Pyramid 2012: Addressing Sustainability Issues

On February 17th and 18th the second year Bard CEP students got the pleasure of participating in the Pyramid 2012 challenge, organized by the ISIS Academy and led by Roberta Fernandez.  The two-day workshop took us through a set of tools that we will now all be able to utilize to create change in our future endeavors.

The in-progress pyramid

ISIS stands for indicators, systems, innovations, strategy—the four pieces to the method that can be used to assess the health of an organization, implement new innovations, enhance employee and customer satisfaction, manage risk, and improve the efficiency and profitability of a company. This is all achieved through the process of building a pyramid together.  The method is contextualized by the “Compass of Sustainability,” which forces you to examine every problem, action and/or decision through the four compass points: nature, economy, society and well-being.  The Compass is there to provide guidance in making holistically examined decisions that will benefit all directions.

The problem that we came together to solve for the purpose of this workshop was how to get the New York Solar Jobs Act to pass the legislature.  To begin using this new toolkit, we started by dividing into four teams providing us with the viewpoint from which each group would participate.  I was part of the “society” team, and so, our perspective as dictated by the S arrow of the compass was, most broadly, the overarching system of culture (social cohesion, infrastructure, diversity, public security etc.).

In the first day we tackled the first I and S of ISIS: Indicators and Systems.  This involved first brainstorming within each group 7 good indicators (defined as relevant, understandable and reflective of change over time) for how to monitor our actions/the actions of the bill over time.  We then shared these with the whole group and had the first level of our pyramid!

The "Nature" group works on their systems map

Systems proved a little more difficult for some of us however.  Not because we were not familiar with systems thinking (it is something that we have learned a lot about here at CEP) but because we were constrained only to our compass perspective, had to come to consensus as a group, were working with a topic that none of us really had that much exposure to or knowledge of, and were timed.  Never the less, each team mapped 3 of their indicators in relation to all the other indicators provided from each of the compass points, and as you can imagine things got a little messy.  But there was some reason to the madness.  Each of the four maps identified five key indicator points, or leverage points, that had the most influence over the other indicators.  For society those leverage points were a trained workforce, demand for solar power, job creation, energy security and public perception.  Level 2 complete!

Day two allowed us to tap into a much more creative side as we participated in a role play exercise, and then continued on with the second I and S: Innovation and Strategy.  After review of our leverage points, each team took time to brainstorm and outline 3 new innovations that could be used to reach our collective goal of passing the Solar Jobs Act.  There were 12 highly creative ideas put on the table between the 4 groups, including youtube video creations, utility outreach campaigns, and even a snail mail campaign but after a group vote the field was narrowed to 4: a training program in NY community colleges and vocational schools, a public-private partnership program with grocery retailers called “Solar Produce,” and two solar installation competition programs (Solar Up! and Power by the People).

With the remaining time in our workshop each team got to create a strategy for their chosen innovation that they then presented back to the group (in 3 minutes, mind you).  Each group represented their compass point well, while still reflecting the needs of the other three, and all were great ideas, but there could only be one winner.  After another group vote I am proud to say that the Society team’s innovation won, and Solar Up!, a solar installation competition between municipalities across New York state, was chosen by our peers as the best innovation of the day!  (I think it helped that we had an awesome logo, providing us instantaneous branding ability, and I maintain that that’s what got us the win.)

In retrospect, knowing relatively little about this Act proved difficult at times, but still resulted in an overall very satisfying and enriching experience.  And at the end of the second day, as we all stood in a circle reflecting on everything that we had learned and experienced together, there were multiple mentions of appreciation for the new set of tools, new perspective for how to tackle work and life problems, and acknowledgment of how much easier this process was for us, coming from the same education and similar values, than it might be in a different context.

The group with the completed pyramid

It was a busy two days, but definitely worth it, and definitely a tool kit that many of us will turn to in the future.

–Melissa P.




About Melissa P.