Category Archives: Learnings

Reflecting on recycling in hospitals

The Recycling Renewal Program, implemented in hospitals and residential care sites across the Lower Mainland between 2010 and 2016,  is preparing itself for a next phase.

The program is now in place, but sustainment of the program over the long term depends on where we focus efforts to move the program forward. In particular, we want to reduce contamination of the recycling stream and increase education and communications about what can and can’t be recycled. Here are some learnings that are helping us shape future actions:

  • Some clinical customization is necessary: signage and educational materials don’t adequately represent clinical waste items. Also, the discontinuation of soft plastic recycling was disheartening for clinical staff because medical supply packaging makes up the majority of their waste.
  • On a practical level, all waste types need to be consolidated: connect recycling education and communication efforts with garbage and biomedical waste efforts so that staff have all waste info at hand.
  • Increase ownership and accountability for the recycling program at the hospital level: the recycling program is often considered someone else’s responsibility, for instance, housekeeping. Although, housekeeping plays an important role in ensuring the containers are in place and that waste is emptied regularly, it is the generator of the waste (health care staff) and the decision they make when disposing of an item that impacts contamination.
  • Recognize that recycling is not always possible in health care: patient care comes first in many situations: ICU and emergency situations, waste from isolation room patients is all considered garbage or biomedical, and processes that put infection control first.
  • Continue to make recycling a priority: recycling and materials reduction is repeatedly considered the top environmental priority for front line staff. Moreover, we’ve heard that satisfaction with recycling is key for engaging staff further in greening the workplace.
  • Improve key messages: staff respond positively to understanding “why” they can’t recycle certain items. It seems to be the hook that’s needed to educate them what is and isn’t recyclable.

Sharing learning from a group reflective process

8 months into a strategic framework refresh process, my three “collaborators in crime” and I decided to undertake a group reflection on the process.

Background: the aim of the refresh was to take a strategic framework that talked about sustainability without much consideration for the sector in which we worked, to one that better connected healthcare to sustainability, simplified our work for stakeholders, facilitated their engagement in our work, and was up to date in terms of sustainability practice in other sectors.

The group: 4 team mates (including myself) volunteered to take on the strategic framework refresh on behalf of our team. No one asked us to do it, and it certainly wasn’t a part of our job descriptions. But, we all felt it was important for the success of our team and the implementation of sustainability across the organization. We did have the go ahead from our Director.

The purpose of the reflection: we didn’t want to reflect on what we had refreshed in the strategic framework, but rather, on how we had come together and worked to create it. A formal reflection was important because the process had been largely ad hoc and self-driven in the sense that we set our own deadlines and determined the path along the way.

Why reflect on the process? For me personally, I knew that it was time to touch base with my fellow collaborators because I was starting to lose steam and interest, and I thought that some of my colleagues might be in the same boat. I also knew that if we were going to continue to work well together in the future, it was important to touch base and ensure that we addressed anything that wasn’t working. Admittedly, the need to reflect on how we were doing was overdue (this we realized after undertaking the reflection).

How did we undertake the group reflection?

The process was simple and aimed to create a platform where we could listen to each others experiences:

  • What we liked about our process
  • What we would do differently if we had to do it again

We finished off by identifying what we wanted in the process moving forward.

So why do I feel compelled to share this?

The process of group reflection helped me reconnect and see the process through my colleagues eyes and experiences. I was able to gain a new appreciation for the process, as well as, identify some of the key aspects of successful collaboration.

So here are some of these learnings:

What we liked about the collaborative process:

  • strong team approach
  • new understanding of each other’s roles and challenges
  • approach to meetings was fun and informal which allowed us to build personal relationships, rather than just professional ones
  • everyone brought something different to the table (fresh eyes and perspectives) which created stronger outcomes
  • strong sense of optimism for what we can accomplish working together

Key things to do differently moving forward:

  • more clarity and formality on allocation of roles, including how strategy should be included in all members of our teams work (in other words, greater engagement with the broader team).
  • since we were all busy with our regular jobs, spend more time at the end of meetings determining how best to distribute follow up tasks so as not to overload any one member.
  • periodic reflections about our engagement levels and creation of opportunities for re-engagement
  • importance of recognition from the team director for work done voluntarily and formal inclusion of work in job descriptions.

Side note, and to end this post…

As I mentioned above, the reflective process helped me understand some of the key aspects of successful collaboration. Successful in the sense that we worked together effectively to create a great outcome.

In hind site, unlike a lot of the collaborative processes in our organization, the process of refreshing our strategic framework was entirely bottom-up and highly creative (we were given confidence and freedom to get the work done how we best saw fit with in deadlines that we created for ourselves). It wasn’t until I was tired and stressed from feeling that I didn’t have enough time to dedicate to my regular job and this process, which I had volunteered to do, that I started to lose steam. I also started to resent what appeared to be a lack of recognition for our hard work.

So when asked by our Director: would it have been as successful if it was lead by a manager in a more formal structure? My answer: I am not so sure…

Freedom from deadlines and pre-determined actions and outcomes allowed us to explore ideas, get creative with complexity, and come up with great ideas (this doesn’t mean that we didn’t have clear action items after every meeting, just that we didn’t know what exactly the pathway to our outcome was going to be until we moved through it). So then, perhaps letting things happen is also key to success. It reminds me that things are not always linear, but rather fluid, circular and sometimes chaotic. Interesting that we often consider this to be unproductive…. and that’s not necessarily the case.






Highlights from the ICA Group Facilitation Methods course

I just completed ICA’s Group Facilitation Methods course in Vancouver.

I was pretty excited to finally get some theory behind all of my experience. We worked on two methods in particular:

  • Focused Conversation Method
  • Consensus Workshop Method

Some of the highlights of the course included:

Use of an installation to demonstrate the focused conversation method (basically using Objective, Reflective, Interpretive and Decisional questions to guide conversation around a question/subject/event/issue). Not only did I get to experience being part of a focused conversation audience, but, I was able to see value in how installations can demonstrate diverse thinking/experiences amongst a group and inspire profound/creative thinking around future actions/take aways.

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Toys (?!)

Each table had a basket of toys accessible to participants during all times. In the beginning, it was a mystery if we were able to do something with the toys or not. Most of us chose to leave them alone, however, after awhile we realized we had permission to play with thems. On the second day I indulged. However, I felt a bit embarrassed after choosing toys that made noise or created a distraction while the facilitator was speaking. In hindsight, I believe the toys were there to create a playful setting, and perhaps to keep us busy when we finished a task earlier. However, I am not totally sure. I will consider using baskets of toys in future workshops, but I would limit any toys that make noise.

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Practicing the Consensus Workshop Method:

Practicing the Consensus Workshop Method in small groups resulted in some really rich information about Collaborative Work Environments and How to Contribute to Individual Health and Wellness. An individual brainstorming session on these topics lead to collaborative categorization and naming of our ideas. We all felt like we had achieved some really practical insights. For instance we identified that the following can contribute to individual health and wellness:

  • Celebrating work and life (balance, recognition of successes)
  • Incorporating break time into your life (time for yourself)
  • Body care (exercise/meditation)
  • Putting joy into your life (have fun and do things you love)
  • Reflection time (journalling, “tech” turn off, mental health time outs, positive people, express feelings)
  • Rest and recharge (lots of sleep)
  • Fuel yourself (good food and beverage)

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Tips for dealing with staff resistance to environmental action….

I recently participated in a two-day training session for green leaders in the health care sector. The purpose of the training session was to inspire action and equip leaders with practical tools they can use to implement environmental campaigns that engage staff in less impactful behaviours.

After engaging in a role playing activity where we had to convince a “difficult” staff member about why they should change a behaviour, for example carpool, bus, or bike to work rather than take their car, participants helped identify the following tips for dealing with resistance:

  • It is important to be respectful of diverse/different perspectives
  • Solutions should be developed together
  • Work to get a commitment from staff
  • Reiterate that the initiative is a team effort
  • Mention why the action/initiative is important
  • Make the solution as manageable (easy) as possible
  • Ask staff: would you try it for a week? Then, offer to help and find out what kind of support you can provide.

Peter Senge Quote

Diagnóstico Participativo en el Río Ayampe

Tuve la oportunidad de diseñar un taller de capacitación para moradores de Guale, una comunidad pequeña de aprox. 70 personas en la cuenca de Río Ayampe, Manabí.

Con el objetivo de enseñarles algo práctico, y profundizar más acerca de las actividades que contaminan el río, decidí enseñarles acerca del diagnóstico participativo en la manera más práctico posible, haciendo uno!


¿Cómo lo hice?

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Entrevista con el Presidente de la Comuna Puerto Engabao

Entrevista con Julio Villón

Presidente de la Comuna Puerto Engabao, Guayas, Ecuador

Octubre 26, 2011


La Comuna Puerto Engabao se fundó en 1995. Tiene aproximadamente 350 habitantes entre adultos y adolescentes.


Atracciones turísticas: Playa, Surf, Pesca Artesanal

Servicios turísticos: Alimentación y alojamiento


Julio Villon

Julio Villón al frente de la Casa Comunal, Puerto Engabao


¿Cuéntame sobre Puerto Engabao?


En realidad nosotros éramos el último rincón de la provincia del Guayas. Nosotros vivimos olvidados durante mucho tiempo. Puerto Engabao forma parte del territorio de la Comuna Engabao y siempre trabajábamos con proyectos sociales en beneficio  a la comunidad, sin embargo, no daban los presupuestos, no hubo apertura y los proyectos solo llegaban a la Comuna Engabao. En realidad nosotros nos organizamos para poder cubrir necesidades; nosotros mismos, dentro de nuestra comunidad. Hicimos una reunión con todo el pueblo, pequeño pero emprendedor, y decidimos entre el Presidente y el Presidente del Comité de Turismo unirnos y caminar por uno solo objetivo: por el desarrollo colectivo. Y lo hicimos. Firmamos actas de compromiso y empezamos con esfuerzo y sacrificio. Nosotros tenemos video y tenemos historias de cómo era Puerto Engabao. Era olvidado, una caleta pesquera. No teníamos los servicios básicos como agua potable. No teníamos vías de acceso. Nuestra vivienda era “criticosa”, o sea vivíamos demasiados. Sí, no nos daba vergüenza, pero eso era la realidad de nosotros, vivíamos como animalitos, todos en una sola. A pesar de todo, nosotros decimos no vencernos, por el bienestar de nuestras familias. Quien nos cubre en un fenómeno del Niño, en una tormenta de lluvia. La vivienda era de caña, piso de tierra, pero sí teníamos un buen televisor, una buena refrigeradora. ¡Éramos ciegos pues, nosotros! ¿No es verdad? Pero ahora ya con las capacitaciones que hemos tenido, hemos empezado, hemos empujado, hemos sabido valorar…nos dimos cuenta que esto no es así. Ahora capacitado y entusiasmado me pregunto: ¿Nosotros cómo vamos a vivir así? ¿Y el futuro de nuestros hijos? Entonces nuestras familias nos reunimos por ese proceso, el cambio a una vida digna con sacrificio en grupo.

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Reflexionando sobre nuestra experiencia con el club ambiental

Esta entrada es el resultado de una reflexión que hice con Isabel Morán acerca de su experiencia directa con el club ambiental de Jardines del Salado. El club ambiental se realizó durante 8 meses. Realizamos 16 sessions (los días sabados durante 2 a 3 horas), de los cuales 3 eran salidas al campo. Ver también Actividades ambientales para niños

Club Ambiental

¿Cómo describirás una sesión exitosa? La sesión es exitosa cuando los niños no están aburridos, cuando se puede ver su emoción y cuando hacen preguntas. Los niños son más transparentes que adultos. Puedes ver su interés de una. Con los adultos no es así. También, al principio de la clase se hace un resumen de la clase anterior, cuando se acuerden de la clase anterior, diría que es un éxito. Continue reading

Notas del Foro en Transformación de Conflictos Socio-ambientales

Los días 5 y 6 de octubre participé en el V Foro Regional de Transformación de Conflictos Socio-ambientales en la Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar de Quito.

Transformación de Conflictos Socio-ambientales

Parte del foro incluyó la presentación y análisis de casos de estudio a nivel regional. Aquí van una mezcla de las conclusiones y mis notas acerca de: i) factores que facilitan la transformación de conflictos y ii)  las buenas prácticas. Continue reading

Complementing survey evaluations with feedback workshops

I recently ran an evaluation workshop with representatives of 3 NGOs. All groups had previously filled out an anonymous evaluation survey and my task was to present them with global results (the survey was run at the international level) and to improve understanding of results by asking participants to let us know if they agreed or disagreed with final results and then to document discussion and specific examples. All dialogue in the workshop also remained anonymous.

It was a jam packed 3.5 hours of conversation! Participants took turns speaking, listened to each others opinions and complemented each other with real-life examples. Together we were able to identify:

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Mi experiencia con el desarrollo comunitario

Jaime Betancourt, tesista en la escuela de Turismo en la Universidad de Especialidades Espiritu Santo, me hizo una entrevista muy interesante. Aquí comparto mis respuestas:


1.     ¿Cuáles son los principales obstáculos que en su experiencia han tenido para trabajar con comunidades?


El principal obstáculo que he tenido trabajando con comunidades tiene su raíz en el diseño del proyecto. Muchas veces los proyectos esperan una participación activa de la comunidad pero no incluyen un proceso adecuado para lograr una participación efectiva. Los tiempos y los recursos asignados, además de la poca atención a la capacitación y preparación necesaria para crear un ambiente participativo, contribuyen a una participación superficial y no sostenible de los beneficiarios en el proyecto. 

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