Learning quicker by failing safely

I attended the Community Forests International planning session yesterday. This organization, located in our small town of Sackville, is working on two continents and recently received €1.2 million from the European Union for its work on the island of Pemba in Tanzania. The day included participation from many community groups, such as Renaissance Sackville, which I represented. It finished with a wine & cheese at Cranewood (a must-see for any visitor to town) which drew even more people from the community. I’d like to highlight what Jeff Schnurr, the founder had to say, as it reflects the advice I give to many organizations (my paraphrasing here).

  • There is no difference between our organization, our community, and individual people. All of our relationships are personal.
  • We conduct pilots all the time. We do several in different conditions to see what happens. All of our learning is through pilot projects.
  • We need to find ways to learn quicker [note that CFI has a new staff position, an internal journalist, who focuses on explicit knowledge capture and sharing through stories].
  • The way that CFI, and its greater mission, will scale for growth will be by telling its story.

Read about CFI and the amazing work that has been done to date. This organization started on nothing, just an idea, and has grown to an international operation, with a for-profit arm as well as demonstration farm here in New Brunswick.

My discussions with Jeff over several years provide me with an excellent example of how organizations can deal with complexity and manage to grow and be sustainable. At yesterday’s sessions, one of the suggestions was to ‘open source’ all of CFI’s practices and processes so they can be shared with others. This will become a valuable resource over time, for both non-profits as well as any other organization that wants to succeed in this era of climate change, economic volatility, resource scarcity, and inter-connectedness.

A safe-to-fail approach enables continuous learning in complex environments

A safe-to-fail approach enables continuous learning in complex environments


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