Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Implementing a social networking strategy to drive effective green technology and sustainability – a practical guide, part 8

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on April 25, 2010

I started discussion of leadership in an open, non- hierarchical or loosely hierarchical organization such as a social network and community based movement with part 7 of this series. There, I focused on issues of strategy and vision, and of overall management as developed when facing inward within the group and its goals oriented community. This posting looks outward to consider the role of leadership as representing the group and its mission and vision in a larger, more inclusive setting. In a sense this means discussing lobbying and negotiating, and in regard to the later I cite postings I have added to my ongoing Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development where I discuss negotiating best practices per se and offer reference works for further reading (nota bene: see postings 14, 15 and 20 in that series.)

I want to focus here on an area of leadership that includes elements of both, but in this case with a focus on environmental causes, and that means addressing some potential stereotypes and it means reaching across them to build some specific types of bridges.

All too often, environmentalism and activism in support of Green and sustainability is equated with the goals if not the philosophy of Ned Ludd and environmentalists are often grouped in with Luddites as being anti-technology per se. As soon as environmental activism is put in the corner of simply being against as its defining value instead of being for specific sources of value and a positive voice, they are pushed into a position of simply being reactive. It is not a coincidence that groups and organizations that seek to promote development that runs counter to environmental needs and to longer term sustainability almost always seek to portray their environmentalist opponents in this as being entirely against and without sustaining positive options beyond simply maintaining some personal status quo.

Reframing the issues and public perception of who they are and what they stand for as a positive voice and as a moving-forward is empowering and it creates leverage for positive change that the more general public can and will support. So to turn back to a working example I have cited in earlier postings in this series, protecting our groundwater and our small and organic farming and viniculture in Upstate New York cannot simply be a movement that fights and seeks to block hydrofracking. In the long run it cannot succeed in maintaining environmental quality and quality of life in the face of genuine needs for energy independence if it cannot be developed in coordination with groups that focus on energy independence and other, sometimes competing needs too.

This is where negotiating and lobbying come in, and I acknowledge that much of this is going to be done by reaching out to legislators and to members of the government’s executive branches – and sometimes to the courts. But these are not the places to start lobbying and negotiating. They are or at least should be a further step out that would be approached from a foundation of reaching out and developing support – and outside of your immediate supporting community of shared immediate interest too.

• What groups and communities hold potential for seeing the core issues behind your immediate mission and vision as their own? These can be people who are directly affected such as the people who live in the Upstate New York counties that would directly see hydrofracking in their immediate vicinity, where they live and work and where their children go to school. In this case, that would also include people living in cities like New York City who may never go to Upstate New York, who may not eat organic or minimally treated food grown there or of the type grown there, and who may not automatically see this as their issue – but who do rely on this area as their source of drinking water. So this bullet point is about knowing who is less obviously holding a significant stake in the outcome of how your issue is resolved but who could be brought to see this as their issue too, and for their reasons.
• What groups would see themselves at least as a first reaction as having conflicting needs to your own over the issues motivating your cause? Here, this is a matter of differences in initial perception, at least, of relative risks and benefits and not one of maliciousness of callousness on the part of anyone. People who are focused on the growing consequences of our reliance for basic energy needs on unreliable and even despotic regimes have good arguments on their side too. This is not, or at least should not be a zero-sum game theory scenario and in fact any viable, long term resolution that would protect the local environment, in this case in Upstate New York and way beyond has to also accommodate the needs of these other groups too. Zero-sum approaches can only lead to long term failure, with perhaps winning the battle now, but in the longer term losing the war.
• How can you as a leader in your goal directed and oriented social network and community reach out to work with other groups who would also approach those same legislators and executives in government, so you can approach them together, and with a more mutually agreeable resolution? The people who stand to gain fortunes from hydrofracking will not join you in this, but the larger community they would turn to for support who simply see a need for energy independence without an immutable buy-in for any one particular technology solution to that, may be influenced in your favor. So who are these people and how can you reach out to them and positively influence them with positive, path-forward alternatives that would meet your needs and theirs too?
• If you can achieve that in finding and creating a basis for common cause, you and these other, no longer competing groups can approach government and other gatekeepers with calls to action with a larger, more persuasive voice and that can help your and them to actually achieve longer term success.

So leadership in this sense is about mission and vision, and negotiating and lobbying, but an overarching concept that has to inform all of this is that leadership facing outward has to be in large part about coalition building. It has to be about being proactive and about providing and sharing positive answers to genuine problems that can meet wider needs – all while remaining true to your own mission and vision as you guiding compass.

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  1. […] for Green. I have also at least started a discussion on issues related to Green leadership and to negotiations and lobbying in this […]

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