We spend a minimum of one day planning for every hour of a meeting we facilitate for clients.
We draft and re-draft inputs to the meeting, incorporating external perspectives and new evidence to ensure the group isn’t re-hashing the obvious. We synthesize the data and elucidate new insights, priming the group to identify actionable pathways forward. We spend time on the phone with each participant individually before the meeting to ensure they understand the goals of the meeting, the approach, the reasons why they’ve been included, and how they can show up to help the group to advance. During the meeting all participants forgo electronics to be fully present to each other and the task at hand.
Why do we work like this?
The ideas we’re working with our clients to advance are extremely complex, and we seek to engage diverse viewpoints to advance the thinking. This requires carefully planned and carefully facilitated interactions.
The opportunity costs of holding meetings with organizational leaders are high. Additionally, the carbon costs of flying to meetings are extraordinary, and the impacts of climate change may disproportionately affect those who are most vulnerable. Soon we are facilitating a meeting in Geneva with 18 participants, 13 of whom will fly to Geneva. An independent organization estimates that the round trip, economy flights for the meeting would melt approximately 74 square meters of arctic ice. If the participants flew in business, flights for the meeting would melt an estimated 99 square meters of arctic ice (1).
Zooming back, our 4 person company is facilitating 7 group meetings for our clients in the remainder of 2019. If each meeting looks like this one, and everyone flies economy, we will have facilitated meetings that melt an estimated 518 square meters of arctic ice in Q3/Q4 alone. The estimated environmental impact is staggering.
To ensure our work is a net positive in the world, ideally each meeting should have an impact on health and development that outweighs the ecologic cost. Measuring either is extremely difficult. However, we know that tackling development’s complex technical and political challenges requires deep thinking and trusted partnerships. Both benefit enormously from in-person interactions. Thus, flying is unlikely to go away. In the meantime, we’ll continue to try to make the most of each moment in support of our clients goals. And (for those who can) we’ll ask them to pay for carbon offsets.
We love our work and the planet. We’d be happy to help you think about how to optimize your group meetings, to advance your goals and help ensure the environmental costs are not wasted.
Conversations with Katie Stahley on climate change and global health while hiking around Washington State’s largest glaciated stratovolcano inspired the arctic ice calculations. Thanks Katie.
Sources: 1. Note that the calculation relating CO2 emissions and the melting of arctic ice is complex. We don’t pretend to understand the analyses that underpin the estimates (the relationship was described using historical data, published in Science, here). If you have suggestions on how to more accurately or compellingly make the connection please be in touch. We look forward to sharpening the thinking.