Earth Care, Self Care

The best thing I can do for our Earth is to take care of myself and others.

Feed myself fresh seasonal local food that invests in the soil versus stripping it. That employs those in my community, who then reinvest back. Do not spend hours researching, buying, organizing things… just to get rid of them and buy more. These things were extracted from the earth and rarely can be returned to it. Leave them be. Nor should I work extra hours at a job that does not fuel my soul just to afford these things. I must understand that I cannot afford to continue buying, disposing and working myself into a grave. There are limits to this all.

Instead, I must spend time with my family and the nature I want to protect. Bathe in their beauty. Bathe in my beauty. Nourish my brain. Learn from nature and elevate my awareness as to the effects of my actions. No matter how painful, this is how I grow. Hold businesses and governments accountable for their actions. Uplift my fellow human, with no judgement, as breaking from the system is often a privilege. And like all changes, this is done slowly and in accordance to our own history and needs.

I must mind my garden. We protect the things we cherish. So let me cherish myself. And grace when I falter. Break this illusion that I can just continue to “prosper” at the behest of what is feeding me. I am eating my own tail. I seek freedom through knowing the limits. And rejoicing in what I have and its many lives. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. But where is it all going? Let me cycle it back into the Earth, so the Earth may cycle it back to us all. 

Happy Earth day! Today marks 50 years since its origin. Keep on fighting and loving! Thank you to those who came before us. 💚 Sheila

Everyone Should Learn Permaculture – The three ethical tenants and how you can apply them to business and personal life.

I have been learning about permaculture. Say, “What?” I am a organisation and product design coach that lives in a big city. If I am lucky I see one tree per day and some pigeons. Why would I learn about permaculture?

Ah… a fine crop of Pigeon Flowers – Image by Couleur of Pixabay

Why? Because I live in an ecosystem! And businesses are ecosystems as well.

Permaculture is a philosophical and design approach to cultivating ecosystems. 

It is inspired by natural systems (biomimicry). Thank you billions of years of R&D! Permaculture can be applied to all spheres, including, the garden, workplace and personal life. Best of all, personally, permaculture reconnects us with our true roots (because everyone has to eat!) Our reliance and being part of nature is inescapable. So, we may as well learn from and promote it. This article is a little taster to get your appetite going.

The guiding ethics of Permaculture and how it applies to you

First a little history: Permaculture was inspired by a Japanese agriculturist Masanobu Fukuoka and formalized in the 1970s by two Australiens: Bill Mollison, a biologist, and David Holmgren, a writer.

Permaculture is a systemic approach with three core ethical tenants (in order of importance). How can we apply them and what are some questions to reflect on? Please leave a comment with more ideas!

Permaculture Ethics Logo (source)

1. Care of the Soil (Earth Care):

Care for the soil and in turn it cares for us. This means ensuring that we replenish what we take and nourish our environments. Soil is the best indicator of the health and resilience of the culture. Where there is soil erosion often then is cultural erosion or instability.

  • In the garden: We must tend to the soil to ensure its health is never diminished and only enriched from our growing practices. There are many tactics for this and it depends on your specific environment. Permaculture always starts first with observation and then small tests in increments.
  • At work: What is the work environment like and company culture? Does it promote growth, autonomy and stewardship? Does the daily work diminish your energies or feed it? Much like soil becomes weak from growing only one type of plant: Are we promoting diversity of thought and actors in our business? Observe, collaborate and test in small steps ways to enrich your environment. 
  • At home: Is our home environment peaceful, supportive and nourishing? It is your base to grow from, so ensure you have the “nutrients” you need there. Focus on this first before expanding to projects that draw from “soil” strength.
  • For the environment: Caring for the soil can be as simple as buying organic whenever possible. As we are helping ensure that what we eat does not strip the soil. Another idea is voting for laws that protect our ecosystems and expand the access to organic and ethical goods, especially for those with less means.

2. Care of people (People Share):

We must ensure base needs are met of everyone including ourselves to then be able to contribute back to the system. Meeting needs, does not mean just monetarily… 

  • In the garden: Growing the plants sufficient to feed us and have a diverse nutrient diet (or cooperating will fellow gardens who compliment our soil). We then can reinvest that energy back into our garden.
  • At work: Are our employees being cared for in a way that their growth is supported? This includes both the income and support systems, such as healthcare, necessary to meet their basic needs and learning opportunities. Ourselves, as managers, coworkers, leaders… are we “feeding” ourselves intellectually? Are our providers being taken care of? And local ecosystems and municipalities that our business operates in… how are they doing? Look at the complete business cycle: resource extraction, production, distribution, product use and eventual product disposal. Everyone’s needs must be met to later best collaborate and innovate together in the long term. 
  • At home: Does each person have the space/time to cultivate and fulfill their basic needs? Do not forget yourself! How are we “feeding” our home both literally and metaphorically? This ethical tenant calls for expanding beyond monetary or even nutritional well-being to include other measures of happiness, non material based. It begs the question, for those with the margin, perhaps it is not best to work more to earn nonessential money for goods, but instead stay home and cultivate our family ties and personal growth.
  • For the environment: “Feed” ourselves and communities well so that we may then have the energy for others including fighting for the environment. Social issues are environmental issues! So, as mentioned above, civil action and volunteerism where possible is a complementary action with this ethic. This ethic also encourages stopping “mindless consumption” which is not sustainable for the environment nor a true contributor to our happiness.

3. Take what we need and share the rest (Fair Share):

This is a tricky one, but as you delve in it makes pragmatic sense. This is to ensure we have balanced consumption within the bounds of our ecosystem and redistribute to ensure the whole ecosystem is fed. This is seen as liberty within boundaries. If we ensure we do not overtake, that means we can still play within realistic boundaries meeting our individual desires vs. overusing and then being forced into austerity, losing our liberty. This ethical tenant encourages that this stays on a personal decision level, and we each cultivate our own balance and act as a model (and proof that it works!) for others.

  • In the garden: Creating the size of garden that is sustainable. Sharing your crop with neighbors and community.
  • At work: Feed your company but do not monopolize and root out competition. Competition is healthy for promoting innovation and collective learning via multiple lines of “attack”. Better yet collaborate and cooperate with competition! Darwin’s discussion of “survival of the fittest” is misremembered (and even misquoted) as focusing on only competition but evolution has shown that actually cooperation is one of the biggest keys to survival. In addition, this tenant gives a big vote for open source and circulation of information. It is like expanding the brain of our business to include more synapses for the benefit of all.
  • At home: Do not monopolize the whole household’s resources. Take what you need and ensure space for others. As a household share your excess with neighbors and others. Cooperation will be there for you always, including your own times of need. 
  • For the environment: Avoid food waste at home. Buy only what we need and use it all. And if you have extra, give or resell (in the case of goods) the rest to others. This will reduce their need to take from and potentially tax the system. This mindset moves us towards meeting the needs of our population without over-farming and eventually moving to austere methods or climatic disaster.
An example of a permaculture designed farm, diverse and unique to it’s environment. Welcome to La Ferme du Bec!

Want to learn more?

This is just the start! There are 12 principles and so much to learn from permaculture and natural systems and their design.

If you speak English:

If you speak French :

Do you have the Green Mindset?

Becoming a more socially or ecologically responsible person or business is above all a mindset change. Much like agile and digital transformations that came before…. There is a difference between doing and being. Only those who “embody” the change go on to self-feed and sustain the change. Versus those who do superficial changes or cookie-cutter framework stacking that just complexifies the system or fizzles out.

But often you have to mechanically do a bit to experience and understand the benefits. This lived understanding helps you move to “being.” Much like meditation, yoga or any exercise, you do a series of exercises to build your muscles and concentration towards a objective, whole-heatedly embracing what you want to change. You do it often very “badly” for a long time. Then, one day, voila, you are “there” or at least, more there. It becomes second nature: a change in mindset. This mindset promotes further progress thanks to a new perception and set of motivations.

Also doing it on a beach cannot hurt. Image by DanaTentis.


What does this mindset or culture change look like?

I will write this from a business prospective but with some imagination you could easily read this from a personal approach. Honestly this mindset will leak from personal to pro and visa versa once you really have the mental shift.

Here are some examples, certainly not exhaustive. I am also growing my mindset and understanding! Please share with me your own ideas with a comment.

  1. Life-cycle approach – You do not think of JUST your product. Or even just the use of the product. But the sourcing, construction, maintenance and end of life of your product. And the local systems it touches including your providers.
  2. Circular thinking vs linear. – You do not stop at the end but see how this integrates back into the system and self-feeds. This includes when you experiment and fail. How do you rebound and learn?
  3. Mindfulness of Resources: You see the true “cost” and “value” around you. – You “use every part of the animal.” Example: When your business receives their shipment of materials you already know what you will do with the packaging to give it a second life (in the case where packaging is unavoidable). You start seeing everything touched as a resource and asset to be protected and fully utilized/curated and ensured it can be cycled back for reuse. Zero waste (only “food”) and even more opportunity to make the most of everything you have.
  4. Money is not your only measure nor end objective – In fact, money moves more to the background as a means to support the real reason and sense your business has taken on. You start measuring with other “capital” such as social relations, environmental resources and local connections strength.
  5. You are liberated from growth mindset and see value in frugality. – Some of the changes needed will require scaling back or staying the same. But you no longer see this as a constraint but a boost. Not only can you create long lasting assets but you no longer burn out chasing growth. In fact, you start to leave the system, no longer seeing things as “gains” and “losses.”
  6. You are more in touch with your customers needs as you go beyond just selling to them. You avoid creating artificial needs. – You think of your clients and your company’s mission or “why” every day and with every action. Your clients permeate every particle of your businesses’s being. You constantly question and project the possible impact of your actions. You even ask: What would happen if this product or new service did not exist? Are my clients or the the world better off or even just the same? Am I creating an artificial need? If so, then it does not appeal to you and you return to the drawing board. But to do all this you must actually partner and get to know your customer and local ecosystem. #booSolutionism
  7. You think local and it is one of your biggest assets. – Your first instinct is to see who close-by you can work with or collaborate with in a self-feeding cycle. You find yourself more going out and meeting people vs marketing to the masses. Your best partnerships are through word of mouth and you believe it.
  8. You think local but still ensure that it does not have global effects. – You ensure the health of the full system and not just locally. In addition, you believe good inspiration comes from all levels. Switching between local and global thinking (systems thinking) becomes second nature for you.
  9. You care for your internal environment just as much as the climate. – Whether it is your personal “ecology” or that of your collaborators. You know that how you treat others and yourself ripples outward. To you, it is no surprise that some of the most advanced eco-responsible companies are also kind employers and “enlightened” host leaders.
  10. Cooperation over competition: You constantly seek collaboration within and outside your business. – You recognize that often the best ideas come from collective intelligence. And you have seen proof and understand the strength of multiple voices tackling a complex system from various angles (with moments of convergence/collaboration.)
  11. You see power and resilience in diversity. – You do not seek to be surrounded by only those that think and act like you. In fact you actively seek to not stay complacent and ensure you have collaborators who may have similar values and goals but different backgrounds and ways of thinking and doing.
  12. You see constraint as a creative problem-solving opportunity that gives you many gifts. – Constraint can liberate us by channeling our energies. The constraint of being eco and social responsible means potentially: less waste, more fun figuring things out, and in the end more attractive, fully thought out solutions. This excites you. You are more proud and empowered than ever before. You take advantage of the full experience and process rather than folding to comfort and convenience.
  13. Small and slow is beautiful. -Rome was not built in a day nor is it desired to even build another Rome! Perhaps sometimes it calls for it… but not every time. Also some things cannot be rushed, as much as we may like it. You have come to understand this aspect of life and it’s circular nature.
  14. And for better or worse: It is hard to go back to the old system! – You have seen the benefit of the green mindset and it is your “now” preferred future.

What else? Comment below.

Green and strong! Image by ErikaWittlieb.

What is circular design? Questions to test and inspire yourself at work and at home.

What is circular design? It is taking into account the full life cycle of an object or service to ensure all “waste” is removed and instead is value. It is a self-feeding holistic system and can be certainly used in business but also in our reflections when we buy/consume at home.

Here are some notes from a recent training I did in it, specifically, circular design thinking. Thank you Klap.io and trainers Mélanie, France, Thibaud, Vincent & my team collaborators.

Here Mélanie explains, in order of importance, some tactics & inspirations for creating more resource respectful products.

1. Can we reduce usage of a resource (including energy & materials)? Or even cut out an entire product?!
2. Are we ensuring that the product is reparable? Or can we repair something existing, eliminating new need?
3. Can we reuse something already existing? Or use one item/resource for multiple uses? Or without changing it’s form when no longer “usable” for one function can it be used elsewhere, prolonging its value & our assets?
4. Upcycle or Refabricate: Can it be slightly modified for another use?
5. Recycle – Are we ensuring as a last case scenario the product or the bi-products created can be recycled for reuse in new items?

Design Thinking… but circular? What is the difference?

For those who already know design thinking, Circular Design Thinking is quite similar but with more parameters to test and inspire from. It is also an often more longer process as you drill down and test the product versus various needs in the “system”. In my opinion, it makes Design Thinking even more robust and realistic as it respects real constraints and even uses them as a source of inspiration (constraints in the end can also liberate your creative juices). It’s edict:

No waste… only food/value!

Also one big difference is the principal “persona.” Circular Design thinking is not just looking at the “persona” or client’s problem but putting the Planet and Society as a whole at the heart of the problem solving. Our starting and principle persona: a planet with limited resources to be used wisely to the benefit of all.

And you?

Anyone else I know who does circular design and circular design thinking or want to learn it? Can you see using these questions in your personal life?

#Demain and the Fresco Of the Ecological Renaissance – Building Future Worlds

I have been working with Nathaniel Richand and Julien Rayneau to propose occasional community meetups for people who want to use their professional skills towards a social and/or ecological impact. We call these meetups #demain nights (French word for “tomorrow”… it is based in Paris afterall). But we found we do not have to wait for tomorrow as today we can already use our skills for “good”. Whether at work, in outside structures – pro bono, or in the private or political sphere… there are a myriad of ways! And no way too small! But this post is not about that (entirely).

This post is about our last meetup where we explored a new workshop format to help this future dreaming and next step planning: La Fresque de la Rénaissance Écologique – The Fresco of the Ecological Renaissance by Julien Dossier. I will share my reflections and perhaps this can inspire you in your actions.

How does the Fresco Work?

The fresco (which is a large wall black-and-white poster) is quite a strong visual tool that can be used from a light theme to a deep dive. It was inspired by the fresco called “The Allegory of the Effects of Good Government” painted in 1338 in Sienna, Italy by Lorenzetti. The Fresco of the Ecological Renaissance, much like it’s predecessor, materializes a desired world, in this case, one that is sustainable and carbon-neutral. The fresco is used to unite citizens and actors with a cause by creating a common vision… and best yet, one that is exciting and fun! Which, I strongly believe, fun while we work is necessary more than ever.

A session with the fresco gives participants the mission: To explore the new world presented and reflect on how that makes us feel and how we can act right now to get there. Even when participants go off into their own projects and ideas they can always come back to the fresco, as a common reference. It creates a common language without words. And as a physical object can also be manipulated… colored, written on, notes added to, moved from one common space to another, built upon, etc. Also due to no words, the fresco can even be used with children!

What a lovely group! Our facilitators Olivier Menicot and Eric La Blanche discussing the fresco all covered in our group reflections/post-its.

Workshops using the Fresco can vary in time and objective but a good example for a taster session is as follows. The participants split into groups and each group has a separate mission to explore, such as, transport options that are carbon-neutral or food re-distribution. The groups spend time in individual and group contemplation. They discuss what they see and their reactions. They note on, color or what they like, on the fresco. They decide on a project that could be done and then share this back with the global group. We then discuss what this evokes and our next steps forward in the “actual” world.

The result? Ask Pandora…

Here are the words that were evoked in the participants:

The word at the center? Hope.

Did we feel doom and gloom and scarcity? No, it was… Serenity, Peace, Frugality/Sufficiency, Inclusion, Free Time, Respect, Know-How, Sense, Freshness, Proximity and Doable!

On a personal note: It struck me how reachable this new world could be! No crazy technology to save us, just a shift in mindset (I know easier said than done) and everyone doing their part, much like an ant hill. Complex yet doable when each of us does what inspires us (*cough* Agile *cough*). No one is “perfect” but we are “together” with a common goal even if our methods differ. And in fact stronger thanks to our diversity of interest! It can feel overwhelming and scary but as we share the news and hope and each person acts… 🤝A big and good change is coming. Fear not, just act.

Enough, of my prose… Bref, (as they say in French), it was really cool! And I know it already inspired me to get more local and involved in my neighborhood townhall’s sustainability projects.

Want More info?

  • Parisian and wanting to use your pro-skills for impact? Normally we host our #demain nights at the agilist cooperative AgileTribu. Big thanks to them! Stay tuned for news by signing up for their meetup group.
  • Want to do a Fresco or get involved with this type of tool? To signup to be part of the association or use the Fresco of the Ecological Renaissance you can contact Emmanuelle Mouls or learn more at the website https://www.renaissanceecologique.fr/ or read the book (see website).
  • Questions of how you can bring eco and social responsibility to your business? – I am a transformation coach. I work with companies to create system and culture change. I would love to help you realize your social and ecological vision: via new ways of organisation, measurement, business models, product offers and engagement of employees and your eco-system. But first I start with your unique… Why. Send me an email. Let’s have fun!

New Year, New Decade, New Era, New System

Happy New Year and meilleurs voeux! I wish you all kindness, creativity, collaboration and fullfillment! #2020 for me is all about respect for all ecosystems (individual, collaborators, business, local, global and climate) and how this helps everyone, including businesses, not only survive but prosper.

This is not some high-minded value-signaling but a pragmatic truth, our margin is disappearing or gone in all our capitals (social, climate, economic…)

But the good news is, in this transition, there is a lot of opportunity, as we move from…

  • old system to new
  • linear to circular
  • unsustainable growth to self feeding
  • throw-away to long-term assets
  • brittle to supple and learning
  • consuming to curating

This is my declaration!

We are in this together! One step at a time. Each in their own way.

Spotted in Paris

Stay tuned for more and please let me know if you want to collaborate together or could use a transformation coach like me.

Where you are in your own journey as a business or individual? No shame, we all start somewhere.

10 Unexpected Benefits of Buying More Consciously… or Not at All!

Saying no to treating myself to that new watch or stopping my Amazon Prime… What a sad world!

Actually, no! There is a transition period, but…

Becoming a conscious consumer has made me happier, healthier, freer, and more present.

Image by klimkin of Pixabay

I treat myself well. I just have removed “stuff as a solution” from the equation.

So, if you are considering becoming a conscious consumer (ecological and social concerns), minimalist, or zero-waste... Have no fear! Here are some of the benefits you could enjoy.

NOTE: I am not striving to be nor I am perfect. Nor do I advocate for “perfection.” These are some of my reflections mid-journey. I leave out the ecological and humanitarian benefit, which is ++++ but less obviously touches our daily lives.

1. More disposable income and time

Duh, I suppose. Buying consciously often means buying less which means more money at your disposal. This can then be spent on experiences, food (yum) or big ticket items that mean more to you. Better yet, it can be saved so you can work less! My husband and I have our own company and we have been able to move down to four day work weeks, partly in thanks to our spending habits and…

2. Realization how little stuff you need to be happy 

Sometimes I laugh at ads that try to convince me how their product will make me happier. It almost feels like a super power in this digital targeted-ad world to no longer feel the pull of consumerism. Though this perception shift does not come overnight, it is a gift in tough times:

Realizing you can be happier with “less” because you already have so much.

3. Super Sheila: Impervious against impulse buys

Cutting down on disposable plastic means you just breeze past half of the options in stores. I just do not consider it and now I do not even miss it.

My super hero pose

4. Eat fresher and healthier

No disposable plastic and limited to no packaging EXTREMELY cuts down on impulse buys of junk-food and processed food and over-shopping. Minimal packaging often means fresher, so if you buy too much, it will spoil.

Also, I stopped going to places for takeout unless I can use my own containers, so that means no fast food. You will be surprised how many restaurants love it when you bring in your own containers.

5. Move your butt

I have to be more active with my new lifestyle. I have replaced delivery with takeout using my own Tupperware. We carry our own containers to the bulk store (detergent, dry goods, …) which for us is a little farther a way. We have a bit more laundry due to using cloth diapers and cloth towels instead of paper towels. It is a great way to bake in some exercise.

6. Enjoy the thrill of the hunt… or not!

There are whole categories of items and businesses I have cut out of my field of options when I shop. The result is that it is easier to just pick something and go, less decision paralysis. Also luckily for everyone, in the past couple years there is a great ecosystem out there of vetted social/eco good companies to patronize, so you do have more options but not too many. 

In some cases, since I am buying with a long term vision (example: one coat for 10+ years) it may prolong the search to find that perfect item. But, when I do find it and I know it will last me a long time the gratification is 10x more than what I used to experience with retail therapy. And sometimes I even find.. that I did not need it after all, so do not even purchase! Pst… for those who love changing out their wardrobes there is still the possibility of clothing-swap events. Free, fun and social!

7. Get Creative! Scratch that innovation and crafting itch.

I have moved from thinking products are what I need to focusing more on solutions. This means I take the time when a new need arises to reflect.

Is it a product I need or can I solve this need another way?

Or better yet, thanks to upcycling and crafting, Can I make it? For example, I thought I needed an expensive breast-feeding pumping bra but ended up just adapting an old-bra to make one. I just put holes in it… lol.

8. Freedom!

I will not act like becoming a conscious consumer completely frees you, as it introduces a whole new parameter and existential dread that is not always easy to navigate (Hello, The Good Place). But I simplified the task by also reducing my consumerism. So now there are whole consumer holiday seasons and fads I just do not care about any more. No pressure to save or deal hunt for. Also, due to minimalizing my house it takes less time to clean… less things to maintain… less responsibility… more space to move all around. *does apartment snow angels*

Inspiration from my friend Jaqueline

9. Free your relationships up

Making the shift towards requesting and giving no gifts and prioritizing just time together, has been a big relief. Instead of scouring for the PERFECT gift that the person may or may not even want… Honestly, even if they ask for it it just may gather dust… I am moving towards instead spending time with and treating the other person. Could be as simple as just a dinner out together. Win-Win: memories on all sides!

10. Open up to your community

I am bonding and finding new friends as we share our tips and mobilize for a better future. I also am getting to know my local restaurants and vendors. I feel even more connected and invested in my neighborhood. It is getting easier and easier to maintain this life-style thanks to our collective efforts.

Finally… Treat yourself!

Most importantly, being minimalist, a conscious consumer, or zero-waste does NOT mean “depriving” yourself. It means just shifting to realign with priorities that were probably there all along. In fact, it often means more resources to treat yourself with, just in a different way. Whether it be a night out at the theater or that jar of really delicious organic macadamia butter….. mmmmm…….. or some extra time-off even if unpaid.

In fact, DO NOT go cold turkey. Much like a diet, it will not stick if you are too tough right away. Ease into it! It takes time to adapt to a new lifestyle and to see the benefits. We need billions of people doing this semi-well and not thousands perfectly.

Here is a nice website to give you some ideas of first steps you can take.

Did I miss anything in my list? Let me know in a comment!

How can I or my company have impact on the world? – Some inspiration from Pro Bono Day Paris 2019

The question I have been delving into lately:

And what if I use my professional skills for social/environmental good?


Are these two worlds so mutually exclusive?

Me ^ – Photo by Riette Salzmann of Pixabay

I am just at the start of my journey but so far from my ‘market’ and in person research (lol Product Owner habits die hard)… The answer is:

Yes, it is possible.

Not only is it possible, more than ever, but there are many people out there like me who want to do the same. In addition, companies are awakening to their societal and environmental responsibilities, if only for the reason that their clients desire it and it will increase their employer desirability.

I am increasingly convinced that the economy of tomorrow is one that is socially/environmentally (social good) conscious. It will not be a question but a fact for companies, that they must integrate social good into their DNA to survive. If we look purely at money, the market will demand this even though the environmental doomsday we are heading towards should be motivation enough. But, hey money talks.

So you desire to use your skills to have an impact? In this article I will give you one idea and some inspiration, but to see the full buffet at your disposition that is a post for another day. Though, if you speak french, here are some notes and ideas from a meetup I helped organize on the subject with some like-minded coaches, Nathaniel and Julien. Meanwhile, please reach out to me as I want to meet more professionals on this adventure.

Quick background: How to have an impact without switching jobs? And what is Pro Bono Day?

So in exploring all my options, one option came up called: Pro Bono or donating skills (without switching jobs) to causes that could not normally pay for them. Or for company owners, allowing and facilitating their employees to do this on company time and dime.

Some options for this (some France only): 

This is a great opportunity as not only is it an opportunity to share what we love to do at work but we can develop our skills further by using them in new domains. Also, often it is a write-off for companies providing it on their time, win-win.

Pro Bono Lab organized a day long conference on this subject called
Pro Bono Day with voices from a diverse set of actors and below are some of my learnings and reactions. My notes are not as complete as I would like, so apologies in advance if I do not give credit due. Please email me any corrections, for those who were there. Here is a the full program with all the names of some inspiring organisations and people. Shout out to my fellow coach friend Nathaniel Richand of Permagile who experienced it alongside me.


One of the many roundtables: Flavie Deprez (Carenews) , Anita Kirpalani (Epic Foundation), Adélaïde de Tourtier (PWC) et Emery Jacquillat (La Camif).

Some Big Ideas

On a personal level…

  1. All skills can be used for the betterment of society. We need all our minds on the issues at hand and not just our “best” minds. You may think your skills are unique to your job but often if you break them down into general know-how areas they are easily applicable elsewhere. Example: A project manager who manages CRM software system deployments knows: logistics, time management, detail orientation, systems thinking, interpersonal skills etc. So despite being quite specialized in their daily work, this person could share their knowledge with a charity that needs help structuring their supply chain or deploying an intranet. Do not forget, this arsenal of skills includes those acquired in your personal life. This same project manager organizes family meals for 15 people every Sunday?  Logistics and people wrangling again! This time for nonprofit…
  2. You are your greatest masterpiece, with no completion date. There is no expiration or prematurity of your skills. We tell the young they are not experienced enough to share their skills to help others… The old, too much experience or not relevant. The middle-aged too irresponsible… Must earn money, no? Enough, we all have something to share and gain. Often just a different perspective alone is an asset. Resource: Mélissa Petit of https://www.mixinggenerations.com/ is doing a lot of work to help us understand the unexploited power of our elder generations (a.k.a. us one day!).
  3. The best way to learn is to do and create, working on the causes that you relate to. Programs such as Toukouleur and Enactus believe in this power of learning and gaining confidence via launching projects from A-Z, especially for adolescents. So why not create your own local project or Pro Bono help someone with theirs? In addition, it is recommended to focus on the causes that motivate you most personally as they will keep you driven. There is enough diverse interests out there to cover our most pressing issues.
  4. The best way to gain understanding of others is to do alongside them. To do Pro Bono is to not subjugate your help on others but to come to the table to see how you can collaborate and elevate each other’s efforts. Those we are “helping” have key essential knowledge that must be taken into full account.
  5. There is no “too little” and each cause their merit.  Any drop of help is not too little nor should be shamed. Some can give an hour a year, some dedicate a whole sabbatical to helping, and that is fine. We are also not all motivated by the same causes and all enter this journey at a different time and from different places. What counts is we take a step and open up to and grow our spirits thanks to social good.
https://twitter.com/TheRialMichelle/status/1164644109081907201

On a company level…

  1. Pro Bono or social good programs should never be used as a band-aid for bad HR and unethical practices or to sway public opinion. (Anita Kirpalani – Epic Foundation) They should be done with the pure intention to inspire our employees and enrich their lives and skills. You may try to fake it but this is a type of “greenwashing,” where the intention is only to hide faults, will easily be recognized as false from within and around.
  2. True intention? With time people will tell. There is a lot of public apprehension when money enters the social good sphere, but be consistent in all actions and persistent and with time your intention will be clear. Even if you have to take breaks at points to rethink your approach, that is more than fine, it does not mean people will not understand in the long run your intent.
  3. One way to embody this intention is for the direction or company leaders to go out and move forward their social-good goals. This could be as simple as the leaders taking part of a Pro Bono or nonprofit initiative themselves. Lots of social good organisations or nonprofits may need your experience! As mentioned above on the personal level, this is an opportunity not only to share knowledge but grow and better inform the leadership of the company. It is valuable time spent.
  4. Set your intention… have a mission statement that is clear and guides all actions and products on all levels. This mission must be co-created, owned and referred to constantly by everyone involved and surrounding you. Perhaps this means reconnecting with an old mission statement or emerging a new one. This mission statement can be the driving force to go from ‘doing’ to ‘being’. Find or refind your mission’s pulse regularly by seeking the opinions of your employees, clients and society at large. They are the true meter and not your own opinions. Do not just stop at your clients but take in consideration the opinion of those in the locations where you produce and the localsphere of your clients.
  5. As often… When we build a product we think: will it work and can we scale? But we are missing an essential 3rd question: and how does it effect our society? There is no private-only sphere of influence… Everything has a societal effect. – Charlest Benoît Heidsieck of Le Rameau
  6. Forget the “perfect” model, we must all find our own “pertinent” model. Our strength is in our diversity. – Charlest Benoît Heidsieck of Le Rameau on finding the perfect social-good model. This principle can be applied to so many other situations! Best is to be inspired by others but in the end build a model to fit our, our clients’ and our localsphere’s needs and unique motivations.
  7. So that means… As organisations we must break down silos between government, public and charitable organisations. What was once a small microsystem is rapidly expanding and now an ecosystem. We can harness this power by collaborating and doing business between all types of social good organisms. Also, as consumers we must vote with our money.
  8. It bears repeating: Companies must engage or die. Impact + profit, not just profit. Consumers want sincerity and social awareness. And our children will (and already do) want even more.
Green Revolution – Photo by Michael Gaida of Pixabay

One last big question…

  1. “No, the question is not how can tech save us… But how can the Probono and sharing our skills for a societal impact save tech?” – Charlie Tronche of HelloAsso

Pandora’s Box

In the end the gift I got out of this conference and my recent adventures into this new world, is hope. Easy to be fatalist until you go out and see the doers. And we are amassing an army.

So go out there and do. And don’t hesitate to contact me to discuss in the meanwhile. If you live in Paris, our next meetup for social good curious and doers is November 20th. Join us! Allez-y!