In 2012, Reos met with leaders across the community living sector in Vancouver, Canada. Our aim was to ascertain whether and how key service, community, and government organizations might better cooperate to help people with disabilities live a “good life.” In this sector, a “good life” is defined as the things that make life good, but are often hard to secure for people with intellectual disabilities: loving relationships and friendships, opportunities to work and contribute to the community, asset accumulation, self-determination, and other forms of integration into everyday community life.

Tanya Sather and Richard Faucher of the Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion (BACI), a well-established organization serving 800 people with disabilities in Burnaby and the greater Vancouver area, shared with us their vision for continually improving BACI’s ability to support a “good life” for the people they serve, even amidst increases in demand and cuts in government funding.

We began working with BACI in 2013, first identifying key tensions and opportunities, and then setting a course for BACI’s “growing internally strong,” in Tanya’s words. Presently, the central focus of the engagement is to propagate “learning loops,” a practice and toolkit that regularly engages all employees in creatively and incrementally improving BACI’s services and operations.

The challenge is interesting, subtle, and rewarding. People with disabilities are highly individual, so BACI must continually adjust its services to meet varying and emergent needs, while also complying with government regulations and managing hundreds of employees. It is an incredible task.

We are living in fascinating times for democracy in Brazil and Latin America. Across the continent, democracies, though still relatively young, are increasingly taking root and taken for granted. Yet the nature, quality, and culture of these democracies are still very much in formation. It is possible that, in the coming decades, several Latin American countries will experiment with new forms of democracy that will inspire other countries in the region and the world. This is a phenomenon worth paying attention to.

In Brazil, more than a quarter century after the adoption of the Citizen Constitution after the end of the military dictatorship in 1988, the generation now graduating from universities was born in a democracy. These individuals and the larger population today have wide access to new means of communication, new channels for social participation, and new models of organizing. In 2013, former senator Marina Silva applied to run in the 2014 elections through a new political party called “The Network” (her petition was denied). In the same year, a breathtaking series of public demonstrations took place. Hundreds of thousands of people protested to express their dissatisfaction with the performance of government on issues of public transport, education, and health as well as with government priorities and corruption in relation to the 2014 World Cup. In a country that has tended, at least in the past three decades, to have a complacent civic culture, these demonstrations led some observers to comment that a “giant had awoken”. Brazilians increasingly want to know and claim their rights.

The Electricity Innovation Lab, or e¯Lab, is a group of thought leaders and decision makers from across the US electricity sector who have come together to address critical barriers to the economic deployment of distributed electricity resources. e¯Lab is convened by Rocky Mountain Institute, an independent, nonprofit think-and-do tank whose mission is to drive the efficient and restorative use of resources, and is supported by Reos Partners.
The growing need for reinvestment in the electricity infrastructure, climate change and other environmental concerns, an increasing focus on grid resilience, and the rapid development of new business solutions to leverage the changing cost of technologies are fundamentally changing the electricity landscape in the US. As a result, rapid innovation—as well as change, cooperation, and conflict—are occurring at the “seams” in the electricity sector, where no single stakeholder or industry group can control the outcome. The most important new sources of competitive advantage in today’s rapidly changing electricity sector are therefore not technology or market position; they are the ability of innovators to work efficiently and effectively in complex multi-stakeholder environments. Shifting the electricity sector will require engagement and innovation across traditional institutional boundaries.

Communities around the world are subject to increasing shocks. These shocks range from the environmental, such as extreme weather events, to the fiscal, where public services are cut. In some cases, these shocks are predictable. In the UK, for example, it’s possible to figure out which communities will be hardest hit by cuts to public services, such as health care, well in advance of the cuts occurring. Where climate change is concerned, we are starting to see patterns—repeated flooding and heat waves causing extreme damage to property and, in the worse cases, loss of life.

“The power of solutions lies primarily in the people who believe in and own them.”

–V. Srinavas

Current approaches to addressing complex social challenges are not working. There is much to celebrate: the number of people involved in change initiatives, the increasing amounts of money being invested in those initiatives, the steadily declining costs of technology, and the attention being given to social innovation. The underlying problems however, from species loss to public debt, continue to grow.

Social fabrics are increasingly strained under loads they were never intended to contain. Inequality is growing. Direct action has become either a strident call for someone else to take action or the frantic alleviation of symptoms that leaves underlying causes largely intact. There’s increasing pressure on individuals to change their behavior around environmental issues and to take on the burden of austerity measures or cuts in basic services. The sociologist Ulrich Beck describes this situation as an attempt to find “individual solutions to systemic contradictions”.

From the Toolkit

This exercise was originally shared with Reos by Andrew Sullivan

It is a simple tool that works well at the end of a course, learning journey, or workshop, as it provides a final wrap-up and positive energy. It can also be used as a warm-up for collective creative tasks such as initiative generation.

Have participants sit in a circle. Invite them to pair up with the person next to them. Have everyone take out a loose sheet of paper and draw the following configuration of lines on it (demonstrate on a flip chart): 1, 2, 3, 4, 3, 2, 1 line.

The Design Studio enables stakeholder teams to rapidly prototype their ideas for initiatives through highly creative cycles of building physical models and testing them through peer feedback.

You will need a space with moveable tables and chairs, adequate for the number of participants you are working with. For the modeling, you can use artifacts from nature, clay or play dough, materials from participants' handbags, or Lego® bricks. Each has a slightly different effect, some being more abstract and others more structured, but all of these options work.

Reos is a social enterprise that helps businesses, governments, and civil society organisations address complex social challenges.

We convene, design and facilitate multi-stakeholder partnerships and initiatives on issues such as employment, health, food, energy, the environment, security, and peace.

Our approach is systemic, creative, and participative.

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