Selection of a Project and Destination

Monday’s meeting was full of energized debate and discussion — I think I speak for everyone when I say it’s fun to be part of such a passionate team.

We agreed on all aspects of how the project would work and what our principal deliverable would be.

1. We will look at how economic and financial frameworks shape a real estate outcome or project.

2. These frameworks or “lenses” will include:

  • national economic interest (GDP/ GNP)
  • business interest (ROI/ IRR)
  • national balance sheet economics (environmental economics, national balance sheet)
  • impact on happiness

3. None of these lenses are new, but we would like to reach a broader audience than the academic, sustainability or real estate community.

4. The study will use storytelling as a way to understand the topic and translate a complex idea for a broad audience. We anticipate a final product that is in a video format (possibly 2-3 short videos). We also think the storytelling format lends itself to a wide variety of speaking opportunities.

5. We recognize that stories are stronger if they are linked and begin in one concrete place. In other words– start with something people can see and touch, and use human stories tas representations of some of the more abstrat concepts we are interested in. The NPR example (posted on this blog) of tracing the story of toxic assets is a model for this.

6. Contrasting different examples can also be a powerful tool for storytelling. One option is to compare one case in the US with a case abroad and look at how the different frameworks produce different results.

7. The team supports choosing 3 related topics (or perspectives on a project) that we can explore in one location, address in groups of 2 or 3, and then debreif and discuss as a group each evening.

Next Steps

We weighed several locations and specific topics in our discussion on Monday. Some locations were exciting because they are naturally resource constrained (Israel, Cuba) and so they naturally tend toward more of a balance sheet accounting in their economic models. Other locations (such as Vauban in Germany) were exciting because specific projects there seem to point to a different framework that made them possible. An initial vote (3 votes each) showed us to be fairly wide-ranging in our enthusiasm:

1. Cuba (I-Sustain trip) (2 votes)

2. Germany (Vauban) (5 votes)

3. Israel (3 votes)

4. Singapore (2 votes)

5. Bangalore (1 vote)

6. Phoenix (2 votes)

7. Detroit (1 vote)

8. Australia (3 votes)

We decided that before we make a final choice, we should do a little more research on specific projects in each of our target destinations. Between now and mid-December, we plan to use this blog to examine specific topics in our target locations so that we can have several projects on the table. We plan to make a final descision on project and destination by mid-December (or January 1 at the latest).

HOMEWORK:

Please post your ideas for group projects in any of the destinations listed, and comment on other ideas listed here. Our goal will be to reach a decision on or before January 1.

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3 Responses to Selection of a Project and Destination

  1. Mark Huppert says:

    I just wanted to give a huge thank you to AP for reflecting back on us last night what we all agree as a team and to Julia for capturing it in this post. The synthesis and communications skills that you both bring are inspiring!

  2. Scott Wolf says:

    I’ve been thinking alot about this trip and how we can tie it into our research. I’m coming around to really liking the idea of going to Cuba on the iSustain trip for the following reasons:

    1) In an increasingly globalized world, the fact that Cuba has been isolated and/or severely limited in it’s imports/exports during the past few decades would offer a good example of localized sustainability (albeit somewhat forced). Focusing locally is where it seems that the happiness index and overall sustainability movement is tending to say that we must move in order to be sustainable. See excerpt from the weblink below:

    In Havana, urban farming started as a necessity. With the break up of the Soviet Union, Cuba lost 75% of its imports, including oil and its derivatives: fertilizers, agro products. With the Helmut Burns act, Cuba lost 85% of its exports, mainly sugar cane to the US. The lessons learned: Cannot depend on oil for food production, much less if its foreign, and the production must be diverse.

    In 1993 people started growing food where they could out of necessity, roofs, terrraces, vacant lots. In 1995 the government realized this was a major force and it was worth channeling it as part of the system. Now, Havana is said to produce up to 60% of its internal production, all within a 5 km radius from the city center.

    2) The trip is already organized so our focus can be on the research, not on the logistics of planning foreign travel. While being part of the trip would dictate our itinerary, I actually think it would open some doors for us that might be difficult to open (or even identify) if we were doing this on our own.

    3) There are other smart, engaging and connected people who would be part of the trip and sharing time with them, along with getting their perspectives would likely inform our research.

    4) It’s a bit out-of-the-ordinary which I think is an asset to the Runstad Center and to us getting better pub for the work. There is alot of focus and study on Europe and I think if we did that, we might not stand out as much as I think we need to in order to establish a strong foundation for future years of this program.

    5) I spoke with Jim Duncan of Sparling yesterday and it turns out that he went on this trip last year. He said it was an amazing experience and everything he told me reinforced the reasons I think it would be good to go.

    6) The timing and length of the trip would work well for both my work and family situation. Because I already do alot of business travel, anything longer and I’d likely be divorced when I got back.

    7) I’ve never been to Cuba and it sounds really cool.

    I’ll be ready and happy to discuss more on the 15th but wanted to get my thoughts out to the group ahead of time…….

    Thanks,
    Scott

    • Julia says:

      Scott, thanks for putting so much thought into this response.

      I second points 1 thru 4. Having considered the project and trip myself since the last meeting, I agree that it would really fulfill the intent of the program if we are able to travel off the beaten path and present a project that shares insights that we, and people we share our work with, will find new and fresh.

      On a personal note, the Havana i-Sustain program touches on both historic preservation and economic development through the arts, which I would be thrilled to learn more about.

      I think this would be a truly unique and special opportunity and I’m ready to cast a vote in favor of it over other suggestions.

      I will look into some more specific ideas before the meeting on the 15th — I’ve been preoccupied with a final project this week!

      Best,
      Julia

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