3 June 2009

An Open Invitation

Posted by Admin under: Forum .

We invite you to join us in the Sustainable Leadership Forum, at our next membership gathering on

Wednesday, August 12, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at 8 Revere Drive, Basking Ridge, NJ 07920

(click here for directions)

At this time we will again present the mission, membership strategy, and programs for the Forum, and invite you to join with us in creating a dynamic, self-generating organization devoted to leading the sustainability revolution.

This is a small, targeted, but ambitious undertaking. It is deliberately intended to challenge much of our thinking – about change, about power, and about organizations – and to apply unconventional strategies to oppose our society’s headlong rush toward self-destruction. It is intended to serve as a hub for member projects and initiatives – not just one more thing to do, but one that supports you in what you already doing or choose as your role in leading change.

In a recent issue of the New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell writes about the David and Goliath phenomenon, citing a study by Harvard political scientist Ivan Arreguin-Toft:

“When underdogs choose not to play by Goliath’s rules, they win, Arreguin-Toft concluded, ‘even when everything we think we know about power says they shouldn’t.'” (“How David Beats Goliath,” The New Yorker, May 11, 2009, p.41)

While some of Gladwell’s arguments have themselves been criticized (see Bill Harris’s “The Badwell of Gladwell,” Dubious Quality, Monday, June 01, 2009), Arreguin-Toft’s central thesis remains: when you adopt unconventional strategies, you can frequently win against a much more powerful opponent.

In this case, the “more powerful opponent” is what’s often called BAU – “business as usual” – which we see over and over again leads to unsustainable outcomes. Our challenge today is to imagine, and call into being, a sustainable future – which encompasses everything we know about the way human beings operate, and harnesses our ingenuity, energy, and creativity to alter what we know to be a drift toward catastrophic climate change, mass extinction, toxic chemical contamination, oceanic and atmospheric degradation, and global ecosystem reconfiguration.

Our goal, as an organization, will be to support the leaders of the sustainability revolution – beginning in our own back yard – and to devise the unconventional strategies we will need to cause our society to change direction. It will draw on what we know about individual and organizational transformation to create new structures, processes, initiatives, and enterprises to trigger more widespread change. In Gladwell’s terms:

In the Biblical story of David and Goliath, David initially put on a coat of mail and a brass helmet and girded himself with a sword: he prepared to wage a conventional battle of swords against Goliath. But then he stopped. “I cannot walk in these, for I am unused to it,” he said (in Robert Alter’s translation), and picked up those five smooth stones. What happened, Arreguín-Toft wondered, when the underdogs likewise acknowledged their weakness and chose an unconventional strategy? He went back and re-analyzed his data. In those cases, David’s winning percentage went from 28.5 to 63.6. When underdogs choose not to play by Goliath’s rules, they win, Arreguín-Toft concluded, “even when everything we think we know about power says they shouldn’t.

We need to begin by acknowledging the forces of inertia, of ignorance, and of self-interest arrayed against us, and we need to pick up our own smooth stones. We then need to step out and undertake our own “full court press” against these forces by joining together to bring about a revolution in consciousness, a massive “paradigm shift” comparable to the agricultural and industrial revolutions, and alter the course of history through deliberative action.

This event is free, and open to anyone passionate, concerned, or serious about sustainability at all levels – locally and globally, physically and spiritually, environmentally, economically, and socially.

Please RSVP to [email protected] if you are planning to attend. No refreshments will be provided; bring something organic and healthful to share with others if you are so inclined. Once again, the location on July 11 is the Hartman Lounge, in the Mansion – for directions to the campus see Directions to the Meeting location. If you need assistance with public transportation, please call me at 908-581-8418. And if you are interested in being part of the organization, but cannot make it to this event, please email me at [email protected] and I will let you know how to join. Thank you.

Important: Please note that the Sustainable Leadership Forum is not affiliated with or endorsed by Fairleigh Dickinson University, or with or by the Institute for Sustainable Enterprise at this time, although we are in discussions as to whether and how the Institute can support this and other initiatives that involve training, leadership, membership, and networking activities. Because of my role at the Institute and as Manager of the Sustainable Business Incubator, ISE has allowed me to use their facilities to introduce and promote this nonprofit program. This is not an endorsement, and we are reviewing the pros and cons of reaching an agreement, or having the Forum and other similar programs be completely separate from my role at the University. – Jonathan Cloud

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Past Events

Correction: We'll be hosting this year's holiday potluck — "Bringing Solar Power Home for the Holidays" — on Saturday, December 15, 2012 from 4 to 9 p.m. Click here for more details. RSVP to [email protected].
Saturday, November 17, 2012, 10 a.m. Eastern: Sustainable Neighborhood & Community Conversations (III).
Saturday, October 13, 2012, 10 a.m. Eastern: Transforming Neighborhoods and Communities II.
Saturday, September 8, 2012, 10 a.m. Eastern: Transforming Neighborhoods & Communities.
Saturday, June 16, 2012: SLF Potluck June 16: Sustainable Living Communities.
The Sustainable Haiti Conference took place April 23-25, 2012 in Miami.
"Inside Job" Movie Party. Saturday, February 11th, 6:00 PM, Liberty Ridge, The Hills, Bernards Twp, Basking Ridge, NJ 07920.
2nd 'Buy Haitian, Restore Haiti Conference', January 26, 2012, Karibe Convention Center, Petion Ville, Haiti
Dec 11 SLF Potluck: "Bringing Sustainability Home for the Holidays" Basking Ridge, NJ. RSVP to [email protected].
Saturday, July 9, 2011, 4 p.m. Open House Party & Potluck, Saturday, July 9, 4 p.m., Basking Ridge, NJ.
RSVP to [email protected]
Saturday, May 21, 1-4 p.m. EcoCenter Update. At the Morristown EcoCenter, 55 Bank Street, Morristown, NJ 07960.
Saturday, April 16, 1-4 p.m. "Haiti & Us: The Leading Edge of Sustainable Development." At the Morristown EcoCenter, 55 Bank Street, Morristown, NJ 07960. A copy of the update presentation has been posted here.
Saturday, March 19, 1-4 p.m. "Creating the Morristown EcoCenter." Held at 55 Bank Street, Morristown, the site of the proposed EcoCenter.
Saturday, February 19, 1-4 p.m. Monthly meeting, ""A Profound Transformation in Consciousness," Morris County Library, Whippany, NJ. Click here for details.
Saturday, January 15, 1-4 p.m. Putting Idealism into Practice: Tour of Half Moon House. Click here for details.
Saturday, December 18, 1-4 p.m. Challenge & Strategy Session: "Reinventing Wealth," followed by our annual "Potluck for the Planet" from 4 to 8. Click here for details.
Saturday, November 20, 1-4 p.m. Challenge & Strategy Session: "How Do We Measure Sustainable Value?". Click here for details.
Saturday, October 16, 1-4 p.m. Challenge and Strategy Session: "Toward a Sustainable Growth Strategy for New Jersey".
Download the slide presentation here, and the discussion paper here.

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Leadership Quotes

"Nearly every man who develops an idea works it up to the point where it looks impossible, and then he gets discouraged. That's not the place to become discouraged."
(Thomas A. Edison—thanks to Regan Caton)

"Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” (G.B. Shaw)

"There is the true joy of life: to be used by a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; to be thoroughly worn out before being thrown on the scrap heap; to be a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that life will not devote itself to making you happy." (G.B. Shaw)

"Leadership is a privilege to better the lives of others. It is not an opportunity to satisfy personal greed." (Mwai Kibaki, President of Kenya - thanks to Christine Comaford, Rules for Renegades)