Leverage => Change

I am constantly challenging myself to find effective ways to leverage change in the world.  Sometimes it’s minor, like how to reduce my yardwork responsibilities.  Often it’s ambitious, like reducing apartment building utility consumption across Minnesota, or changing culture to make bicycling so normal people don’t even notice they’re doing it.

The Social Innovation LabI embed those efforts into my work and life, not necessarily focusing on it as my primary goal.  That’s why I was honored when long-time friend and fellow consultant Michael Bischoff of Clarity Factilitation invited me (as program coordinator with Minnesota Green Communities) to participate in a Social Innovation Lab as a system change case study. The Lab will focus on identifying and working with leverage points for change in complex systems.

I want to share a couple of leverage points I’m using in my current work.

With Minnesota Green Communities, developers across the state are building green homes affordably.  However, we think that if the single family home market were able to value green (by buying it faster or for a slightly higher price), it would be even easier.  We’re collaborating with the Minnesota chapter of the USGBC, Minnesota GreenStar and the Passive House Alliance Minnesota towards getting green certifications included on the MLS. I harbor similar hopes about energy efficiency information being used when marketing apartments.  The leverage points:  partnerships (more people to carry the load), certification (a simple concept implemented by others) and consumer education (small shifts in demand can move the system).

With the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, we’re working on a bike parking program – and for me, it’s also a cultural change effort.  We are p for me is that partnering with the City of Minneapolis, neighborhood and businesses associations and businesses, and individuals to expand bike parking in a dense, bike-filled part of the city.  The secret part of it is that the visible bike parking is on the street – meaning that lots of people who think themselves normal will see lots of normal-looking people locking up and unlocking bikes, and will gently change some cultural norms to make biking normal.  The leverage points:  the City’s parking conversion and bike paring match programs (funding, labor, and capacity); businesses and association interests (cheap path to more customers), visibility to create cultural norms (increasing future demand).

The first gathering of this lab will be on May 22 from 8:30 to noon in St. Paul — join us.