Regional Learning Communities

I’ve just spend the last several days with with board members and friends of The Berkana Institute. It is an amazing group of people dedicated to social change and pioneering work. Many of us have been together in projects and deep learning together years. For me, this began in 1993. We really are family.

One of the initiatives that I became more familiar with this week is about Regional Learning Communities. These are groups engaged in local work (like solar cooking, which I learned about this week from Manish Jain) and trans-local learning (what happens when individual groups connect with other groups in their region or other places in the world).

From the Berkana website: “Each participant contributes to creating greater resilience in his or her own community through local action—from growing food to engaging youth to creating useful things out of waste. These pioneers are constantly experimenting with new approaches, ideas and technologies. When they connect regionally with others who share their culture and context, the capacity for learning and innovation accelerates.”

I am inspired by the description below on why regional learning communities matter (key phrases highlighted below that are strong communication points). I can see in it helpful framing for local networks, including one that I am supporting on sustainability in the Salt Lake Valley. The full document is really helpful for further stories, in this case featuring a South Africa Learning Collaborative.

“There is no universal solution for the challenges of poverty, community health, or ecological sustainability. But there is the possibility of widespread impact when people working at the local level are able to learn from one another, practice together, and share their learning with communities everywhere.”


Just got word of this one. A sustainability movement that began in Australia in 2007. It went global in 2008. It goes global global in 2009. The action is simple — turn off the lights for an hour in your local time zone, March 28, 2009 at 8:30 pm.

What I love in this is the simplicity of step. I don’t know the energy conservation impact of turning off the lights for that time. However, the shared identity, the common identity as citizens on the planet, on our earth, feels very impactful.

The three minute video is here. The website for more information and participating cities and countries is

A bit by the numbers from

10 million—total combined readership for magazines committed to running Earth Hour advertisements over the coming month. Includes: Martha Stewart Living, National Geographic, Oprah Magazine, Allure, J14, Health, Family Circle.
746,698—unique visitors to
105,727—registered participants on the Earth Hour US website to date.
48,000—letters sent to elected officials asking for action on climate change via the Earth Hour website.
29,000—number of times the official Earth Hour video has been viewed on YouTube in the past 90 days. Average is 1,500 views a day.
1,000—new friends signing up to WWF’s Facebook page each day as a result of Earth Hour.
8,000—blogs mentioning Earth Hour to date.
4,314—unique visitors to the site.200—stories about Earth Hour on prominent online sources in the US (not including blogs). Highlights include Huffington Post, Boston Globe, Sprig and Blender.
78—countries taking part in Earth Hour. Nearly 700 cities have already signed up.
75—TV news stories in the US featuring Earth Hour.
28—US cities now pledged to turn out for Earth Hour.
20—seconds that elapse before someone new views the Earth Hour video.
7—seconds that elapse before “Earth Hour” is mentioned somewhere on the web.
4—US TV networks planning coverage.

I GET BY WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS: Support for Earth Hour is building among organizations across many sectors, many of which have committed to reaching out to their own constituents to build greater awareness. The list includes:

American Federation of Teachers
American Institute of Architects
Association of Science-Technology Centers Inc.
Astronomical League
Energy Action Coalition
Environmental Defense Fund
Goddard Schools
Green School Alliance
ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability
Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots Program
National Association of Secondary School Principals
National Conversation on Climate Action
National Education Association
National Science Teachers Association
Natural Resources Defense Council
Newspaper Association of America Foundation
Reading Is Fundamental
U.S. Conference of Mayors
Unitarian Universalist Association
United Church of Christ
World Organization of the Scout Movement
Youth Service of America

CAN WE TALK?: One great way for communities to translate Earth Hour into action that will last beyond March 28th is to take part in the National Conversation on Climate Action, organized by ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Earth Day Network and AmericaSpeaks. The National Conversation is an unprecedented community engagement effort that is designed for and driven by local governments. Communities can register at

Community Organizing — Parker Palmer

Michael Jones brought this insightful interview to my attention. It is Bill Moyers interviewing Parker Palmer. It includes commentary on the Obama approach to organizing.

“I don’t remember until the Obama campaign a presidential campaign which we were not asked, I was not asked, to buy a presidential candidate as a commodity in a consumer culture. The Obama campaign did not ask me to buy something. It asked me to tell a story. And in that movement it turned me from being a consumer of a political commodity to being a citizen, a voice.”

The entire interview is very insightful and is here. Much to learn here about opening possibilities of community.


In the Crease, by Dick Irwin — This was a fun book to skim. Written by legendary hockey announcer Dick Irwin, the voice I new of the Montreal Canadians when I was a young boy, it connected me to many boyhood memories of NHL goalies and stories of legends in the game. Reminded me of the masks I used to paint and wear in the basement playing with my friends. To think that there used to be only one goalie per team and that was one not wearing a mask. Also has me paying attention to Martin Brodeur who is about to break the record for most career shutouts ever. At the time of writing the book, Irwin described Terry Sawchuk, the current record holder, as holding a mark that would never be beaten. It is about too!

Einstein’s Dreams, by Alan Lightman — Really quite a lovely collection of images and stories of time. I found myself thinking of those who I know that have a different relationship with time. Chris Corrigan on kairos and chronos reminded me of “body” and “mechanical” time described by Lightman. And I loved the expansiveness with which the author names the relationship between time and other cultural norms. “A world in which time is absolute is a world of consolation. For while the movements of people are unpredictable, the movement of time is predictable. While people can be doubted, time cannot be doubted.” There is also a chapter that I really enjoyed on time standing still, as if the center of time is where time doesn’t move. It’s worth reading and enjoying.

New Moon, by Stephenie Meyer — Read this one with my daughter Zoe. Vampires, werewolves, and a love story for young readers. Author went to local university here, BYU. Good reading with Zoe.