“Inspired Conversations” Creating Collaborative Dialogue on the Oil Sands

Backing its commitment to encourage out-of-the-box thinking and sourcing innovative ideas from a unique audience, OSLI representatives sat down with youth members of the Leading Change movement for a casual breakfast on March 14th at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel in Vancouver. Across the street, on a much larger scale of information sharing, Globe 2012’s Series of Conferences and Trade Fairs was about to kick-off with its opening plenary.

Leading Change is a Canada-wide movement started by young environmental and sustainability professionals who have banded together to influence positive change locally and internationally. Their objective is to address environmental, social and economic issues that are critical to attaining a sustainable future for the next generation.  Leading Change held a week-long program, including a one-day Emerging Leader Forum at Globe 2012, and has had a collaborative information sharing relationship with OSLI for many years.

Globe 2012 served as the perfect backdrop for the breakfast between OSLI and these youth leaders. The Globe Series has been dubbed the world’s most influential and prestigious environmental industry event and is North America’s largest and longest-running international gathering of senior representatives involved in the business of sustainability, energy and the environment.

OSLI targeted the members of Leading Change who were participating in the Emerging Leaders Forum. “We focus our efforts on members of this important group because of the valuable information they have consistently brought to the table” added OSLI’s Dale Austin, key facilitator of the breakfast meeting.

Setting the context for the “inspired conversations” breakfast, Austin commenced the meeting with a welcome to the audience and a brief introduction explaining the Chatham House Rule.

The inspired conversations tool for engagement focuses on a listen and respond model, versus inform and defend. The meeting was completely free form and dialogue amongst each table was encouraged. Attendees were asked to speak frankly and express their personal thoughts on the oil sands industry – issues, challenges, and successes.

Austin explains, “At these breakfasts, we are truly creating inspired conversations. We give a very short opening, context setting piece, and then let each table decide the direction their table is going to go over the course of the 90 minutes.”

An OSLI representative was dedicated to each table to listen, to respond to questions, and to potentially correct any misinformation that was put forward; as well as to record the dialogue at the table. Tidbits, themes, questions, and action items resulting from the conversations are captured and form the meeting summary.

The OSLI’s inspired conversations tool for engaging calls for creating a warm and trusting environment. This is achieved through both the room setup (there was no front or back of the room, no podium and no PowerPoint presentation waiting to be queued) and the explanation of the Chatham House Rule.  Under this rule, participants agree to limit the sharing of the conversation details beyond the room.

But what makes this type of engagement so unique in the oil sands industry? In this case, guests attended the breakfast with the expectation of hearing a high-level corporate presentation about OSLI and the oil sands. Instead, OSLI opens the conversation up without limiting topics or specific issues, permitting industry to gain a better understanding of perceptions from young emerging professionals (‘listen’), and allowing OSLI to address these comments (‘respond’). Austin adds that this particular type of approach works because “there are no expectations on the participants other than to show up and engage in a conversation.”

Further, it gives youth an opportunity to have face time with OSLI and industry professionals in a laid back environment, and affirms the fact their opinions matter and can result in change.

To close the loop on the inspired conversations breakfast, each OSLI representative will take the information scribed at their table and compile it into a short summary of the overall content of the discussion. These summaries are distributed to each individual that attended the meeting, as well as to OSLI industry members.

OSLI’s collaborative approach to engaging at the breakfast intends to give individual concerns significant attention and taps into expertise from voices that otherwise may not have been heard. Austin concludes, “The overall success factor of the meeting is partially determined throughout the meeting itself. If people are engaged and are interested in the topic, then OSLI has hosted a successful meeting.”

About Globe 2012

Every two years, the world gathers in Vancouver for three days of thought leadership presented by world-renowned sustainability experts. GLOBE™ Series of Conferences and Trade Fairs is North America’s largest and longest-running international gathering of senior representatives from the public, private and NGO sectors involved in the business of sustainability, energy and the environment.

Recognized as the world’s most influential and prestigious international environment industry event, GLOBE brings together leaders of business and government to discuss current trends and to showcase innovative technology solutions for the world’s environmental problems.

Government decisions makers, corporate executives, and environmental technology innovators engage in high-level dialogues about pressing environmental issues such as corporate sustainability, energy and climate change, finance, and building better cities.

GLOBE Series events have been used to preview innovative ideas and major multilateral processes for corporate and industry leaders from around the world in advance of major international gatherings, such as the Rio and Johannesburg World Summits. – http://2012.globeseries.com/about/

For more information about Globe 2012, visit http://2012.globeseries.com//

For more information about Leading Change 2012 and the Emerging Leaders Forum, visit http://leadingchange2012.ca/