Feedback Labs | September 28, 2023
Sustainable Seattle is dedicated to providing transformative support to environmental justice organizations, encouraging them to overcome the inequitable barriers within the nonprofit industrial complex. Through their efforts, they foster collective impact, enabling communities to collaborate in addressing the disproportionate effects of environmental racism and the direct consequences of climate change on BIPOC communities and those at the forefront of the climate crisis. Sustainable Seattle serves as a vital link, offering resources, fiscal sponsorship, and capacity building services to organizations, grassroots movements, individuals, universities, and other community-based entities. By prioritizing community engagement and co-design, Sustainable Seattle envisions a thriving future that delivers environmental, economic, and social benefits, promoting equity and building resilience.
To ensure that all feedback loops are closed within their co-designing model, Sustainable Seattle is currently focusing on empowering constituents to act. This includes increasing individual community engagement, and fostering co-ownership without overextending both Sustainable Seattle and the communities they serve. During the LabStorm session, conversations centered around how to best support, integrate, and engage community members in the work Sustainable Seattle is doing.
Closing the Loop
The primary concern Sustainable Seattle entered the LabStorm with was how to get constituents to engage in a meaningful and sustainable way with their co-ownership practices. In the past, Sustainable Seattle had used mural boards and discussions to ask organizations to map out where they needed help to participate in decision making, but found that those discussions were often not very clear or well-defined.
During the LabStorm, Sustainable Seattle decided that having a clear document discussing expectations for group responsibilities would help with some of the areas lacking specificity. They also discussed strategies for closing the feedback loop, especially with communities where fostering co-ownership could occasionally overextend both Sustainable Seattle and the community they’re creating.
Solutions to the problem of sustainable co-ownership came in the form of pressuring local municipalities to make systemic changes, so nonprofit and grassroots organizations aren’t expected to do all the work a community needs. Sustainable Seattle also discussed turning meetings into ‘action’ meetings, to better support the engagement of those at the heart of their work, with the most at stake.
The next feedback challenge Sustainable Seattle had was the idea of authentic co-leadership. The organization wanted to be intentional about the way they were using feedback to build trust within communities, even when their organization had made a pivot or identity change. They also wanted to discuss the act of integrating co-creators in their work, and facilitating two-way engagement.
The primary focus of the conversation surrounding authentic co-leadership was about communication. When having organizational identity changes, for example, it was established that it’s essential to explain why the changes were made, and how feedback was used to inform and drive the change. Clear communication surrounding what is and isn’t working is important to create responsive and authentic co-leadership.
Another primary focus was how to generally create and facilitate co-leadership, and to continue to support community members in organizational integration. Sustainable Seattle’s strategy shifted to returning to the basics of sustainability, to ensure that community members’ basic needs, like housing and food, are being met. Emotional and personal connection is key to creating co-leadership, and ensuring that feedback loops are closed. Upon the conclusion of the LabStorm, Sustainable Seattle staff left with the tools to better support community leaders in closing feedback loops and engaging in community-wide conversations about sustainability.
Learn More About LabStorms
LabStorms are collaborative problem-solving sessions designed to help organizations tackle feedback-related challenges or share what’s working well in their practice.
Presenters leave the experience with honest, actionable feedback and suggestions to improve their feedback processes and tools.
To learn more about participating in a virtual LabStorm, please visit feedbacklabs.org/labstorms.