Is There Truly Strength in Numbers?

Crossing the street in some cities is a matter of following directions. Observe the signs—cross when green, stop when red. In other cities, Pittsburgh included, crossing a downtown street is more of a sociological experiment. A crowd of people stand at a corner with a common goal to be on the other side. At first, everyone observes the signal but soon someone in front becomes impatient and begins to look both ways. If the traffic risk is low, they begin to cross. It is not long before other heads are turning and they too are stepping out. The last group doesn’t even bother to assess the risk. They figure if everyone else is going, there must be safety in numbers and they step out without looking. No one wants to be left behind when an opportunity arises.
Adopting sustainable practices is a bit like wanting to cross a street. Organizations know there is something attractive on the other side. Some grow impatient with the market’s red light/green light instructions, assess the risk for themselves, and step out from the crowd by becoming early adopters of sustainable practices. Many other organizations act when they see others cross and say, “If they are doing it, so can I!” Research has shown that seeing others in action shapes our knowledge, helps us assess risk and inspires us to action. Understanding how an organization can most effectively participate in collective efforts is important.
Individual companies can benefit greatly from participating in group initiatives such as, a business alliance that will help companies measure their sustainability efforts and compare with similar businesses. It will allow companies to learn together through formal and informal networks and to build knowledge on how to plan and implement green practices. When Greg DiMedio brought forth the idea, it quickly gathered momentum due in part to the support from City Councilman Bill Peduto, who saw opportunities for communities to strengthen their sustainability planning. More recently, Greener Pittsburgh secured an agreement with a nonprofit partner the Community Technical Assistance Center (CTAC), to help administer the program. evolveEA was an early supporter, lending our vision of sustainable community networks and our knowledge of sustainability metrics and effective community engagement. We were honored to join Greener Expressions and CTAC at a recent City Council session that recognized the initiative and declared 22 April 2011 to be “Greener Expressions Day.”
At evolveEA, we’re committed to helping organizations and communities formulate and pursue their sustainability goals in many different ways. Our experience has shown that there is strength in numbers. Our Entry Point Assessment benchmarking can help a company or community decide what should be measured and how they compare to their own past performance and the performance of competitors and collaborators. Our customized designs for learning networks have identified how to harness collective knowledge to build individual capacity. Our contributions to the growing body of social engagement research has shown how to leverage information to inspire people to action.

Sustainability is based on the connectivity of many parts of a system; that connectivity is important to raise organizational capacity. Organizations and communities can become more effective when working as part of a well coordinated group, whether they are first or last to cross over to sustainable practices.

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