What can we do about this “Sustainability Thing”?

On the 27th July 2011 I presented at the Knowledge Management Leadership Forum (KMLF).

The topic was What can we do about this “Sustainability Thing”?

The powerpoint pack that I used as a starting point can be found by clicking on the link KMLF.

You will find though that if you click on the link What can we do about this “Sustainability Thing”? that the presentation that emerged was much more expansive than these beginnings, as questions were asked and connections got made. There was a lot of interest in indigenous knowledge and I mentioned this book:

Treading Lightly by Karl-Eric Sveiby, a Professor of Knowledge Management,  together with Tex Skuthorpe a Nhunggabarra man from Nhunggal country in northwestern New South Wales. This is particularly interesting for it’s thesis that as the indigenous community was on average able to collect enough food in a limited time that the majority of their time was ‘spent’ in managing knowledge.

Also I mentioned the Galtha and Garma of the Yolngu community together with the two forms of knowing (western ways of thought and more circular ‘traditional ways’) while connecting with (and stylising) the painting by Old Mick Tjakamurra’s ‘Children’s Water Dreaming with Possum Story’ (this can be found on page 140 of Papunya by Bardon & Bardon). Also I connected with the short and long cycles of action research (I find Checkland and Holwell’a Information, Systems and Information Systems valuable in this regard), as well as the slowing down and the going around and the more deliberative form (BTW there was a good talk on deliberative processes on ABC’s Classic FM at 10am today 29 July 2011 – it will soon be online).

I also mentioned the book The Water Dreamers by Michael Cathcart which provides an interesting view of the ‘struggle to live in a dry continent, our failures and successes. It is the history of our attempts to understand and belong.’ (quote from cover).

This brings me to At Home in the World by Michael Jackson which is by a white man, an anthropologist, who lives with the Warlpirri of the Tanami Desert in Central Australia as part of his search to understand what it means to be ‘at home’ in our world where fewer and fewer people live their lives where they are born. He hopes that in searching for the answer to his question alongside nomads that he may find a new way of thinking about home and homelessness, exile and belonging. I found this book thought provoking and feel that it provides a sort of ‘bridging’ between different ways of being in the world that is not necessarily answered by asking about someone’s ontology (this text is paraphrased from the cover of the book).

Another older book that I have found helpful is Songlines by Bruce Chatwin, again a whiteman’s interpretation of aboriginal ways.

Further it is worth reading the introductory parts of David Unaipon’s Legendary Tales of the Australian Aborigines edited and introduced by Stephen Muecke & Adam Shoemaker. This provides a little history lesson of David Unaipon ‘An early Aboriginal political activist, he was also a scientist, a writer, a preacher and an inventor’ who acted as a ‘collector’ of traditional Aboriginal Stories from his own Ngarrindjeri people together with some from SA. His work was published in the 1930s but the authorship was attributed to another white man without mentioning him. The editors have attempted a repatriation, restoring the text to its original form and they brought it home to its community – the community to whom the stories belonged in the first place. This indicates the relationship that ‘played out’ in Australia between the ‘settlers’ and the existing community (again I have paraphrased some of this text from the cover of the book).

The phrase ‘mobilising knowledge’ came up at the session and I feel really drawn to this as a description of what I do. I also recognise that I am not particularly good at what is typically understood as Knowledge Management but I do know how to draw on people that are good at this sort of work.

I had a fabulous time at the KMLF and I am still ‘connecting’ with what has emerged from this experience.

Cheers, Jenni

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About Jenni

I am interested in working with others to enhance the sustainability of human systems. My practice is to engage with people by drawing on their own ways of knowing and understanding. I orient people toward the “pull” of future intentions, rather than the blind "push" of past habits and "best practice". I encourage people to break out of their cognitive silos, to think laterally and to focus on the whole problem systemically in all its inter-disciplinary complexity. My practice works through the essential processes of innovation – mobilising resources, enrolling peers, engaging allies and building public support. This form of engineering practice is about manoeuvring, dissolving boundaries, always being in action, and recognising that function, congruence and transformation are emergent properties generated through active learning by doing.
This entry was posted in Connecting, Doing, Future, Past, Present, Processes, Relating, Sustainability, Sustaining Practices, Thinking. Bookmark the permalink.

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