Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Grading Sustainable Transport: Scholarship A. Leadership C-

One of the often voiced claims of World Streets is that those who best understand the issues and priorities behind sustainable transport and sustainable cities are failing to command the high ground in the debate and the politics of decision simply because we are just not good enough at communicating our ideas, first to each other and then to the world. All too often when confronted with a decision issue, with our strong academic orientation and backgrounds, we prefer to turn to the familiar world of more research, fatter reports and that next great conference, while at the end of the day what we really need is a concise, credible, understandable presentation of our best ideas and the choices that need to be made.

You don't need to look too deeply into the international agenda and accomplishments of the last years in our embattled sector to see that with all too few exceptions, sad to say, we may be getting A's in scholarship, but at best we are getting low C's in leadership (and communications which of course is part of the deal). So while we fail the dogs yap and the caravan moves on. Fossil fuels continue to be imported at groaning cost and burned at accelerating rates, with all the environmental and climate consequences that come with it, while at the same time our sector -- transport, mobility, access, however you chose to think of it -- continues to languish and do a poor job for all too many people around the planet (and most likely in your city too). But it does not have to be that way.

Bottom line: We do not have an information or knowledge problem - we have learned huge amounts about our sector. We do not have an experience problem -- there are a huge number of examples of what we can to do face these challenges. Nor do we have a tools or technology problem - the world has never been richer in these respects. No, we have a communications problem.

We need to find ways to fix this debilitating shortcoming and if you check through the pages of World Streets you can see that we are working on it from this end with as rich media support as we can muster. And happily we are not the only ones.

Here's one example of something that we might do well to look at together, for two reasons. First because of the topic and the good content -- Dan Pinks' striking presentation on what motivates people (like us). And together with this the lively RSAnimate presentation of the British Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA)

This RSAnimate format forces the idea person, the would-be agent of change -- that could be you or me -- to organize and present their thoughts in a manner which grabs the full attention of the viewer, and in the process focusing attention on the essentials that drive the presentation. This is a very demanding process. May we invite you to think of how you would prepare for such a presentation (while we do the same).

Now on to our striking example on this gray winter morning:

The surprising truth about what motivates us

* For more on Dan Pink click here. * And for RSAnimate, try here.

Dan Pink's thoughtful presentation has particular relevance in the context of World Streets since we depend entirely on volunteers to do our bit, and to help us find the finances needed to keep going.

Remember that great Rutherford quote of the other day? "We have no money gentlemen, so we shall have to think." Well, if I may, we have to think harder.

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