September 20-21, 2011
(written by James Hearsum)
An unusually titled conference for a horticulturist to attend, you might think. But wait; we (hopefully) have a clear mission for our organisations, we live in a disruptive social and commercial environment, and we need innovative ways of doing business. This conference provided the latest disruptive systems thinking and business models in the fields of education, health, and entrepreneurship. It is billed as the place to get connected and collaboratively innovative through the medium of unforgettable storytelling.
Speakers outlined both methodology and vision for new types of schools, new purposes for education, improved care delivery in hospitals and how to medically prescribe food. Social change was on everyone’s lips, and this wasn’t just talk, these people had already had notable success. A hedge fund manager talked about purpose and integrity (yes- they can go together), an entrepreneur ($billion sale to Microsoft) about overcoming fear, and a Huffington post editor about the art of storytelling.
The last of these was a particular highlight. Andrew Losowsky, books editor at the Huffington Post, spoke about framing stories within a possibility space and defining the likely elements within that space. A good story, he said, seeks to expand beyond what is considered likely. This introduces drama, suspense and satisfaction for the hearer. A great storyteller will toy with our perception of the possible, but not smash it entirely – too much and the story becomes unbelievable, or disturbing.
Still confused why a gardener was there?
This type of larger purpose, cohesive thinking, and ambition to implement systems change is why I work in gardens. The top Botanic Gardens reach over 40million annual visitors, plus over 1million school children and 1million adults on organised educational programs. To me, that is enough of an audience to start making some serious changes. BIF helped me continue to think about how.
In order to achieve large-scale change, we need to inspire and activate those around us. Information must be transformed into knowledge. This happens through contextualisation, and the most powerful way to do this is the humble story.
It is vital to draw on the best ideas from other fields, and present them as inspiring stories. The Longwood Graduate Program will be implementing this principle in the forthcoming Symposium scheduled for the first week in March 2012. Keep an eye on the website for more surprising details…