Category Archives: Community

How nature increases health, productivity and wellbeing

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhere do people currently experience nature in Australia? What activities, groups or organisations are involved? What are the new opportunities in this space?

As Richard Louv has extensively documents in The last child in the woods, saving our children from nature deficit disorder, future environmentalists are formed through childhood experiences of play in nature.

And as Common Cause research into values shows, engaging intrinsic values primes people to care and act on behalf of the environment. Nature connection engages the following values:

• A world of beauty
• Unity with nature
• Protecting the environment
• Care for future generations

I am fortunate in my work at ACF, to have the opportunity to explore some powerful questions about how we can be more effective in our work, and how social and cultural change relates to our environmental goals. One of the question we’ve been exploring this week is where the opportunities lie to reengage and animate people in their connection to the natural world.

The “great outdoors” is an Australian myth and reality, rated highly by Australians when they talk about what makes this country unique.

Healthy Parks, Healthy People is an extensive literature review, by Deakin University in 2002, updated in 2008, examining over two hundred studies indicating significant human health benefits of contact with nature.

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Creating change with distributed leadership

Slide1Marshall Ganz defines leadership as “Accepting responsibility for enabling others to achieve shared purpose, in the face of uncertainty.”

Marshall Ganz gives a substantial introduction and summary of his work in this video, but it’s long, so if you’d like a summary, read on.

Ganz describes how to build leadership, build community, build power. You can’t, he explains, rely on super-talented extraordinary leaders, so you have to figure out how to grow and spread leadership. The only way you get to scale is by developing the capacity of lots of people to lead.

Social movements have rarely been successful as an isolated local movement, nor as someone sitting in capital central. It’s the combination of national purpose and local action that builds a social movement. Local action gains meaning and significance from being part of greater whole.

This is rich food for thought for my work at the Australian Conservation Foundation, as I think ACF can be powerful in this role.

It’s not sufficient to rely on systems and procedures, because in social change we are constantly confronted by uncertainty, says Ganz.

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