What is “Pyramid”?

Pyramid (also known as “Building the Pyramid”) is a workshop process that was invented in 2001-2002 as a way to accelerate learning and planning for sustainable development … and anything else that has “the good of the whole” as its core purpose. Schools and universities use Pyramid for classroom education. Companies and organizations use it to create new initiatives or plans. Communities have used it to find new ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, recover after a disaster, and more.

We created Pyramid based on long experience in bringing groups together, getting them to think collaboratively and systemically about sustainability, and then providing them a pathway for going from reflection to action. Pyramid combines two simple process tools:

  • The Compass of Sustainability:  “Compass” uses the familiar compass symbol (North, East, South, West) to help people orient themselves to whole-systems thinking (Nature, Economy, Society, Wellbeing)
  • The ISIS Method:  “ISIS” leads groups through a quick and structured thinking process, following a trail that leads from Indicators, to Systems Thinking, to Innovation, to Strategy … and leads up to an Agreement to Act.

A classic Pyramid workshop uses both of these tools, and mirrors a group’s learning or planning process on a three-dimensional pyramid model (see photo).

A “Pyramid Lite” workshop simplifies this process even more. It strips out words like “indicator” or “system,” and simply leads groups through a series of questions, focused around a “Central Challenge” that the group is interested in learning more (and/or doing something) about. What is happening? Why is it happening? What can be done to change the situation? How can those changes be implemented? The building of a physical pyramid also helps the group focus on this thinking process (though the physical pyramid is not strictly necessary).

The Pyramid Lite manual is free to download and use. If you are an experienced facilitator, workshop leader or teacher, you might prefer to get familiar with the full “Building the Pyramid” toolkit, which includes a much more detailed manual, presentation slides, etc. To get licensed, you’ll need to attend one of our ISIS Academy training workshops.

But for Pyramid 2012, the global workshop, Pyramid Lite is all you need … plus a group of people, and a desire to make a difference!



3 thoughts on “What is “Pyramid”?

  1. Hi there. I’m one of the (many?) folks who intended to catalyze Pyramid in the initial timeframe and did not – and I see numerous community opportunities. If you all could leave this opportunity in tact with a low-maintenance platform like this, and maybe gather results in a short annual report (blog post – simple) that would be lovely.

    Melissa Everett
    Sustainable Hudson Valley

    Posted by melissaeverett | 14 April 2012, 13:40
  2. I like it…… I’d been one of the wannabees for the first round who had good intentions but not enough local traction – keep this available please!

    Posted by melissaeverett | 14 April 2012, 13:41
    • Thank you for your comment, Melissa! We are currently looking into ways to extend this campaign. You are more than welcome to still organize a Pyramid workshop in your community, if you’d like, although at this point we will no longer be able to include your results in the global report of the Pyramid 2012 campaign. However, we would love to hear from you with the results and any further ideas on how to take this further!

      Posted by Admin | 23 April 2012, 19:02

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