50 and powering up

Monday was a big birthday. For the last few months of my 40s I’ve been thinking about all the people I’ve known over the years who power down in their 50s. I will be powering up. I’m only getting started.

Those “freedom 55” commercials when I was a kid told us that work sucks, so go do the thing you love at 55. The sell: you don’t have to wait until retirement at 65, you can leave that awful job 10 years earlier. You can be free of work.

I long ago decided that whenever I am able, I want to be doing the work I love, that energizes and challenges me, and feels meaningful. There are times when I do things I don’t feel like doing, or took a job because I needed the money, but what I look for now is work that aligns with my soul, what I feel called to do. 

And so, over these holidays that have just wrapped up, in my last days of my 40s, I woke one morning with a clear realization: I am in the middle of my “work life” and I plan to work for 30+ more years. 

I am in the middle of my work life and I plan to work for 30+ more years. 

Over the last 30 years, from twenty, my “work” on the surface changed many times. I went to school, had a few jobs, and then set up my own consulting company. And while consulting I started this blog and wrote a book. I expect what my work looks like over the next 30 years will shift too, as I keep learning more about where I am going. 

I’m not signing up to do the exact same thing for 30 years. I’m signing up to be activated and energized by my work. I’m signing up to grow with my work. It’s also a good test: On the whole, do I like the work I’m doing enough to do it for 30 years? If not, I’m not doing the right work. 

I’m signing up to be activated and energized by my work. I’m signing up to grow with my work.

I invite the challenge of doing the work necessary to notice the work I want to do and do it. I am not powering down at 50. I am powering up by actively choosing to be more ME. 

This means: 

  • Sending my book, Nest City, out in to the world (Edmonton launch, April 18, 2020)
  • Writing more (blogs, and I can feel another book coming)
  • Teaching (Nest City ideas)
  • Working with citizens  and cities to support their efforts to hear themselves, in small and large ways
  • Working with citizens and cities who desire to discern where they are going, and how to best move in that direction 
  • Clarity around the work to which I say YES (and no) 
  • Clarity about the energy I invest in professional and personal relationship (hint: I’m looking for emotional maturity and choice to learn and grow, even when it’s tough) 
  • Playing big and sharing explicitly what I think, feel and see in ways that energize me

Over the last few years, as challenges have popped up in life, I’ve experienced the fear in others when I play big. When I left the big job and started my own company, some expressed worries (theirs, not mine) about my livelihood. When my marriage ended and I headed out into life without a spouse, some were upset and distraught in ways even I was not distraught (their upset, not mine). When I landed a publisher for my book a dear one told me my writing is shitty (their upset, not mine).

I’ve learned that when I play big there are significant forces to stop me. There are some people close to me, and others further afield, that desperately want me to play small. Some are explicit, while others are insidious, telling me nice things, while sliding in wee jabs here and there. (They aren’t courageous enough to acknowledge that their upset is their own.) Even more insidious is how these external voices collude with my own inner critic voices, working very hard to convince me to keep my head down and play small. 

I’ve learned that when I play big there are significant forces to stop me.

In many ways that count, I’ve not been putting my head down. I’ve made big choices for myself and stuck with them despite forces (in others and myself) to have me shrink back to what I was. A few desperately need me to shrink because they are not comfortable with my growth and the accountability I ask of them. All I know is that their need for me to shrink is their need, whatever the reason—and I most palpably feel it. The result: we no longer have close relationships because to do so means I have to shrink to meet them in their no-growing zone. 

Choose not the sterility of safety, but brave space to live into where we are going. 

I choose relationships where we are honest with each other and choose not the sterility of safety, but brave space to live into where we are going. I choose relationships where our bigness is welcomed, not threatening. I choose relationships where we hold each other accountable for the consequences of our actions (harm happens, intended or not.) I choose relationships where we each are doing the emotional labour to be our best selves. I choose relationships where we remain open-hearted to the mistakes we all make. Me included. 

I’m powering up. 

Do want to power up with me? Who are you powering up to be? 


 

 

 

 

 

Heat of the cauldron

At a conference where the crowd assembled believes in designing cities to mitigate and adapt to climate change, we avoided talking about the heat—the emotional heat. And avoiding emotional heat means avoiding the hard work needed to effect the changes we say we want.

I do not think this is a conscious choice, but when we organize conferences, and pour the resources we do into them, we are creating the conditions for people to tell each other about what they think about a topic. While individually, as tellers,  we have explored topics at length, a conference collects the individual perspectives, puts them on display and does not allow for collective exploration. We do not notice, let alone explore, what we think; at best, we hear what a few think.

(As I write, I am conscious of a conundrum I am creating for myself. I am telling you, by writing, what I think, much the same way a lecturer does on a stage. The difference is that you are sitting reading, likely alone. You are not sitting in a room with tens or hundreds or thousands of others sitting beside you, also listening to me. You and I are not missing out on an opportunity to digest together, simultaneously, what I am exploring. And so I activate our one-on-one relationship, me the writer and you the reader. Further, rather than giving you instructions, like a (violent) saviour, I share what I notice and invite you to conduct your own exploration. Please share what you find.) 

Let’s explore the contrast between telling and exploring when we gather, face-to-face, in meetings, conferences and the like, and what it means for the heat.

At conferences, when we gather physically in the same city, the same space and the same room, we keep ourselves separate. The usual format involves “the sage on the stage”, the expert and the audience. The expert tells us what we need to know, the audience receives that information. There is no or little interaction between the expert and the audience; we remain isolated from each other. Under the guise of questions and answers, we declare dialogue is taking place, but with clearly delineated roles of expert and audience, this is not dialogue. At best, it is information sharing. (NOTE: When the purpose of gathering is to share information, this format is fine.)

We pretend that by being in the same room we are networking, that the audience and experts mingle and build relationships. While this happens to a degree, it is minimal. At meals, the protocol is for the known experts sit together at the head of the room, with the people who have organized the conference and/or who are going to introduce them. We might rub shoulders at the coffee break. We accept this minimal interaction as good, sufficient. 

When it comes to emotional heat, at conferences we organize ourselves to not talk about the heat we are feeling and experiencing. On rare occasions, a speaker may mention it, but we do not explore or digest it. It slips (or is shoved) to the side, remains outside of us, external. If we do notice the heat within ourselves, exploring that feeling is not expected, wanted, let alone accommodated. We sit. We listen. We network over coffee. What we could be talking about—what it will really take to move our ideas forward—is left alone. We are separate from our experience, and separate from each other. 

What we could be talking about—what it will really take to move our ideas forward—is left alone. We are separate from our experience, and separate from each other. 

What is compelling about conferences are the nifty people that assemble. It is fun to hear about compelling ideas and spectacular stories. It used to be that the only way to hear these folks and their ideas was at a conference, but this is no longer true. There are YouTube channels, podcasts, TED Talks, webinars. At any point, we are able to watch and/or listen to a plethora of thinkers describe what they think. Rather than sharing ideas, the conference is now about containing ideas; it doesn’t set them free, it keeps the ideas, and us, in a box. Hearing what they think no longer needs to be the purpose of face-to-face gatherings.

Rather than sharing ideas, the conference is now about containing ideas; it doesn’t set them free, it keeps the ideas, and us, in a box.

We organize conferences to control and contain what happens, by predetermining topics, themes and content, and by limiting exploratory  conversation to chance at coffee breaks. We do this as a defence mechanism, to avoid experiencing the heat of conflicting views. We do this to maintain our defended positions against others. We do this to avoid being open to the influence of others. We do this to avoid having to care about others. 

“The conference” keeps us in the realm of information dissemination, removed from the realm of action. Even when we say over and over that action is action we want. Ironically, what feels like talking in circles is what will lead us to wise action. What if, instead of control and containment (the conference experience), we offered a container? What if we offered a cauldron, instead of a conference? 

What if, instead of control and containment (the conference experience), we offered a container? What if we offered a cauldron, instead of a conference?

Join me in a thought experiment. 

“Conference”, as I am describing it here, is defined (at lexico.com) as: a formal meeting of people with a shared interest, typically one that takes place over several days. Let’s try a cauldron on for size (lexico.com) as: 1) a large metal pot with a lid and a handle used for cooking over an open fire, and 2) a situation characterized by instability and strong emotions.

What if, when we gather to ponder wise action, we chose not to contain emotional heat and allowed it, provided a container for it? 

The qualities of a conference and cauldron feel like this:

  CONFERENCE CAULDRON
Purpose Containment, control what is talked about Container, to support what needs to be talked about
Emotional heat Contained, discouraged Allowed, used to move toward wise action
What happens with conflicting ideas Audience watches debate take place on stage and conflicting ideas are generally defended, not explored Conversations in small and large groups explore conflicting ideas to better understand them and find a way forward 
Our experience One-way information sharing (with tolerance of clarification questions) Ideas come from unexpected conversations, people with similar interests find each other 
What it feels like
  • Stable
  • Predictable
  • Safe
  • Separation of experts and audience
  • Light attachment to the community 
  • Exclusive
  • Formal
  • Lecture 
  • Download of information
  • Familiar
  • Unstable
  • Unpredictable
  • Dangerous
  • Integration of all forms of expertise
  • Deep attachment to community
  • Inclusive
  • Informal
  • Conversation
  • Spreading of information
  • Strange
What we get from it
  • Ideas and thinking from those chosen for us
  • We are provoked to think differently as individuals
  • Ideas and thinking from everyone
  • We provoke ourselves to think and act differently as individuals and group
  • Surprising and synchronistic experiences

There is good information sharing at a conference, and the connections we make with each other are valuable. A cauldron, however, can amplify the ideas and connections we make—and their meaning to us individually and collectively. This happens because how we participate shifts from passive audience to active participant.  

When we passively sit in a room listening to experts, we are not listening to each other. A cauldron asks us to be in the heat as convenors, when we speak and when we participate. It asks us to expect something different of ourselves and others.

What is asks of us CONFERENCE CAULDRON
Convenors / hosts
  • Predetermine the topic and content
  • Design a program of speakers
  • Provide an environment that establishes conflict as a battle of wills
  • Leave emotional well-being of participants to participants
  • Craft a compelling invitation to explore
  • Design for community exploration
  • Provide an environment that supports exploration of conflicting ideas
  • Care for the emotional well-being of participants
Speakers 
  • Prepare lengthy presentation, ahead of time, on what needs to be said
  • Deliver and disappear (some stay, most “dump and run”)
  • Speak to serve the conversation in that moment
  • Participate in the event, be a part of the community 
Participants
  • Passively participate by hiding in chairs
  • Allow experts to shape opinion and positions
  • Listen to experts to inform individual action
  • Actively participate in the discussion 
  • Be open to the influence of many others
  • Participate in the discernment of wise action—for community and self

A cauldron is asking us to create the conditions to be in the heat of hearing self and other. It reminds me of the personal reflection time I need to hear myself, notice what I am feeling and experiencing, and discern the wise action that comes from a place of inner knowing. It is a place where facts and evidence rub up against my feelings, that I notice when it is time to act, or not. As groups, whatever size, we are no different–we need spaces to notice not only the actions I/we need to take, but the ones we are willing to take. The latter comes with reflection and commitment from deep knowing within, not a lecture from without. 

That conference I mentioned at the top of this piece?  The pinnacle was the violent saviour, the old white man with an urgent, preachy message: we must change or ways or we will die. He insisted we do as he prescribes to save ourselves. But sitting and listening for days is not going to be the answer because all we do while gathered is name actions that could be taken. We were asked to “drink from the firehose” of information about needing to take action and actions. After the conference, videos of the main speakers are shared so we can continue to feed our information addiction. An addiction that keeps us from action. 

When we meet face-to-face to talk about serious stuff, and the actions that are needed, I want to have time to digest the actions asked of me. I want time for us to digest the actions we are prepared to take, to notice if we are really committed or not, or what it will take. I want to wrestle with conflicting ideas to dig into what is happening underground, the real reasons why things are happening (or not) the way they are. I want to experience a support system out there that I can call on if I need it. For wise action that sticks, we need a cauldron from time to time. 

This is what I’ve come to realize: it is the emotional heat of the cauldron that enables action, not the familiarity of the conference.

This is what I’ve come to realize: it is the emotional heat of the cauldron that enables action, not the familiarity of the conference.

As always, the purpose of a gathering should guide its design. And with this, another lens into what the convenors and participants are looking for: the stability of a conference, or the danger of a cauldron. It is the latter that propels us into action. 

The violent saviour

He was a conference speaker with an urgent message: we must change our ways or we will die. We will only save ourselves if we do what he says, what he prescribes. 

His subject matter was climate change, but the subject didn’t matter. It was his stance: I know more than you do and if you don’t do what I say, you will die, we will all die. At one point his volume went up a notch to say:

My initial reaction was that it didn’t feel good to be yelled at. I also didn’t feel that blasting a crowd who believes what has has to say was an effective strategy to have a us listen. I chose to stay in my seat to hear what he had to say because he is wise and knowledgable; there was brilliant content in his presentation and his message. AND simultaneously I understood that his delivery was both inappropriate and ineffective. 

There was brilliant content in his presentation and his message. AND simultaneously I understood that his delivery was both inappropriate and ineffective.

A week later I realize that what bothers me most is the message that I received: that I/we need to be saved and he is my/our saviour. I experienced his stance as one of superiority; only he knows how we will be saved. I experienced his stance as one of fear, and that the harsh truth–loud and fast–is the only thing that will spark us into action. And, of course, that the action we take must be the action he wants us to take, in line with his master plan. (Yes, he used the words ‘master plan’.)

On reflection, today I see: a 74-year-old white man with a master plan will save the world. His backstory (as I imagine it): a lifetime of brilliant and unacknowledged work, and rejection from all major decision makers. He’s a rare human who can see our future better than we can, but since we can’t hear it, or don’t like to hear it, we have tuned him out for decades. So does he yell to be heard? Is this why he doesn’t even notice when the crowd before him is a few hundred people he does not have to convince? Is he so used to yelling to be heard that this is the only way he knows to talk about his work? Is it because he can no longer trust or believe that he is being heard, or that we are not the right people in power so we don’t count?

These questions and any potential answers don’t actually matter. They help me humanize him and empathize with him, but at the end of the day my experience is the same: he was insensitive and violent in the delivery of his message

A stance of superiority puts him in a place where he has the answers and the audience (me/us), being inferior, has no meaningful knowledge, information, skill or insight. While this did not add up to anything physically violent, it was mentally violent: we are not smart enough. It was emotionally violent: we don’t care enough. It was spiritually violent: we, and the work we do, is insufficient. He denies, with a stance of superiority and unwavering belief in his master plan, the sovereignty of others. 

He denies, with a stance of superiority and unwavering belief in his master plan, the sovereignty of others. 

If he wants to motivate me, this is not how to do it. 

If he wants to motivate most people, this is not how to do it. 

In the end, a good reminder for me to always check in with myself to see if I believe I am better than others. I know I “see” things others do not yet see, but what I do with that information, and how I share it, is crucial. It doesn’t mean keeping things to myself so I don’t upset anyone, and it doesn’t mean overselling people my message.

The saviour stance does not undertake this discernment because the interaction is not about the audience, it is only about the saviour playing the role of saviour.

There’s a delicate balance in this about knowing ‘where’ an audience is, what it can tolerate, and what it needs to know even if it makes them uncomfortable. (Note: when it is an imminent emergency don’t hold back.) The saviour stance does not undertake this discernment because the interaction is not about the audience, it is only about the saviour playing the role of saviour. And this is the violence of dehumanizing the people ostensibly served: it is the ego of the saviour who is served. 


Under what conditions does it make sense to put the sage on the stage? 

If we let go of needing expertise on the stage, what could happen next? 


 

Buying a car ‘with training wheels’

My two kids are great at metaphors. The latest: that they are buying a car “with training wheels”. 

They’ve been noticing their favourite vehicle out on the roads of the city for years: the Honda CR-V, circa 2000 +/-. They love the look of it; it makes them feel good. So when family friends offered a 1999 Honda CR-V to them for one dollar, they had some thinking to do. With some research, they identified the immediate repairs needed and the cost. There was research about what insurance would cost, and if it would be more economical under my insurance policy or on their own. They came up with a budget for operating costs that include insurance, registration, planned and unplanned maintenance. They researched the sale prices for other similar cars, and the shape they were in. They thought about the purpose of having a car and their budget, and where the money would come from. Then they made a decision: take on the responsibility of an awesome, well-loved Honda CR-V that they feel great about

They’ve been thinking about this, informally, for a few years, but the opportunity was in front of them and they had to make a decision. It was like the smaller version of themselves and the decision to try out a two-wheel bike, instead of the tricycle. They could have done the whole transaction on their own, but there were some training wheels: me. 

They could have done the whole transaction on their own, but there were some training wheels: me. 

Training wheels provide stability while learning a new skill. When we move from three wheels to two, those two little extra little wheels beside the rear wheel are that stability. (Even if only mental stability!) With my kids, there was a point where the training wheels came off and there was an adult hand on the seat as they figured it out more fully on their own. Then it was bike rides together, showing them the rules of the road. I offered layers of guidance, to “train” them about how the world around them works and how to fit in it safely. (Things like stop signs, stay on the right side of the road, make eye contact with car drivers, get out of the way of pedestrians.) As kids age, the nature of the guidance provided continues. 

First times are often wobbly. 

The “training wheels” my kids needed as they bought their first car showed up this way: 

  • What is the purpose of having a car? 
  • There is no pressure to make this happen now, so go at your own speed. It will happen when the time is right. 
  • What is your budget? How much do you want to spend to buy the car, on repairs, insurance? Do you have what you need to spend on the car? 
  • What is the risk of something unexpected happening to the car, or your ability to make payments? What is the likelihood of those things happening and the consequences?
  • Is this a safe thing to do, financially and physically? 
  • Does this feel right or wrong in any way? 
  • What are the steps to buy and make repairs to a car? 

With a little stability, they determined that a car was something they wanted to spend their money on. They figured out a budget. They determined that the $1 car (plus repairs) was the perfect and simple solution that meets their purposes. They researched the paperwork needed to buy and register a new car. They did most of the work, with me as training wheels on the side. 

Whether it is kids, co-workers, students, anyone for whom we serve as training wheels, this experience has taught me a few vital things about my relationship with the sovereignty of people making decisions. 

Whether it is kids, co-workers, students, anyone for whom we serve as training wheels, this experience has taught me a few vital things about my relationship with the sovereignty of people making decisions, whether they are my kids, clients, friends (or myself!):

  1. It is their decision to make, so I have to act like it is their decision to make. This involves careful discernment about what information or guidance to share, and when, to help them with their decision-making. Is the information relevant to their situation? Am I trying to push them in a direction I want them to go? 
  2. Acting like it is their decision to make means I have to ask: “Is this something you want to do on your own, or would you like my help/support in any way?” Whatever their answer, I need to respect it. After a while, I might discern that the question needs to be asked again. Again, I must respect the answer. 
  3. Acting like it is their decision to make means I offer what will stabilize them, not what will stabilize me. I need to notice if I am panicking about my kids having their own car and not let that interfere with their decision. 
  4. I need to notice when I have opinions that are not relevant. Sharing my opinion might be more about me, and what I would like them to do, rather than be helpful for them. When I offer my opinions in this way I am inserting my values into their decision making. 
  5. Supporting them to be clear on purpose helps them and me. With clarity of purpose, clear boundaries emerge about what is helpful and what is not. It enables them to put aside unhelpful advice or information. It also helps me discern what is helpful or not. 

Training wheels do not decide where the bicycle is going, or how fast it goes. They simply provide the bit of stability for the rider to make a new range of choices.

Training wheels do not decide where the bicycle is going, or how fast it goes. They simply provide the bit of stability for the rider to make a new range of choices. When my kids were learning to ride a bicycle, or buy a car, I no longer have control of where they are going. They are the decision makers. 

And most importantly, they decide if they want to use training wheels

This “training wheels” metaphor comes with great insight about respecting and allowing the sovereignty of others, whoever they are (kids, clients, partners, family, friends, or peoples). And whatever the other decides, I have a choice to make about my relationship with their sovereignty. If I want control, power over them and their decision, I will insert myself to affect the outcome. If I am not looking for power, I will offer support in ways that they determine are helpful (not how I determine are helpful). If I insert myself, even in the form of support, if it is on my terms, I am violating their sovereignty. 

If I insert myself, even in the form of support, if it is on my terms, I am violating their sovereignty. 

Violation of sovereignty takes place in clear and subtle ways. The clear ways: colonization of peoples and nations, racism, physical and emotional abuse, dictatorships. The subtle ways are in our day-to-day exchanges, and they are insidious, under the guise of being interested or helpful. (Note: The interest is not in what the decision makers want; the interest is in having something unfold the way they want it to.)

My kids, with a clear sense of purpose and budget, skillfully batted away some unwanted invasions into their sovereignty. Here are a few things said to them, and the underlying “threat to sovereignty” message: 

WHAT IS SAID THE MESSAGE 
“I think what you should do is…”  I know better than you

“An old car makes no sense for all these reasons… You should get a new car.”

I have better values than you
“Have you thought about this, about that, about this…”   You don’t know what you are doing
“I don’t think this is a good idea.”   You need my approval (or I want you to need my approval
“You should spend your money this way…”  You are not responsible

And my kids, how did they bat this stuff away? Their sovereignty did it. They recognized unhelpful information that did not align with their purpose and budget. They put it aside. 

And my kids, how did they bat this stuff away? Their sovereignty did it. 

It was fascinating to witness, and as I did my responsibility to be conscious of my motivation in a conversation became more clear. Offering unsolicited, or unwanted advice, is a primary indicator I can use to notice if I am trying to influence or control outcomes. If I am, I may be needing to feel more superior than the other, and there’s some exploration for me to do around that. None of this is about what the other needs; it has become about me and my needs, whether they are aware of this or not. 

It is also my responsibility to be conscious of the purpose of the conversation, with my kids or anyone else. It helps me keep track of my role in that conversation. Is the other asking for advice? Is the other needing me to hold space for them while they make their decision? Should I just step way back and leave them be? Do I have vital information the other does not have, and do they want it? And when it needs to be flipped around, what am I looking for from another? 

I feel like I’ve been using training wheels. My kids are helping me grow up, discerning more clearly power dynamics in decision making. They are helping me see questions to ask myself in my personal and professional lives:

  1. What does the other need of me? Advice, information, hold space, witness, distance, celebration? 
  2. What am I able to offer? Am I able to be what the other needs at this time — if not, say so. This is not personal; it is looking after self. 
  3. What do I need of the other? Advice, information, hold space, witness, distance, celebration?
  4. What is the other able to offer me? Are they able to play the role I need (they will do it, say yes or no, or be unavailable). Their response is not personal; they are looking after self.  

And the big metaphorical lesson for me, who supports people making decisions in a wide range of ways: training wheels may not be needed. If they are needed, it is the bicycle rider who decides for how long. To respect and allow their sovereignty, they make the decision, not me. Even if it means I tell them that it is their decision to make. 


NOTE #1: The exercise of sovereignty is disruptive. If I exercise it for myself, others may not like it. (They may be attached to feeling superior, giving advice, or attached to the way things were and don’t want things to change.) If I exercise sovereignty by NOT making decisions for others, that can also be tricky territory. This is how power works: it makes us want it, and it makes us not want it. 

NOTE #2: This post published with my kids’ permission. 

 

The power in consultation

What on earth is “true public consultation”?  This question begs to be asked after reading an article in the January 8, 2012 Calgary Herald.  Reporter Clara Ho’s first two paragraphs:

An environmental group is demanding a ‘true public consultation’ after learning of pro-posed plans to clear cut more than 700 acres of trees in the west Bragg Creek are in Kananaskis Country.
 
Sustain Kananaskis – comprised of Bragg Creek residents, trail users and outdoor enthusiasts – is calling for Spray Lake Sawmills and Alberta Sustainable Resource Development to hold a ‘transparent approval process that includes facilitated, accessible and meaningful public consultation in regards to logging activities in Kananaskis Country’.

A little more on the dynamics of the situation, as I read it:

  • The Government of Alberta (through Alberta Sustainable Resource Development) approved a 10 year logging plan that delegates forest management activities to Spray Lakes Sawmills.
  • Spray Lakes Sawmills has conducted ongoing public consultationover the last 10 years on various forest management activities.
  • Specific to west Bragg Creek, Spray Lakes Sawmills has consulted with stakeholders.  The next opportunity for the public to learn more and share concerns is at an open house January 26.
  • Sustain Kananaskis’ mission is to hold Spray Lake Sawmills and ASRD accountable to all Albertans affected by the proposed logging.
  • 90 percent of the trails will be affected in some way by the logging, including 30 km of new trails.
  • Sustain Kananaskis is advocating for a transparent approval process that includes public consultation, not just stakeholder consultation.
  • Sustain Kananaskis is demanding full public consultation so that dialogue can occur.

On the surface, the conflict appears to be about citizens (in the form of Sustain Kananaskis) demanding true, meaningful and full public consultation.  On their web site, Sustain Kananaskis defines ‘proper’ public consultation in three stages: let people know what’s going on (notification), seek their opinions (consultation), and involve them in the formulation of objectives, policies and approaches (participation).  By their own definition, they are getting consultation; they have been and are being asked for their opinion.  Whether they like the decisions made with their input is another story.

Sustain Kananaskis is actually looking for one of two things.  In the realm of consultation, Sustain Kananaskis is looking for evidence that their opinions and input affect the decisions of the decision-makers, in this case Spray Lakes Sawmills and ASRD.  In the realm of participation, Sustain Kananaskis is really seeking a role as a decision maker to shape the future of Kananaskis Country consistent with their vision.

The underlying issue in Clara Ho’s article is about who has the power to make decisions.  As is often the case, those without the power would like to have some.

The question I am left with:  Under what conditions can power be shared while maintaining our expectations for accountability?