Tag Archives: Sustainability

Innovating for sustainability: Solar Roadways

Just checked this out on Bob Willard’s blog (a sustainability guru here in Canada).

This is incredible. As he explains:

  • Asphalt is going up in price (petroleum based)
  • roads collect heat
  • why not collect that energy?
  • the energy will help payback for the costs
  • we need energy closer to homes (micropower)
  • innovations in glass making can make this possible

Watch the short video. Check out the company (difficult website though).

Interested to see where it goes. Sounds absolutely crazy and expensive but that’s exactly what we need right now: radical innovations to dramatically shift us from the unsustainable path that we’re on.


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Changing it up a bit…growing roots in Ottawa

Some changes are going on over here at janeporter.ca. (and Jane Porter in general). New blog layout and (yes, that’s right) a new tab next to the “about”:)  Nothing there yet but it’s all coming soon!

What’s changed with me? I’M IN OTTAWA – AND STAYING.

After quite the debate in my head of where I should go to “next”  (London, Helsinki, Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal all being options) I”m happy to call Ottawa home again. Not only because it’s great to be with family – but I feel like I hit this city just at the right time when it comes to innovative sustainability:)

For the last few weeks I’ve been tirelessly plugging myself into the “sustainability” scene here in town – from grassroots operations to the political scene to the larger corporations in town.

Some of the groups in town…

Am I missing some important ones? I’m sure I am. If you know of any that you think I’d be interested in talking to, please let me know! I’m always happy to  go for a coffee and learn something new about this town!

All in all, it’s good to be home.

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Imagine if we actually built this city on rock & roll

Perhaps not there yet, but we may be able to at least power one;)

This was just in the Guardian: Pavement power lights up Toulouse: Electricity generated by pedestrians used to illuminate street lights in France’s technology capital

Designers say the section of eight custom-made modules placed in the city centre for a two-week trial period can produce between 50 and 60 watts of electricity to power a nearby street lamp.

It is the first time the modules – unveiled to the world by Dutch company Sustainable Dance Club (SDC) for use in nightclubs – have been tested on the street. For Alexandre Marciel, the city’s deputy mayor in charge of sustainable development, the new function is potentially ground-breaking.

…Embedded with microsensors which produce energy when people move over them, the modules seemed to Marciel to provide an unprecedented opportunity to alter how cities save and produce energy.

The Sustainable Dance Club has been one of my favourite examples of sustainable design.

So cool. Enviu “innovators in sustainability”, is the org that helped get SDC off the ground.  Definitely a cool company to watch – spend some time on their website, you’ll be impressed.

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Bringing in the Unconference to Jyväskylä FRIDAY APRIL 16th @ Turbiinitalo (9-15)

What’s this unconference I just blogged about you ask? 🙂

An unconference is a facilitated, participant-driven conference centred around a theme or purpose. It’s the opposite of a traditional conference.

  • You help decide the content.
  • It’s a pick-and-mix programme.
  • The law of two feet. If you don’t like a session move on until you find one that engages you.
  • A marketplace of ideas, many-to-many rather than one-to-many.

No more boring conferences (re: listen through a powerpoint, clap, maybe hear a few questions, repeat – yeah! Coffee time thank god! – go back in and listen to more powerpoints.)

The unconference format is more like a somewhat structured coffee break.  In event terms, we’ll be doing 2 open space technology sessions – my first in hosting one but with an experience Monkey by my side;)

Its an answer to the overlapping networking events in the area and a way to save resources for all of those who need to organize a new event. Here, there is no “one organizer”. It’s an event for peer-to-peer learning, collaboration and creativity. You get what you put in!


WIKI-      http://bit.ly/JKL_unconf
FACEBOOK – http://bit.ly/dmtu7B

If you wanna get inspired about what an unconference looks like (will tell you upfront that ours won’t be as big as this… maybe in a few years;) take a look at the SHINE UNCONFERENCE in London.

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Keeping up with the sustainability trends…

As I manoeuvre myself for a move back to Canada, I’m increasingly realizing the importance of staying up to  date with the latest trends on sustainability & business.  Figuring out your career path is no easy task;)

Aside from reading the news & blogs, I try to keep an eye on the big consulting firms’ reports.

This one from McKinsey came in my mail this morning. Some good numbers to look to.

How companies manage sustainability: McKinsey Global Survey results

Most companies are not actively managing sustainability, even though executives think it’s important to a variety of corporate activities. Those that do are reaping benefits for themselves and for society.

I feel like that’s good news for someone like me:)

Taking a deeper look, McKinsey Quarterly has some good sections on climate change, business in society and growth & innovation.

On another note.. and this deserves its own post completely…

UNCONFERERNCE JYVÄSKYLÄ 2010 NEXT FRIDAY! (yep, putting those Art of Hosting skills to test with our first Open Space Tech for business of social & env change)


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The art of leadership, and a reflection of my own (Part 2 of 3)

This is part 2 of a 3 part reflection/lessons learned from my time at the Art of Hosting conference in Karlskrona Sweden last month.  See Part 1

Who was a great leader in your life? Why did you want to follow that person? What characteristics/qualities did he or she have?



think hard… who? A teacher? A boss? Your mom or dad?



Margaret Wheatley, a leadership guru asked that question to us at the conference. Surprisingly, I (and the people around me) were really hardpressed to think of anyone.  Likely meaning, there aren’t too many great leaders out there.  Everyone has mistakes.  And, having been “the leader” myself, it’s freaking hard, and frankly, as a friend (who I’d also call a leader) told me later, pretty overrated. Think about it, as leaders, you’re quite often placed on a pedestal, ready to be shot down…

This post is a reflection on my own leadership style.


I held a special task during the Art of Hosting conference. I was part of the “Meta-harvesting Team” – our job was to collect the important takeaways throughout each day and stream it back in the following day so that all could see the important thread that we were creating. The final job was to sum up the whole conference in meaningful ways that could be used later on.  This Prezi created by one creative girl on our team is just one example – beautiful:)

The job of harvesting is so important, yet really, quite difficult in practice as everyone is experiencing so much. Also, as a team, our group didn’t quite get off on the right start.  There was some confusion in what were doing (we didn’t collectively decide on our purpose) and consequently, found it really hard to come up with a strategy that worked.

Also, there was a question about leadership. In this group of leaders, who was going to lead?

I tend to lead often. Sometimes I want to, sometimes I don’t. This time I guess I just kind of fell into it.

I won’t explain the whole situation, but there was some tension in the group by the end of it. We were frustrated on the last night as we worked endlessly to come up with our final harvests.

On the last day, sensing the tension between me and one person in the group, I decided to “call-it” (part of the Art of sensing the room).  She, thankfully, was honest enough with herself, and me, to not just let it slip. She took a deep breath and told me flat out that she had a problem with my leadership style. First of all, ouch… Second of all, I said, “let’s talk”. I knew myself well enough that this was a needed conversation and that I should take in as much as possible to learn from my mistakes.

Now, I should say that some people in the group were really happy with my leadership style and complimented and thanked me for jumping in to take the lead. So, don’t read this and think I’m an awful leader… But most definitely, like everyone,  I have room for improvement.

But, going back to my conversation with my teammate who confronted me, the result was an hour and half long conversation that mattered.

I found out a few things about myself that I knew, but that I hadn’t quite brought to the surface.

–         LET GO.

  • I don’t always let go of my ideas. Won’t lie, I have some pretty awesome ideas 🙂  but, I all too often share them with people, without the intention of changing it. Problemo # uno.)
  • This would make sense why I sometimes end up working alone when I start on projects (never a good feeling)
  • I need to let go of my ideas so that others can join in, take ownership in it and give it the space to grow and become an even greater idea.

–         PURPOSE

  • Sometimes I can get excited about a vision and just start acting – without understanding the purpose myself and without portraying it clearly to others.
  • I can speed off into the distance – and leave others just watching me run, for no apparent reason. (Pretty funny visual, but have been told this analogy before by different people…so obviously something there)
  • I need to understand where others are – what’s driving them so that I can understand their purpose.
  • I need to just chill sometimes in the moment – gain a better understanding of the purpose for me and others – and from there, I can start moving towards a goal – with others.

–         TRUST

  • Goes with the first one. I need to trust that the people I work with are intelligent people that know what they’re doing. I don’t need to repeat myself with hopes that they get my idea.

–         BREATHE

  • Just relax… I can get so anxious about what I want to accomplish in life. (Like many twenty-something year olds that I know). I forget to just breathe, and remember, that “it’s just life!”
  • It’s the journey, not the destination…

So, there you have it.  A very open, honest, harvest on my own leadership skills.

I said in Part 1 that I left the conference not feeling the renewed sense of passion like most people. This is one of the reasons why.

I left feeling confused and vulnerable…

All said and done though, I think the confrontation, so to speak, was a great experience for me. I have had lots of great feedback in my life – so many encouragements from people that I greatly admire. I’m blessed to have had lots of wonderful conversations with people telling me “not to worry so much” that “I’ll go far”… it was about time that someone gave me an honest check. It was well called for.

We ended our confrontation with a giant hug and a deeper feeling of connection. You know who you are, but thank you.  😉


Margaret Wheatley’s talk was on the art of collaborative leadership not heroic leadership.

I learned am learning that to become a collaborative leader is a challenge (I still catch myself in my old ways sometimes…), but it is truly the best approach for moving our society onto a sustainable path.

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My “harvest” from Art of Hosting conference (Part 1 of 3)

It was exactly one month ago I attended the Art of Hosting conference.

The next three blog posts are about my “harvests” – a term used to describe your takeaways. It’s more than just that though.  Think of all the work a farmer puts into the field before he can harvest the food – The Art of Harvesting is a way to bring the Art of Hosting into its fruition.

With a lot of conferences, the vibe and feelings from the conference last only so long… but this one (as you can tell by the number of posts dedicated to it) is still fresh.

For most people, the Art of Hosting conference is a deep, almost soul-searching experience. All of us who went to Karlskrona entered into a creative space with amazing intelligent young leaders from all over Europe, authentic mentors, and a feeling of openness that you just can’t find in most places.  And most of us left with in high spirits, a feeling of renewed passion, deep connections, and a clearer vision for a way forward.

I wasn’t quite the same.

I’m going to break this “harvest” down into 3 posts as it would make for an extremely loooong post. #2 & #3 will focus more on the statement above.

As I mentioned earlier, I attended the conference so that I could better understand the tools needed to properly “host”.   Making people feel comfortable in opening up and discussing topics that are important to them is no easy feat – I’ve tried.  From how you organize the tables, to what voice you use,  to the way you give the instructions and the timing of it all…. it truly is an art.

My harvest on the “Art”

This was my harvest at the end of the conference which we presented to the whole group:

I want you to look into this space in front of you. Look into it, look up, look around, on the walls. This is our learning space. It was co-created for us, and by us. You came here, likely, because you want to create this space for others.

We walk away with many tools (world café, open space technology, etc.) But these “tools” can be damaged if used in the wrong way. There’s a reason it’s called “the art of hosting”

    • The conference was held in a large round room with plenty of windows overlooking the water in Karlskrona (tip of Sweden). Lots of sunshine, space for decorating with papers, and the fact that we could easily do a giant circle played a big factor in making this space work for us.
    • We had lots of paper (coloured, giant rolls, scrap), huge markers, charcoal, tape – everything we needed so that when we had a thought, idea, we could display it.
    • Music, instruments, all added to the creative environment
    • We had a gentle bell that rang and a xylophone when time was up.  (I once used a whistle to do this. Big mistake. That pisses people off 😉
    • The hosts would also allow for silence. If we just discussed something heavy, Toke (a founder of AoH) would say “Let’s just take a minute of silence here” to allow us to distil the flow of info
    • In reverse, we’d also be given “1 minute to present your idea”
    • Slow down to go fast…
    • The calm voices of the hosts, the bells/xylophones, the flexibility in the agenda – all allowed us to just breathe – and not feel the anxiety of go go go (although, I’ll touch on this in the next post.)
    • Suspending judgment, listening with an open heart … there were times when I’d forget that I was lost in my thoughts – the art of listening keeps you present
    • What are the people feeling? If there’s a negative vibe going on in the room, call it.
    • Ex. Sometimes people can feel awkward doing this stuff. It can be too “hippy”, or “not for real business”. If that’s the case, the host should just say “ I know you may be feeling like XYZ, and that this won’t work etc. I get it. I know how you feel… but, this has worked with companies, European Commission (and state your ground).
    • Most importantly, you can’t “host” if you’re not fully present. “Be” there 100%.
    • Understand yourself. How can you engage people in having meaningful conversations if you’re not meaningful to yourself?
    • There’s no room for fakeness.

Next up…

Part 2: My harvests on my own leadership

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The Art of Hosting conversations that matter – a needed tool

I’ve learned (or learning) from the Finns that silence is golden. So, no need to apologize (again) for the long pause on this end then;)

I was lucky to attend the Art of Hosting workshop a couple weeks ago in Karlskrona Sweden, hosted by three of the most innovative and forward thinking education programs in Europe –Masters in Strategic Leadership for Sustainability (Sweden), KaosPilot (Denmark), and Team Academy (Finland/Spain). I came as an independent from Global Venture Lab (and as a  friend of Team Academy:)

The Art of Hosting is about hosting conversations that matter. Do you know when you go to conferences and practically fall asleep during “the program” and get what you really need during the coffee breaks and cocktail hour? Well, the Art of Hosting is almost all about the cocktail hour 🙂   Well, sort of, it gets a lot deeper than that…

There we learned about how to hold “the space”.  This was really like an unconference where the participants can hold the show – we signed up for “hosting”, “harvesting”, “organizing” and making it beautiful (yes, making the space “beautiful” is really important”). So you’re not only being taught, but you’re doing it as you go.

But back to this – how can you actually get people (up to thousands) have meaningful conversations? And the, how do you inspire people and give them space to act on passions/interests that arise? (Using these tools would have been extraordinarily useful when I planned my JYU Talks last year!)

In short, here are the core methodologies we were taught:

1. WORLD CAFE (quick, intimate way of collecting different perspectives in room)

2. OPEN SPACE TECH (quickest way of self-organizing a number of projects)

3. CIRCLE (we all know this one – but oldest, quickest and best way to enable people to open up – think of closeness you feel to someone just being around a campfire)

4. APPRECIATIVE INQUIRY (getting out of organizational slumps by focusing on positive, not the problems that need to be solved)

5. PRO-ACTION CAFE (combo of world cafe & open space tech to get clearer ideas and collaboration from many)

(For a very cool visual of this, check out my friend Ece’s work on Prezi – another new favourite tool!)


Think about the importance of what a good conversation can do.

Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.” (Margaret Mead)

Next up, my harvestings. (Not a word I used before, but actually quite a nice way to describe your key takeaways:)

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Building better buildings and a better future?

Just came back from a busy week in Helsinki, Stockholm (sort of), Tampere etc.  There’s so much to read/write about the political/economic issues right now (as in what the hell are they doing with $700bn!?!) and yet I feel like I haven’t done enough reading to process it… so, I go back to the interesting “fun” reads on the environment:)

Great interview in Discover magazine with “the King of Green Architecture

William McDonough aims to create buildings that produce oxygen, sequester carbon, and produce more power than they use.

There’s a visionary in action. McDonough touches on a lot of great ideas and innovations where business meets environment.  I’ve touched on some of these before, but things like green roofs, microgeneration (producing own energy on the building), sustainable product design, limiting chemical input in textiles and reverse supply chain (i.e. take-back systems for products so that the “used” product goes back into the manufactuing cycle).

In June I wrote about my experience at the Net Impact conference in Geneva and how Simon Zadek‘s words really grabbed me: “the world you’re about to inherent is nothing like the world we live and work in now”. Seems true no?  Our financial system is being redeveloped (or hopefully!), the balance of powers (as in political and economic) is shifting and our environment is surely changing… Where will we be in all of this? Our generation is inheriting a complex and dynamic system of international players that we will have to reform again….

And hopefully, we’ll make some smart choices along the way. Listening to gurus like McDonough will be a good starting point.

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When life just works out

Go back a year.

I was done my undergrad and debating really hard what to do with my life. Go to Finland for my Masters? Or, stay in Canada and start my own thing? I’ve had that entrepreneurial itch for a few years at least and after the mesh conference (which I sadly missed this year) I felt like, ready or not, I should just dive into the scary yet exciting startup world.

Fast forward.

I went, totta kai (of course) to Finland.

And I could not have been happier with my choice.

To give whoever reads this blog a hint into what I’m doing this summer (and perhaps for a while after that);

I was offered a job at the University of Jyväskylä to work with an amazing team on spurring growth venturing in Finland (and elsewhere), across disciplines, across fields (researchers, practitioners, students) on ‘problems worth solving’. (It can go a lot deeper than that, but I’ll stick with that for now;)

It hits the key tenets that I’ve been thinking/blogging/dreaming about:

  • Entrepreneurship and access to capital is a must for getting the ball rolling (not just small business entrepreneurship, but high growth, VC field entrepreneurship)
  • Mass collaboration changes everything , ala Wikinomics
  • We need to move into the sustainability age (enough blogs on this topic…)
  • Innovation will play a huge role in fixing yesterday’s, today’s and tomorrow’s problems. But we need to get people thinking about positive innovation. We already have a lot of problems; let’s use our creative skills to fix those, not start new ones.
  • Marketing has an important role to play in getting meaningful messages out – not just the usual “buy buy buy!” message
  • Think global, act local

For the most part, I’ll be writing my thesis this summer and working on some other tasks for the group.

I’ll let out pieces here and there about what’s going on, but in general thought I’d give you an idea about what’s going on in ‘ma vie’.

And, starting off on a good note, I’ll be traveling to Geneva next week to attend the Net Impact Europe Conference. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

Again, love it when life just… works out.

(NB: i am aware of the extreme amount of linkbacks in this post!)

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