How do you share critical knowledge across a large scale distributed network of organizations? I believe we have a great model in the work of an organization known as ICLEI (“ick-lee”), which was founded almost 20 years ago by the United Nations to develop sustainability practices for local governments. Today its mission has expanded to include adaptation, while the intensity of that mission has risen to meet the growing challenge of climate change.

The American branch of the organization – ICLEI-USA – makes use of the knowledge developed by ICLEI-Global in a program centered around what it calls the Five Milestones. These are the basic building blocks that local governments must commit to achieving to even qualify for membership. Resolutions must be passed by these governments before ICLEI will engage them in the program.

In essence, ICLEI shares and distributes its knowledge about effective local government action by insisting that its clients enroll in its program. Along with the benefits of being guided through the implementation of sustainable and adaptive processes, member governments get to share with their peers the results of their creative efforts. Many of these can be found on the ICLEI-USA web site under Success Stories. An upcoming online community will provide opportunities for more peer-based knowledge exchange.

I tend to think of knowledge sharing as benefitting from informality in conversation, where participants drop pretenses and rely on trust to reveal what they know. Small scale encounters seem to support more open communication. It’s good to know that knowledge sharing can scale to the institutional level where informality is replaced with structure and some prerequisites that demonstrate commitment to learn. If ever we needed to learn as a planet, now is the time.

Dear ICLEI,

I’m an individual, not a member of ICLEI-USA, whose members come from local governments at the small town, city, municipality and county levels. But I’m an avid fan of ICLEI because it – more than any other organization, agency, leader or government – provides practical guidance for local governments seeking mitigative and adaptive solutions to the problems and threats of climate change. Without ICLEI, I believe we’d be another 5 or 10 years behind in developing the strategies that at least some of our local governments (ICLEI members, mostly) are implementing.

As an individual and as a fan of ICLEI, I’m disappointed that as important a meeting as the Local Action Summit – recently hosted by ICLEI-USA in Albuquerque – would be able to occur and over a week would go by with only one press release referring to the proceedings. (Not to be ungrateful, thank you for that. The Green Jobs Pledge is indeed important.)

Did nothing else happen worth reporting? If so, then that’s worth reporting. It’s hard to believe, in this day and age, that no one blogged from the meeting. SinceĀ  many of my “local” governments are ICLEI members, maybe I should be relying more on them to report on the meeting to us, their constituents. But, no, Marin County’s Community Development Agency has nothing, zip, nada about the meeting.

So, perhaps someone took notes…official notes, even…that could be shared with the curious public? Would you like an offical blogger to be present at your next conference? I’ll volunteer. But for now, I’ll be glad if even a retrospective report is released. It’s not just the deliverables we’re interested in; it’s also the process that we need to learn from as we all deal with the looming impacts of climate change in our lives. When you convene a “Summit,” don’t hide it under hat. Let the world know more about it.

Cheers,

Cliff