Massachusetts Puts Money, Energy Revolution on Co-Creation Table

Massachusetts Puts Money, Energy Revolution on Co-Creation Table

In a day when energy field has to adapt at speed of Internet companies, whole-system engagement critical: David Cooperrider

It was in listening to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick talk about the next stages of our energy revolution and how this is likely the most important agenda facing all of us today that David Cooperrider says he felt the history-making substance of the event he was part of this week.

Patrick was opening the state’s energy efficiency Appreciative Inquiry (AI) summit, held May 15-16. Cooperrider, Case Western Reserve University professor and Fairmount Minerals professor and faculty director, facilitated the gathering of more than 300 delegates.

Governor Deval Patrick

The event was unique in that it wasn’t just program administrators, utilities leaders and political players considering the state’s new energy future.

There were also university students, home-owners, business leaders and nonprofit representatives.

And they weren’t just there to fill in a survey or provide feedback.

They were there to contribute to collaborative, state-wide planning at the highest levels.

Cooperrider says he hasn’t seen anything like it anywhere in the country: a very large-group, whole system-in-the- room planning process in a field marked by extremely technical and very significant financial questions. The group was essentially laying the groundwork for the next stages of what Cooperrider calls the third industrial or new energy revolution. Part of the environment: 100-year-old infrastructure.

Investments in the range of one to two billion dollars that could ultimately have an eight-billion dollar impact on the state’s economy were part of the discussion.

Into that hefty technical and economic mix was stirred this human process emphasizing emergence, collaboration and co-creation.

It could be considered a risky coming together, but Cooperrider proposes it’s absolutely critical in the future field of change work.

The old siloed and bureaucratic ways of dealing with these things are not going to keep up with where the world wants to go, and where people want to take it, he says, especially in a field that is now having to change at the speed of Internet companies.

The new, important work is bridging expert models of change with great human factor and collaboration models of change built on emergence and co-creation.

In a recent Appreciative Inquiry gathering, the sixth annual World AI Conference, held in Ghent, Belgium, Utrecht University professor Klaas Van Egmond made a similar point, noting the solution for our sustainability challenges will be found in social and cultural dynamics just as much or more than in technological advancements.

Carol S. White, a director with energy provider National Grid, one of the key champions of the whole-system gathering, says she was amazed at how the environment created at the summit opened up so much “free flowing discussion and sharing of ideas” between the very diverse group gathered.

The intention is to work this planning into existing activities to actualize an energy efficiency program for the state of Massachusetts legislated in 2008, the Green Communities Act.

“We take our responsibility to try to achieve those very big goals very seriously,” says White, noting that while success is being had, there was a recognition of the value in connecting more with customers.

“We want to know how we can better meet their needs, while at the same time meeting these policy objectives and the best way to do that is get all the different players in the same place at the same time and to get that conversation going,” says White, adding she feels the event was a success in that respect, with much to do in terms of follow-up now.

One important conversation, she says, is considering how to build on the excitement that has been created and continue to engage those people who said they want to be part of this work going forward.

As Patrick also noted in his opening presentation, Cooperrider says he can’t think of anything more important to the long-term future of our economy, planet, life and well-being than the huge energy transition that’s afoot.

He suggests we’re going to see more innovation in this arena in the next 25 years than we’ve ever seen in any field with new possibilities around, for instance, clean technology, everyone becoming a producer of energy and the use of the Internet in creating renewable energies.

And the systems inviting and making space for to people recognize and include each other’s strengths, visions and anxieties are laying the foundation blocks for a more robust society, able to come up with solutions that are faster, more encompassing and offering more elegant and beautiful experiences along the way.

For more on the Massachusetts energy efficiency work, click here.

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Michelle Strutzenberger

Michelle Strutzenberger has been a Generative Journalist and curator with Axiom News for more than 15 years.

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