, I interviewed David Eisenberg for an hour. We all got to hear his incredible and humbling leadership story, which continues to reveal itself right before our/his eyes!  And John Cunningham, who comes from such a different world — electrical utility linework and the union hall — proved once again that you can be a big white-haired guy working in a very conservative environment and still practice servant leadership to advance restorative justice.

I, personally, am so grateful to have been offered this opportunity once again to serve with and for such wonderful people. How can work be so much fun!!!

If you are thinking about joining this “sangha” of smart, beautiful, talented, caring group focused on the work of creating a sustainable society through our built environment practices, please note that the Earlybird deadline for the next scheduled workshop in Portland is December 15th. For more information see  http://emergeleadershipproject.org/emerge/events/elw-portland-2/. Or email me at info@kathleenobrienleadership.com


EMERGE Leadership Project Creates Energy for Change

What do a proposal for designing, building, and funding high performance affordable housing, the recent aspirational & outcome based energy code proposal to the Washington State’s Building Code Council, and the Building Carbon Zero California Symposia have in common? In each case, EMERGE Alumni are leading the way.

“Elegant and Agile” is what EMERGE Alumni Alistair Jackson (O’Brien & Company), Julie Kriegh (Kriegh Architecture), and Pat Park (21 Acres) call their proposal to increase housing affordability through high performance design, integrated delivery, and incremental funding. The nation’s affordable housing stock has until recently, prioritized quantity over quality, resulting in an inventory which typically becomes economically unsustainable within a decade of completion. Even as affordable housing leaders strive to make performance a priority, they are thwarted by a funding process that deters early stage investment in design integration, and offers few incentives for investors to favor long-term performance and hence economic, social and environmental sustainability. The EMERGERs propose a new approach that makes economic and social sustainability the primary goal and total cost of ownership the primary metric of success, and which is applicable to both new construction and rehabilitation of existing housing stock. While drawing on existing high-performance examples, it introduces an innovative delivery process. When the team shared their proposal with the local Housing Development Consortium, the group was so impressed they scheduled a repeat presentation to a larger audience; an expanded session is scheduled for the Living Future unConference in Portland in May, 2014.

Mike Fowler manages the PSE Residential New Construction Energy-Efficiency Incentive program. He’s an Architect with 20+ years of experience focused on energy efficiency including two net-zero energy design projects, five LEED projects and past service as a member of the Washington State Building Code Council (SBCC) Energy Code – Technical Advisory Group (TAG). He’s currently Chair for the AIA WA Codes and Planning Policy Committee and a member of the SBCC Green Building TAG. In early 2012 he authored an Outcome-based Energy Budget code proposal focused on reducing actual energy use 70% by 2031. He signed up for the December 2012 EMERGE Leadership Workshop, hoping to use it as a springboard for effectively taking this proposal forward in 2013, with enhanced leadership skills to help him do so.

MikeFowlerMike was confident about the technical content of his proposal, but he wanted help thinking about the process of building support for his proposal. It didn’t hurt that David Eisenberg was co-faculty for the workshop. David is well-known for his work “greening” codes nationally and internationally. But the piece de resistance was the workshop’s team scenario component. Imagine Mike’s pleasure when his project (slightly altered for wider applicability) was offered to workshop attendees as a planning scenario! Mike and several attendees (and David) worked together using emergent leadership concepts to develop an outline of a plan, complete with timeline, possible allies, and suggested resources. (Photo: Mike is presenting the outline at EMERGE.)

But it didn’t stop there. By its nature, EMERGE brings together green building professionals who are already highly committed to taking a leadership role in the sustainable transformation of our built environment. Although participants may be at various points in their career, all of them are bright and talented and bring this to the workshop experience. One of the “favorite” benefits reported on workshop evaluations is the role EMERGE plays in connecting these talented and dedicated individuals, and building a leadership community they can rely on.

When Mike contacted me for support of his updated proposal this fall, which now incorporated peer review feedback from a number of Emerge alumni, other focus groups, and the concept for an Aspirational Code (a new code vision for Washington State), the next step was obvious.  An email to EMERGE Alumni was sent out immediately, asking for letters to the SBCC supporting his proposal. It generated (in Mike’s words), “an amazing response.” No doubt this played a very large part in Mike’s success in making a case for serious consideration of his proposal as the SBCC formally approved development of an Aspirational Code work plan incorporating his proposal and outcome-based codes as one of the possible options.

Connecting committed leaders and supporting their collaboration is definitely key for Bronwyn Barry’s respect for the EMERGE experience. Bronwyn, an architect, is Director of One Sky Homes, and Founding Board Member of Passive House California, and very active in Passive House International. After meeting Bill Worthen (of Urban Fabrick and former Director, Resource Architect for Sustainability, AIA) and Bill Burke (of PG&E’s Pacific Energy Center) in the January 2013 workshop, she was able to reframe and enlarge the conversation that groups focused on net zero energy, Passive House, etc. were having individually. While the “Building Carbon Zero California Symposia” featured Passive House Heroine, Joke Dockx, from the City of Brussels, it also featured an expert panel of local net zero luminaries, hosted by Bill Worthen. The goal of the event, says Bronwyn, was to “gather all the players — city planners, public utility and state energy commission representatives, architects, builders, and facilities managers — to find a way to work together to work on the larger goal of creating a built environment that is ‘carbon-zero’.” Since the initial symposium, a “spin-off” event has been held in Marin County, focused specifically on local issues, and a “series” of similar events are in the works to serve as local catalysts for more effective collaboration.

Clearly, the EMERGE Leadership workshop draws to it very special people.   But its fair to say that in bringing these individuals together and providing tools and context for leadership it creates something much more.

The next EMERGE workshop is scheduled for January 25-25, 2014, Portland, OR, at the new Earth Advantage Headquarters. For registration and program details see:  http://emergeleadershipproject.org/emerge/events/elw-portland-2/ (Note: Earlybird registration deadline is December 15th!)