In the past few months the environment has taken a more prominent place in the mainstream narrative. The latest IPCC report (1) stated we have 12 years to seriously address climate change if we are to stay below 1.5 degrees of warming. A WWF Living Planet Report (3) showed an overall decline of 60% in the population sizes of vertebrates between 1970 and 2014. A group called Extinction Rebellion have begun a campaign of non-violent civil disobedience and at COP24 David Attenborough warned of an extinction event (6).
I heard in a talk (7) recently that some think that in times of uncertainty humans tend to look towards authority for answers. In the same context it was suggested that the opposite is actually required, namely to look to ourselves for answers, to take personal responsibility and to self-organise.
In March 2018 BREEAM launched BREEAM Wiki, a microsite on the Designing Buildings Wiki platform, intended to create a centralised library of guidance and best practice created by, and for, users and other key stakeholders of BREEAM schemes and tools.
From day one it was known that getting engagement from experts would be key. The motto ‘if you build it they will come’ does not apply when you are trying to get people to share what they know, so we set about exploring how to facilitate contributions.
When I spoke to Gregor Harvie, Director at Designing Buildings Wiki, he warned me that, as a rule, built environment professionals:
- Don’t share stuff
- Don’t write stuff
- Don’t believe they know anything that anyone else doesn’t
I was fascinated by all three as I knew that I had a very different experience from 14 years of running sustainability workshops with BREEAM. But I also knew that workshops are not the normal environment of industry professionals and when faced with busy client-facing workloads, priorities often overtake good intentions.
I also asked a group at a UKGBC meeting about sharing and they suggested that collaborative workshops might be more useful and supportive than working alone on articles for a wiki. Also, some could relate to ‘not believing they knew anything’ but that belief quickly disappeared when faced with someone that needed their expertise. Often they would actually welcome the chance to help.
So perhaps we just need to get better at talking and sharing, and maybe carefully-crafted knowledge sharing workshops could help?
Online workshops and knowledge sharing ambassadors
‘None of us is as smart as all of us’
So we started two initiatives:
- Regular industry-wide, public knowledge sharing workshops.
- A knowledge sharing ambassadors group to champion all knowledge sharing and help identify and fill knowledge gaps.
The Ambassadors group of volunteers met to identify key gaps and create articles for launch at the public workshops. Then, in September and December we ran our first public online workshops with c80 participants at each.
Each workshop made use of the latest webinar technology, text chat, polling, surveys and Google co-creation documents to gather wide ranging experience in answer to key questions. These resulted in the accumulation of vast amount of knowledge which was then compiled into articles and made available on the wiki for all to read and edit.
There are now 220 articles on BREEAM Wiki, and we are looking forward to running further workshops in 2019.
I would like to say a big thank you to all of those that have shared knowledge. If you would like to find out more and get involved, see the links below.
- Latest IPCC report: https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/
- Related articles: https://www.vox.com/2018/10/8/17948832/climate-change-global-warming-un-ipcc-report ; https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/08/global-warming-must-not-exceed-15c-warns-landmark-un-report
- WWF Living Planet Report 2018 https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/living-planet-report-2018
- On species loss: https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/1/5/e1400253.full?fbclid=IwAR0Ffq9mEurt1vACLUyp7oVN9pPZ3j-O4kz23a9FRHRcrRaZIZ7HdFv7qfk
- Article on alleged misinterpretation of WWF report: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/10/have-we-really-killed-60-percent-animals-1970/574549/?fbclid=IwAR15gBJ21LNs5Efx6D4x-RWe04GNdlGArqERgZVXrt4CMADY67Ken0eb8bI
- David Attenborough at COP24: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-46398057
- The Nordic Secret TEDxBerlin https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4dFsHgd1rQ