project articulation and visualisation
time taken: six hours
While at the Gaia Education Ecovillage Design Education (EDE) training at Sieben Linden Ecovillage in Germany, it was my great fortune to meet the vivacious Jane from Tanzania. Jane was mostly educated in the UK but had a strong calling to set up her life close to her roots. She took the brave decision to relocate with her young family to Tanzania. With an education in business and finance, her dynamic personality led her to a role working for the British Council and women’s entrepreneur networks.
As a young mother with an understanding of how toxic the majority of baby products on the market, Jane identified a need for natural baby products without unnecessary additives and started making her own. Insisting on a life philosophy of keeping things simple she produced her own soap, sharing with friends who loved the quality of her products. Jane then starting working with local women, and an inspiring women’s entrepreneurs network to scale up her efforts and start selling her soaps.
Jane came to the EDE looking for ways to consolidate and build on her great work so far. Once again as we did with Joshua, an intrepid team of Jane’s supporters set about the task of exploring Jane’s eco soap business. As the facilitator of the group, I held the space for a shared exploration into everything that is Jane’s business at this time, this was the client interview.
Again like Joshua’s project, we asked many questions, allowed space for other thoughts to enter, capturing all these threads to our flip chart, and again wringing out the wet sponge until all the information was extracted. As you can see this looks messy but for me this is an information gathering phase and it’s what we do with this information that is critical.
Once this brainstorm was completed, I used my capability to see the energetic flow of information threaded across a page, you can see this with what I have written in green on the graphic above. This non-linear approach enables me to home in on patterns and trends so as to develop structure that moves us into the phase of planning.
What jumped out at me from the page is Jane’s compelling personal story, her success in just a short space of time, what her greatest needs are right now and the areas of expansion for business growth. – Kevin
Undeterred, we resolved to continue on without her and develop the project further with a view of updating her later by the powers of the internet. This is when the power of the collective group intelligence and resolve came into great effect. We really wanted to develop something useful for Jane as our contribution during this difficult personal time for her.
We decided that we really wanted to look at an alternative business model and build on Jane’s enthusiasm for a transparent open source venture. We focused on a slogan of “bring the economy home”, we wanted this to be part of the new story where business and commerce can bring multiple additional benefits not at the cost of our natural heritage and supporting those around us. So the business ethos will be to develop an ecosystem around Jane where there are mutually beneficial connections between all parties in the supply chain.
My personal contribution to this was to develop a plan to stabilise one of the main risk factors of the operation. Jane’s best selling product is her goat milk soap and by supporting the local farmers to produce with the quality and quantity needed would secure her operation. At this stage, it is hypothetical but part of our overall presentation for Jane was to include permaculture design working with local farmers. An integrated goat system that not only supplies milk for Jane but included maximising the productivity of the farms to generate other income streams for the farmers, more food for their families and building fertility and conserving soil and water would support Jane’s overarching vision.
Jane is a very busy person and there are some initial discussions already happening to further this project in Tanzania but our little team is right behind her and we hope to support her further when the time is right.