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Workshop Report

Pyramid 2012 at the crossroads

On the 31st of March the Pyramid 2012 campaign officially ended.  We had set this deadline for organizing and reporting on a workshop, because we wanted to have sufficient time to prepare a global report and publicize it well ahead of the UN Rio+20 conference.

However, nearly two weeks later, we are still receiving reports, uploading stories on our website, and learning about completed Pyramids that we hadn’t even expected, or new ones that are planned for the end of April. We have been overwhelmed, and so gratified, by the response so far! To all of you who dedicated your time and energy to make Pyramid 2012 a reality, THANK YOU!

The question now is: Do we stop? Or do we go on?

In a newsletter we sent out today to our subscribers we explain in more detail the aspirations we had when Pyramid 2012 was launched, and how – inspired by your support – a new vision was shaped. You can read the full content of this newsletter here:

Very briefly, we are now thinking about:

•    Extending and expanding Pyramid 2012 campaign into a longer-term program
•    Developing partnerships for communications and funding, and really working to spread the idea of doing Pyramid Lite workshops as a fun, engaging, powerful way to learn, and do, sustainability
•    Trying to turn Pyramid 2012 into a kind of “self-replicating social movement,” as people teach each other to use it, and spread the idea … creating a volunteer-driven “pyramid of Pyramids”

Do you think this is worthwhile? Would you like to volunteer a little bit of your time to take these ideas further … and build something together?

We need your feedback! Please take 2 minutes to fill in this short survey (4 questions), or just send us an e-mail with your thoughts:

If you would like to know more details about this proposition and the arguments behind it, please continue reading…

Fragment from the Pyramid Newsletter of April 11th, 2012

The arguments for continuing: Reviewing what happened during the last few months

Steady growth in numbers:In two months’ time the number of fans of our Facebook page doubled (we are now at 75), we reached 57 followers on Twitter and the community of subscribers to our Newsletter grew to 111 people. In absolute terms, these are not big numbers. But they matter a lot when you put things into perspective: Pyramid 2012 was created by a two-person “team” (or 1.5 people, if you consider that Cristina only started to help Alan in January), with no funding, with a time commitment of not even 10 hours/week, and no marketing campaign. We are still a cozy group, yet we are growing, without putting a lot of effort into it.

Great diversity in both the groups and the content: Pyramid 2012 and Pyramid Lite have proven that the Pyramid method — which used to be limited to one or two-day events, in professional environments — can be used by anyone, on a truly wide array of sustainability issues. The groups participating included high school students, university students, professional consultants, government officials, subsistence farmers, and ordinary folks in their living rooms. Some groups used Pyramid as a learning tool, others took it a step further and transformed it into action projects (we will detail all of these in the report). Pyramid can travel!

Self-generating diffusion:  There were several group coordinators who joined Pyramid 2012 without knowing any of the people involved in organizing it, or ever having done a Pyramid before. We think there is a chance that with a more focused effort, Pyramid could go “viral” and spread more and more quickly, as people see more and more evidence that something is happening, that it works, that it’s fun! There is a chance to create a “reinforcing feedback loop” that could generate a lot more activity to promote a more sustainable world.

Why now?

Pyramid 2012 was conceived as a way to raise some awareness and make a contribution to the upcoming Rio+20 meeting, which marks 20 years since the launch of the modern sustainable development movement at the 1992 Earth Summit.

But as that meeting approaches, we are hearing more and more voices — from science, from leading political figures, and from ordinary people — saying that change is still far, far too slow. We are running up against the famous “Limits to Growth” that scientists warned us about 40 years ago. Unfortunately, problems like climate change, water and other resource scarcity, stresses in the global food system, and biodiversity loss are showing up right on schedule.

As a world, we need to do everything we can to increase people’s engagement in the process of making sustainability a reality. There are many ways to do that, of course … and Pyramid seems to be a pretty good one, a way that is worth spreading. Can you imagine more and more people being invited to “Pyramid Parties,” where they get the chance to learn, talk, and dream up actions together? What about more and more teachers doing it in the classroom? People doing it at work? Civic groups organizing day-long events to re-energize their sustainability programs?

And as a result … more and more people would be inspired to do something. Not everyone, of course … but more people than would otherwise have been doing something … and they would, in turn, inspire others to learn more, and do something more …

This is how we see Pyramid contributing to the global sustainability movement. This is our vision.

How would this program be set up?

First of all, Pyramid Lite would continue to be distributed free, promoted by a community of dedicated people, and supported by a widening array of online resources — short videos, testimonials, stories, manuals in different languages. Different versions of the Pyramid Lite manual could also be developed, to fit with people’s other programs:  Pyramid is very versatile, can be easily adapted. For people who don’t like to read, video instructions or podcasts would talk them through the process.

Imagine, then, that as people participate more and in this, they earn recognition … especially when they recruit other people to participate. Imagine a “Pyramid scheme of Pyramids,” where no money is involved … but where the people, the engagement, and the action are multiplying.

A rebuilt Pyramid 2012 website would keep track of it all, but the website would not be the only way to keep Pyramid spreading. Simple, short documents would show people how to do it, and would be easy to replicate.

Why Pyramid?

Pyramid was designed so that groups could come together and do “systems thinking” together … regardless of whether they understood what a system was. It then leads them through a logical thinking process, that can be matched up with their capacity:  more advanced groups can do more advanced Pyramids. The process helps harvest the input of many different perspectives, many different disciplines. And it generates ideas that can lead to agreements — consensus agreements to take concrete action.

It’s the structure of Pyramid that carries the message of sustainable development … even if the phrase “sustainable development” is hard for some people to digest. With Pyramid Lite, they don’t have to understand any technical words and concepts to do a successful workshop. Doing Pyramid Lite is a way to do sustainability.

People seem to walk away from Pyramid with a few very important key lessons about sustainability. Pyramid helps them to understand that sustainable development involves …

1.       Multiple perspectives:  Understanding that there are always different ways of looking at the same problem, and that sometimes you have to look at problems from several different perspectives, if you are going to find a good, innovative solution.

2.       Balance:   In a complex world, you can’t just sacrifice nature to the economy, or the economy to nature, or either one of those to rights and wellbeing of people.  The four sides of the Pyramid (which we often label as the Sustainability Compass) help to remind us that everything needs to be kept in some kind of stable balance.

3.       Action:  There is no sustainable development, and no possibility for a sustainable world, if we do not take concrete action and implement concrete projects. The “point” of the Pyramid, the “Capstone Agreement” at the top, helps to make that link between talk and action very clear.



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