Initial Publication Date: October 3, 2019

Importance of the Intentionality of Process for Building Sustainable Societies

Dave Gosselin, University of Nebraska at Lincoln

To build a sustainable society requires people to collaborate. The words collaborate and collaboration are used so often that it gives us the false sense that we know how to effectively implement this skill. We have all been involved in meetings where a bunch of people are put into a room, most of whom do not know each other personally or professional, and the expected outcome is that they will come out of the room singing kumbaya and have developed an effective collaborative team. Collaboration is not easy. Most of us learn to collaborate by trial and error. As with any skill, it takes practice and a person's ability to collaborate will benefit from training, especially if it is done in the context of the interests of the person being trained.

As a society there is an urgent need to increase our abilities to live more sustainably as there are potential dire consequences if we do not. To address this urgency would benefit from increasing the collaborative skills of students, and for that matter faculty, by providing intentional training in collaborative processes by embedding them into the learning of sustainability. My recent work as part of the NSF-funded, international, multi-institutional "Employing Model-Based Reasoning in Socio-Environmental Synthesis" (EMBeRS) project has focused on the development of an integrated process to build collaborations amongst diverse stakeholders within and outside the academy to support a wide range of interdisciplinary/transdisciplinary scholarly activity. These experiences along with 25 years of coaching has taught me that collaboration takes intentional effort, requires the ability to implement team development processes that result in a shared vision, and involves patience and persistence. There are a range of conceptual frameworks that can be used to develop people's collaborative skills in the context of sustainability that are scalable from small teams to larger organizations. We need to move from learning collaboration skills by trial and error to the development of educational pathways along which these skills are developed and practiced using intentional processes.

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