Category Archives: Act

Dialogues on current issues and civic engagement

Envisioning the Future of Toronto’s Public Lands

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Can we ecologize Toronto’s green lands and watersheds? Can we enhance access and inclusion of cultural uses of our parks, common places and spaces? How might we recover, restore, reimagine or rewild Toronto’s public lands?

Toronto’s urban planning team has been comprehensively revising its downtown planning – the DwD engagement held a session to cocreate citizen proposals for the Toronto Parks and Public Realm Plan as part of TOcore: Planning Downtown.

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Unify Toronto Dialogues held its October session with the TOCore team, voicing indigenous perspectives on decolonizing the common lands and stewarding ecological restoration.  Following a presentation on the city’s regional public lands plan, over a dozen indigenous community members spoke up with visions and concerns for:

  • Restoring the native flora ecologies and balance of the Humber and Ontario shoreline waters
  • Opening up the ravines and public open space to urban farming and renewing healthy soils
  • Restoring and enabling the fish ecologies of Ontario, a lake that once teemed with indigenous freshwater fish
  • Ensuring indigenous access to land for ceremony, fire circles, and councils.

 

The live sketch (thanks Patricia) shows one of the maps of discussion and questions raised by particpants during this session.

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Sustainable Design for Flourishing Fashion

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How do we build trust in a complex multi-stakeholder relationship where the product is based on price?

Apparel matters.  We wear clothes throughout our life, yet little thought is given to modern garment making except for the cost. Despite well-meant laws, international trade policies, and CSR audit reporting, a mistrust gap exists between makers and end users on whether garments are sweatshop-free, endorse fair trade, or are relatively more or less sustainable. The session explored the systems of production and disposal of Catholic school uniforms, which bear a unique responsibility to their buyers to ensure equity and sustainability. Uniforms are mandated and bought by individual families have little say in ensuring that the people who made their clothes have worker equity and safety.

Kelly Okamura organized this design inquiry into sustainable product design held at Nuvango Gallery for the April 2016 DwD.  With a group of 25 particpants and industry stakeholders, we took a deep dive into what she calls Flourishing Fashion. The group explored the problem of how to build product trust and ensure that mandated school uniforms  – first purchased through a tendered bid process that includes CSR policy – are made with worker equity.

Kelly-uniform

Contemporary ethical garment making is difficult and the garment industry is extremely competitive. It’s very hard to make a profit if you do it right – made with worker equity and respect for the planet throughout the entire process. Buying garments in a transparent global market is equally tough when mistrust has been built based on evidence that is hearsay. And for mandated Catholic school uniforms, this make-take relationship compounds when a wearer doesn’t have a choice to vote with their purchasing dollars or mindlessly buy fast fashion.

Don Officer followed up with Kelly with a brief interview following the event.  Kelly describes in her own words what “flourishing fashion” represents:

“Flourishing Fashion addresses the desire to make sell and buy in a modern world where our purchasing choices impact living beings and planet. It addresses a major systemic equilibrium shift that impacts all of us as consumers of goods. In this broad sense, the reference to fashion is not just about clothing but fashion is a reflection of our times. It requires a new systemic understanding for the need to support more 3P (Profit with respect for People and Planet) goods for a finite planet if we want humanity to flourish.”

Q: As far as you know, who accepts and values that notion?

They identify as the fastest growing consumer group – the Aspirationals – who still want to buy ‘fashion’ but want to know their product’s origin and are willing to pay more for products that better align with their ethical values.

Q: Why should we care? 

We all wear clothes and make purchasing choices.  If we all keep buying stuff, consumers responsibility begins with purchasing goods, and we all have to better understand our roles as consumers in the purchasing system.

Q: Did you find the DwD group curious about flourishing fashion?

Since we all consume the immediate understanding is we are all active participants, not observers so the dialogues were engaging even if the wicked problem focused on mandated school uniforms. It was challenging to contain the dialogue and even bring the session to a timely close. The discussion continued after the event with both participants and later with others who expressed interest in future dialogues on the subject but did not attend.

Q: How did they engage on the topic? 

I showed a short film clip to create a personal awareness that most consumers don’t think beyond the price tag about of their purchases. So the attendee engagement was both on a conceptual level with the wicked problem focused on mandated school uniforms as well as on more personal relationships with their clothing.  For example, pointing out other required information on all textile products prompted some attendees to look up information on the clothes they wore to the session.  Stephen, my session collaborator, gained insight on information beyond the price tag, and began looking at clothing in a more informed way even before the DwD session took place.

Q: Did you detect any consensus or streams of thought?

There wasn’t consensus on a solution for the wicked problem presented.  But that’s understandable since our small group dialogues focused on segments of the apparel loop. On reflection, comments noted when we reconvened in full circle, could be encapsulated as a need for transparency. And generally, the take-away was a greater understanding there are no easy answers to establishing trust in global supply chains.  As individuals, attendees recognized more clearly how we are all active consumers in the modern apparel system.

Q: What was your biggest takeaway? 

My biggest take-away was a confirmation that consumers are interested in being more informed about their purchasing choices beyond the price tag. Apparel is a useful metaphor for our consuming habits and validating the high ratio of consumers who are not indifferent to the impact that their purchasing makes once they are informed, matters. I also immediately gained great content for my gooderGoods podcast #14 – Mis-Trust. You can hear it on rabble.ca or on soundcloud.  Note the visual for Mis-Trust was not a piece of clothing but the case of water purchased for the event.

Q: How might FF relate to design thinking? 

Fashion is an applied art. Design thinking is outcome driven vs. purely creative thought.  Often fashion is considered frivolous or on an esthetical level but for most of us, the retail price is a constraint to sell through or textile waste.  And combined with a respect for people and planet make it a wicked problem that is solvable but requires an equilibrium system shift.  Solutions to parts can contribute to the problem but to scale it needs greater accountability throughout the system that includes with consumers. Educating consumers on both their power and how they contribute to keeping the status quo is an important part of creating the shift.  That’s why I’m chasing Flourishing vs. Sustainable Fashion.  We want to continue to make sell and buy desirable products with holistic growth NOT sustain the purchasing process we have now.

Q: Where might the FF transformation come from? 

I love Frances Westley’s insight that change is hard but can also happen in the blink of an eye.  With clothing, it is something that literally touches us daily, and we are generally in control of what we choose to purchase, or not.

 

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See the recent event on Fair Labour and the Living Wage with Kelly Okamura and Auret van Heerden at The Fashion Institute of Technology, March 2016.

 

 

 

Idea Convener – Kelly Okamura 

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Kelly is a product designer and design strategist who is exploring the opportunities for flourishing business thinking in the fast-moving world of fashion and textiles. She is currently investigating the complexity of the purchasing system to provide solutions for transformative change. You can check out her gooderGoods podcasts on conscious consumption at rabble.ca or Soundcloud.

 

Acting in Networks of Influence

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How we can ground our work concretely, by considering multiple stakeholders that may influence project outcomes?

How do we get a handle on who, or what, influences the changes that occur in situations?

What are the formal links that are present? What are the informal links? What are the unknown links?

Stephen Sillett’s workshop takes us from stakeholder inquiry to social network appraisal to network fusion. Starting with an experiential embodied group warm up, we transitioned into a “Calabash” fire exercise (Calabash is an African cooking pot) for awakening collective imaginations.

Stephen will work from and share details of his work with different cultures and environments, and how drama and theatre process can powerfully reveal the differences and commonalities across lived experiences. Stephen has developed these practices in working with the CrossGEN: Connecting Across Age and Culture project, funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation and developed in the Niagara region. This project laid the foundations for the Network Weaving approaches that Aiding Dramatic Change in Development (ADCiD) has engaged since 2011.

Exploration and coaching in Clean Language inspired deliberation to unpack questions and ideas around the meaning of “influence” and networks of influence.

Idea Convener

ssillettStephen Sillett is co-executive director of Aiding Dramatic Change ~ in Development (ADCID), and helps the organization research, facilitate and direct dialogue, drama and art processes for healing and community development. Through ADCID projects and in partnership with other social actors, he is exploring approaches that engage community members in conversations, consciously orientated to maturing visions of the future. Research interests include the facilitation of non-verbal and spatial meaning-making practices within group workshop and the creation of interactive performance. He directs InFusion Labs where theatre artists, therapists, scientists and social practitioners explore spatial approaches to exploration and discovery.

 

The Possibility of Creating Community

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What’s the potential for Design with Dialogue as a true Community of Inquiry? How could we all co-create this together this year?

The first DwD of 2016 was convened by Peter Jones (dialogue) and Patricia Kambitsch (visual), held with a group of 20 new and continuing participants drawn to the shared inquiry into the possibility of community. The session was guided by several questions about the meaning of and stake in community.

The dialogue opened with acknowledgement and mapping of the communities we participate in, as shown in the sketched map, people placed notes in the spaces for Business, Religion, Regional, Neighborhood, Health & Fitness, Arts, Civic, Academic, and new communities such as “Value” and “Place”. Discussion in the circle revealed the differences in views of community and the level of engagement that counts to be considered a “community.”

CommunityMap.smThe dialogue dived into the meaning of the Design with Dialogue community to its ongoing stakeholders. DwD has evolved from 2008 to today into a deeply connected, ongoing Community of Practice for learning and facilitating with tools for social and organizational transformation. Our central question for the evening was essentially, who are we a community and why are we? Do we only support and engage with these communities outside of DwD, or is there a centre of life and practice here, a community that continues in its own purpose, even if undeclared by most of us?

What’s the potential for Design with Dialogue as a true Community of Inquiry? 

A visual mapping of the dialogue was sketched live during the conversation, as people responded to the question of community as:

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  • Place for the power of dialogue
  • Bringing groups (stakeholders) in to DwD to dialogue on an issue
  • Finding meaning in discourse
  • Seeds for new stories
  • Getting unstuck, and “dialogue as therapy”
  • Listening beyond these walls
  • Developing a common language and different perspectives

The group inquiry process adapted Peter Block’s six conversations on community.Variations of the questions asked each particpants to inquire and share their experience with:

  • What’s your story? What’s your commitment to the group or its purpose?
  • What gift do you bring? How do you lead or form the community?
  • What have you been unwilling to commit to?
  • What refusal have you withheld in your community?

These expressions were shared in the whole group and mapped (to the right) in the mural.

The final process developed a core set of responsibilities that lend group wisdom toward the DwD 2016 plan for co-creation and community engagement.

Together we the potential to engage and influence thinking and action in the crucial concerns of our time. Given this potential, how might we most effectively contribute to the civic issues and policy thinking in our larger communities?

Floorsketch

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Economies that Work for All of Us (Unify Toronto Dialogues)

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The Spiral Comes Full Circle: How Nation-to-Nation Relations with First Nations Can Lead to Economies that Work for All of Us

  • What would it be like for our human economy to be in harmony with the Earth’s economy?
  • What would our communities be like if we put energy into personalized and localized resources that benefit everyone around us?

In these times of accelerating crises – climate change, religious extremism, cyclic economic collapse – it has never been more important to think how to address their common underlying causes, many of which we have been the subjects of our dialogues over the past year.

This final Unify Toronto Dialogue of 2015 deepened a year long enquiry into money and meaning inspired by the learnings from our Remaking a Living dialogue series. What have we learned from the practices of community stewardship, reciprocal caring economies, and transformation (e.g., Theory U) that we’ve explored that might guide our design of enlivening, human-scale economic systems?

Guided by Kevin Best, we grounded the session again in the indigenous world views that laid the foundation for our series with our January dialogue inspired by Idle No More: A Love Story.  Almost a year after that January dialogue, our new government has promised ‘nation-to-nation relations’ with First Nations in Canada, committed to adopt all the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and pledged to implement the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The following points were revealed in the dialogue:

  • Flow is key.  Learn from the future as it emerges.
  • Come together with the people you love.
  • The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report and the United Nations Declarations and Treaties are a basis for moving forward together.
    Well-meaning settlers need to go beyond tokenism to address injustice.
  • A nation-to-nation relationship between the First Nations, Métis and Inuit and the Canadian Government will be profoundly important.

The TRC grew out of the Canadian Government’s apology for residential schools.

  • Led to 94 recommendations, and Prime Minister Trudeau has committed to implementing them all.
  • Need curriculum of identity restoration.
  • The TRC report provides an entry point into the conversation.
  • The full report will be released on Dec 15 and presented to Canada in Ottawa at noon, Shaw Convention Centre.

Kevin Best: We need to implement as clans, as communities, and come together at a small level – in clan groups of like-minded people.

  • The indigenous view is individualistic for all that does not affect the group
  • Reference the film: Schooling the World
  • Focus on the manageable connections – housesharing, shared space and land, make local economies work for all
  • Tribing up frees energy and resources

 Group discussion

  • The TRC used non-Indigenous ways to deal with Indigenous issues
  • We need to shift toward a reciprocal relationship
  • The disconnect from self is core
  • Each action contributes to a shift in consciousness
    • This process is slow, but it reaches a tipping point
  • Change requires us to use new concepts
    • We need someone else’s ideas
    • Few are willing to be transformed
  • We need to see with both Indigenous (grounded, emotional) and Western (materialistic, intellectual) eyes
  • Structure and individual feed and support each other

Action outcomes

  • When you’re ready, you’ll be able to hear and change
    • You will reach a threshold – keep working toward it
  • Need to create a space within ourselves, between agreement and disagreement
  • Also need to create shared meaning across generations
  • Focus on building relationship
  • Be present to hold the space for the future generatively
  • The community provides the context for action
    • Personal change can happen within that and can in turn influence the community.
  • Openness allows for the unexpected

We explored how fulfilling these commitments in the fullest sense would also mean realizing the promise of regenerative, just and caring economies that we have been dreaming into being through this year’s dialogues. Read the Leap manifesto and discussion at Unify Toronto.

About the Host 

Kevin Best has focused on how to create a sustainable world through activism, innovative business and restoring Indigenous society for over four decades. He has worked with Indigenous people throughout Turtle Island, consulted to Greenpeace and pioneered green energy in Ontario. He is currently working on a start-up called Odenaansan (Village or “the little places where my heart is”), an integrated, culturally-based approach to restoring Minobimadzin (the good life) through sustainable food, energy, housing and water in Anishinabe communities. Ceremonially adopted into Bkejwanong (Walpole Island) in the late 1990’s, Kevin is a member of the Martin clan and is Neegunneechgun (the one who goes before the people). He is passionate about decolonization and re-indigenization and committed to spreading understanding of these life-giving possibilities.