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Thinking Ahead, Creating the Vision

Consider the future by looking at what goals you would like to achieve. Consider the priorities that you'd like to see met, and how to measure goals.
Two men and a woman sitting at a wooden table around a laptop. The men have blue coffee mugs in front of them.
© The New School

Visionary transformation requires collaboration and having a plan for the future. The ideas come from science and research but also looking out in the world and seeing what’s happening.

Visionary transformation requires imagination, creativity, and wisdom. Many people are skeptical of change especially when it involves money, so advocates for change should have a plan for how to get their organization on board.

Experienced designers who work with healthier materials understand the need to break down barriers to change and provide a blueprint for getting senior leadership on board with new ideas. Before having a conversation with senior leadership and stakeholders, designers and advocates, first need to figure out the ultimate goal and work backwards from that. The designers and advocates should have experts weigh in and get the answers to questions like:

  • What are the main priorities of the goal?
  • How is the goal achieved?
  • What are the metrics for success?

Once these questions are answered, a conversation can begin with senior leadership. They will help drive change in material health by facilitating collaboration across organizational stakeholders. In this conversation, advocates must explain the goal and make a case for why all levels of personnel need to be involved.

The advocates can answer any questions that the senior leadership and stakeholders might have. Those questions might include:

  • Why is it personally important to you?
  • How can you help achieve the goal?
  • What are the challenges and barriers?
  • How much will this cost?
  • How do you overlap with the other stakeholders?

The answers to these questions can drive the conversation towards embracing innovation in material health. When answers are gathered, it is then possible to connect the dots and understand why healthier spaces matter. We’ll also need to know the role that each stakeholder needs to assume to be able to achieve the goal.

The hands of eight different people piled together standing in a circle.

Then once senior leadership and stakeholders are on board, the next step is to develop ways to reward and recognize people for their assistance. Show them that achieving these goals will not only support the core responsibilities of their job but also align with their personal values and add value to the organization as a whole.

A great example of this working is at Harvard Business School. The advocate for change was actually the Chief of Operations. He was able to get the Dean on board and transform sustainability at the school in a matter of a year or so.

The Chief of Operations explained to the Dean that by implementing a climate goal, the school could actually save money. The school would be a more efficient organization. The climate goal would create healthier and better indoor spaces for students, faculty, and staff to do their work and to deliver on mission.

The climate goal was then connected back to research and teaching, which is the true mission of the school. Knitting everything together helped involved stakeholders understand why achieving the goal was so important.

This model of knitting everything together at Harvard Business School could be replicated elsewhere. It’s a model others can use and learn from. Remember that anyone can be an advocate for healthier materials and sustainability. Even you!

Over to You

Think about how you can combat hesitant leadership in your current role.

What questions would you ask leadership about their hesitations? How can you work together with cross-functional teammates to effectively communicate all the benefits of change?

© The New School
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Building Design: Material Selection for Healthier Communities

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