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THAILAND: Expats in Bangkok Take Action to Improve Water Management in the Region

Who said it takes a lot of resources and people to run a Pyramid workshop and then put the results into practice? A very small group of American expats in Bangkok, Thailand, gathered to discuss water management issues. There was the banker, the businessman, the teacher and the consultant, all committed to taking action to address the challenge at hand.

After a thorough analysis of the situation, they concluded that there was a general lack of awareness regarding water management issues, which in turn led to systemic problems, as illustrated by the recent floods in Bangkok. In order to address this problem, the participants decided to set-up a high-profile collaborative project and use their local networks to generate interest. Their Capstone Agreement was “to work together and meet once per month (minimum) to advance the project and achieve the desired objective”.

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COLOMBIA: Villagers in Cuernavaca Set Up a Plan for Integrated Peasant Water Management

Organizer: Julia Andrea Osorio Henao

In the small village La Holanda, in Cuernavaca, Colombia, farmers met to build a Pyramid around their local water problems. The workshop was organized at the initiative of Julia Andrea Osorio Henao as part of her doctoral research work on integrated peasant water management technologies.

Water use in the region of Cuernavaca is monopolized by companies that need this resource for the irrigation of sugarcane crops, water bottling and hydroelectric power generation. This results into water shortages for the local community which often cause health problems or lead to social conflicts.

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PHILIPPINES: Solving the Digital Divide

Organizers: YiHua Lin and Krystal Kang

Another group at the International School Manila chose to discuss the problem of digital divide. This refers to the gap between people with access to digital and information technology and those with very limited or no access at all. Those in the first category are considered to have an advantage in almost every aspect of their life, from learning new information, to getting a job, while the latter will lag behind in terms of knowledge, opportunities, thus being trapped in their current situation. As formulated by the organizers: “This divide enables developed nations to continue developing the technology they possess, but further hindering the underdeveloped or undeveloped nations, creating a cycle that ultimately affects the world economy and inhibits the world from solving issues such as poverty.”
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PHILIPPINES: Students at the International School in Manila on Global Warming

Coordinators: Limmena, Joey; Yang, Kevin; Bagli, Roshni

As you might already know, 20 simultaneous workshops were run at the launch of Pyramid 2012 in Manila. Here is what happened in Group A, which consisted of international students between the 9th and the 12th grade and the founder of Global Climate Action, a local NGO.

The topic tackled: global warming. The participants quickly identified the rise in demand for resources, over-extraction and overproduction as being the main underlying factors causing it. This might already sound familiar, but the novelty lies in the solutions, because that is where each group can fully express its creativity! In brief, here are some of the ideas they came up with:

  • Increase usage of public transport to reduce CO2 emissions by initiating bus programs at schools and local establishments;
  • Stop over-logging to reverse the effects of deforestation of a national-scale, by establishing green companies that would use recycled materials in the production of, e.g. paper;
  • Increase awareness of global warming through social campaigns in order to raise public support for the integration of eco-friendly materials in the production process of everyday objects;
  • Reduce the stress level associated with the future of the world and combat people’s fear of global warming by giving out free hugs.

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GERMANY: Sustainable Manufacturing and Product Innovation in Zittau

Facilitator and Organizer: Markus Will, University of Applied Sciences Zittau/Goerlitz

A rapid-4 hour-Pyramid session took place at the University of Applied Sciences Zittau/Goerlitz in the context of lectures given by sustainability expert and consultant Markus Will. The group of motivated students from the Universities “Ecology and Environmental Protection” Bachelors program worked in teams in order to identify innovative options to enhance the sustainability performance of an industrial plant. The case study here was a production plant of washing and cleaning detergents.

Following a life cycle approach the students identified indicators and innovations in order to improve the product qualities itself, i.e. reduction of anionic tensides, phosphor loads, bio-degradable or easy-to-recycle packaging or the production processes, i.e. use of renewable energies or more efficient transport logistics. Well-Being and social aspects are touched by occupational health and safety issues, as well as actions to improve organizational culture and working atmosphere. Most of the proposed issues were related to enhanced research and development, changing of organization patterns and processes. Special attention was payed to systems mapping.

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SWEDEN: Using Pyramid to Study Interdisciplinary Methods and “Citylands”

Faciliated by Alan AtKisson – 20 March 2012
Organizer: Per Berg & Manolya Akin, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala

Urban sustainability pioneer Per Berg, originator of the “Citylands” concept of regional planning and integration, teaches a course on Interdisciplinary Methods, and this course was a perfect fit for the first Swedish contribution to the Pyramid 2012 campaign.

About 40 students from 20 countries are taking the course as part of their Master’s Degree studies, and their motivations to participate range from “frustration” at the pace of change in social conditions in Kenya, to “curiosity” about how to understand complex systems. The students work in teams to study eight different “Citylands” — that is, metropolitan areas and their surrounding rural zones — around the world, and the Pyramid process helped them quickly develop a more systemic sense of what they were learning.

This was one of the fastest Pyramids Alan had facilitated:  students glued sticks into triangle shapes during the morning lecture on global sustainability trends, produced trends for each of their cities over lunch, and then rapidly developed systems maps showing leverage points for their Cityland systems in the afternoon. They generated ideas for advancing sustainability, voted on the best one … and the winner was, “Urban De-Growth.”

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GERMANY: Hofheim am Taunus – Creating Ideas for a Sustainable Municipality

Posted by Axel Klimek – 13 March 2012
Organizer: ISIS Academy, City of Hofheim, Hofheim Local Agenda 21

Almost 40.000 people live in Hofheim am Taunus, a beautiful little city close to Frankfurt am Main and Wiesbaden.  As Hofheim is the headquarter of the ISIS Academy GmbH, it was an obvious choice to run the first German Pyramid 2012 Workshop there. For initiator Axel Klimek, it was also pretty easy to find competent co-sponsors in the town for this event – the Hofheim Local Agenda 21 and the municipality of Hofheim.

Early in the evening of March 13 the 2nd city counsellor opened the event by welcoming more than 30 residents of Hofheim and asking them to create challenging and good ideas for a sustainable Hofheim. Later that evening we also had the pleasure to welcome the Hofheim mayor, Mrs. Gisela Stang, who joined the workshop after finishing another important meeting and also offered something to eat for everybody.

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POLAND: Secondary School in Śrem

Organizers: Joanna Klak and Anna Gust

Click here for the full photo album »

On the 11th of February a Pyramid workshop took place at a local secondary school in Śrem (near Poznan) during the conference “Thinking about the future”.  Students aged 17 to 19 years old discussed the issue of global climate change.

Among the first subjects debated were the possibility of reversing the unfavourable trend of climate change and the ability of individuals to contribute to environmental protection by making small changes into their daily routines.

Although the group had never come across the issue of sustainable development before, they quickly identified not only the obvious factors that contributed to the problem, but also some that go beyond the surface, such as: a “profit matters” attitude, gaps in regulation, personal behaviours, society and state rivalry, diversity of opinions.

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UK: Cambridge Climate and Sustainability Forum

Organizer: Jamila Haider

In the UK, a Pyramid workshop was run during the Cambridge Climate and Sustainability Forum, with a diverse group that included students, faculty members and community members from a nearby town.

The central challenge: making Cambridge carbon neutral. As described by the participants, the main question here is whether the benefits that stem from promoting sustainability ideas off-set the carbon emissions that come along with it, an issue that they named “brain-print”. A leading research institution, Cambridge surely contributes to fostering knowledge on a whole range of topics, but its activities also revolve around a carbon-intense conference industry, a paper-heavy culture, tourism and, generally, a lot of international business and personal travel.

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POLAND: AGH University of Science and Technology in Cracow

Organizer: Adrian Strzałkowski

Click here for the full photo album »

The following is a report summary written by Adrian: 

“Sustainable development at AGH – sharing ideas” – that was the name of the workshop organized within the global  happening Pyramid 2012, which gathered a group of 12 students and lecturers from AGH University of Science and Technology in Cracow on March 8th.

Based on the assumption that every modern university should implement principles of sustainable development into its own organizational structures, participants attempted to analyze the current state and propose positive changes to their Alma Mater. The event was patronized by the Rector of AGH and supported by the Sendzimir Foundation.

The workshop began with a short speech of prof. Jan W. Dobrowolski, who presented a Polish input into sustainable development theory with a reference to the pioneering concepts of Walery Goetel, a former AGH’s Rector between 1945 to 1951.

The working part of the workshop was a friendly exchange of thoughts carried out according to ISIS methodology. Both the situation at the University and at the Student’s Campus were taken into account.

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BOTSWANA: Using Pyramid in National Water Planning

Facilitator: Alan AtKisson

The Department of Water Affairs in Botswana has been involved in a significant restructuring of its work in recent years, and I had the good fortune to visit them last week — in the middle of the Pyramid 2012 campaign — and run a workshop that used Pyramid at its heart.

Botswana is a fast-developing nation, and water is a scarce commodity. Working with a group of about 18 water officials in the country, as part of a longer training organized by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), we explored the long-term trends in the country using the ‘Compass’ framework, and the groups then selected out key trends to explore in detail, using systems mapping.

Then developed a set of ideas (Innovations) that could be new additions to their current strategic planning process. The remainder of the workshop focused on how to implement new ideas most effectively — especially considering that not everyone likes new ideas! — and we kept with the Pyramid structure and process as we did that.

Our workshop ended on a high note, as participants used the last level to capture their own strategic insights … and then we capped it off. For me, this was a joy:  the first Pyramid in Botswana, my first time in that beautiful country, and a chance to get to know some of the people that are working to make sustainable development (water is so crucial to SD!) into a reality. – Alan AtKisson

Many thanks to Ana Cascao and SIWI, as well as the Department of Water Affairs of Botswana, for making this Pyramid possible!

INDONESIA: Sustainability Consultancy Company in Jakarta

Organizer: Maria Dian Nurani

In Jakarta, Indonesia, a Pyramid workshop was run with the employees of a sustainability consultancy firm. They collectively decided to reflect on sustainability in general, within the national context.

After a brief analysis conducted in groups, they concluded that most of the issues that their country faced stemmed from the same cause: a lack of human resource quality. Many actions were proposed, such as: awareness raising, workshop and training, coaching, evaluation, improvement plan, training for government officers, setting up an apprentice program, having collaboration with educational institutions, volunteering at school, encouraging companies to channel their CSR budgets for educational programs.

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POLAND: Gdańsk University of Technology

Organizer: Joanna Danilewicz

What does it take to make a university campus more sustainable? Especially when you look at this question with the eye of an architect/urban planner? This was the central challenge addressed by master students at the Gdańsk University of Technology in Poland. And so, a new Pyramid was born.

Many issues were brought to the table, from the untapped potential of available space to the fact that environmental awareness doesn’t translate into practice. One of the solutions lies in the creation of “places” that would encourage cooperation, innovation, interdepartmental exchanges and actions, that would “make some life”, as the participants framed it. Space – both in a physical and social sense – becomes thus a tool that can shape human interactions. In practical terms, the participants agreed that the transformation of the campus needs to begin with the community itself, so they proposed that volunteering opportunities be created, recurring events – established, competitions, workshops, interdisciplinary projects and personal initiatives – encouraged.

Click here to see the full photo album »

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RUSSIA: D. Mendeleyev University of Chemical Technology, Moscow

Organizer: Stanislav Vavilov

How can Russia tackle the exhaustion of nonrenewable resources? A few students of chemical technology from the D. Mendeleyev University in Moscow found a way to get this started. While analyzing the problem they realized that, within the local context, one of the main issues was the insufficient information available to executives, stemming from a rather old-fashioned model of education within universities.

As a consequence, the solutions proposed were targeted to the academic environment where a mentoring system and practical projects in the field of sustainability would need to be implemented: “Education is one of the main leverage points in the problem “Resource Exhaustion”, because especially in Russia, there is no such information in education process at schools and universities”, the group concluded.

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