The Electricity Innovation Lab, or e¯Lab, is a group of thought leaders and decision makers from across the US electricity sector who have come together to address critical barriers to the economic deployment of distributed electricity resources. e¯Lab is convened by Rocky Mountain Institute, an independent, nonprofit think-and-do tank whose mission is to drive the efficient and restorative use of resources, and is supported by Reos Partners.
The growing need for reinvestment in the electricity infrastructure, climate change and other environmental concerns, an increasing focus on grid resilience, and the rapid development of new business solutions to leverage the changing cost of technologies are fundamentally changing the electricity landscape in the US. As a result, rapid innovation—as well as change, cooperation, and conflict—are occurring at the “seams” in the electricity sector, where no single stakeholder or industry group can control the outcome. The most important new sources of competitive advantage in today’s rapidly changing electricity sector are therefore not technology or market position; they are the ability of innovators to work efficiently and effectively in complex multi-stakeholder environments. Shifting the electricity sector will require engagement and innovation across traditional institutional boundaries.
Communities around the world are subject to increasing shocks. These shocks range from the environmental, such as extreme weather events, to the fiscal, where public services are cut. In some cases, these shocks are predictable. In the UK, for example, it’s possible to figure out which communities will be hardest hit by cuts to public services, such as health care, well in advance of the cuts occurring. Where climate change is concerned, we are starting to see patterns—repeated flooding and heat waves causing extreme damage to property and, in the worse cases, loss of life.
There were many reasons to start looking at food insecurity in southern Africa in a new way, but the 2008 global food crises were the most compelling. Rapid food price increases sparked fears of supply shortages, initiated riots in several countries, and drew fresh attention to hunger and the struggles many households face to put enough—and sufficiently nutritious—food on their tables. This renewed sense of urgency brought people from across the food value chain into a Southern Africa Food Lab (SAFL), convened by Milla McLachlan and Ralph Hamann. The vision of the multi-stakeholder Lab is “a food system that nourishes the land and all people.” Its intention has crystallised into “generating creative responses to the problem of hunger. We facilitate dialogue between diverse groups to raise consciousness of the interdependencies and injustices in the food system. We foster novel ideas and commitments to enact positive changes for the food system to thrive.”
Over the past decade, many Latin American countries have experienced a rapid rise in the number of lawsuits that seek to protect people’s fundamental right to health. This “judicialization” of health is the result of a complex interplay of factors: Public health systems in the region are weak; the costs of providing good healthcare greatly exceed the resources available; and this gap between resources and need is widening. Meanwhile, other factors are converging as well: Citizens are increasingly informed about their rights and prepared to enforce them in court; the influence of the pharmaceutical industry is increasing; and judges often do not have the technical information and expert advice they need to make sound legal decisions in this arena.
Over the past three years, Reos Partners has supported the World Bank Institute to explore this phenomenon through a series of regional forums bringing together a diversity of stakeholders to exchange stories of recent cases and events, map out patterns, discover shared questions, and create innovative strategies to be tested and learned from in practice.
Reos Partners is working with Bamyan Media, a small media company currently based in Cairo, Egypt on the following challenge:
How does a startup with no track record in Egypt, make and sell a Reality-TV show that supports and develops social entrepreneurs in Egypt on a massive scale?
Following the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 and the broader Arab Spring, Egypt is in the midst of an enormous social change and faces fundamental questions about its future. The iconic Tahrir Square continues to buzz with protest and political activity. It's a time of instability, uncertainty and opportunity for change.
In this context, Reos Partners was approached by Bamyan media who had previously produced a successful TV show in Afghanistan about social entrepreneurship.
Changing education at scale: lessons from Camp Snowball
Camp Snowball, a program supported by Reos Partners, is building students and educators’ capacity for systems thinking to better navigate the complexity of the world they are inheriting.
For the past two summers, Reos Partners has joined with the Waters Foundation Systems Thinking in Schools Project, SoL Education Partnership, Cloud Institute for Education for Sustainability, and Creative Learning Exchange to co-create a multi-faceted camp program designed to build students’ and educators’ capacity in systems thinking, education for sustainability, youth engagement, and organisational learning while building a learning community to support them after camp is over. By embedding these toolsets system-wide – in classrooms, schools, school districts, and communities – we hope to create better student outcomes.
A fundamental tenet of scenario-based planning is that the future is uncertain and unpredictable. To help planners and decision-makers sensitize themselves to the unfolding events that are most relevant to their challenges and questions, many scenario projects include a “learning-forward” component defined by specific tools. Reos is currently leading the Western Electric Coordinating Council’s (WECC) scenario project, focused on long-term investments in electricity transmission systems in the western regions of Canada and the United States.
October 24, 2012 saw the launch of a major multi-year global initiative that Reos Partners has been designing and developing with the World Bank, German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), and other partners. The “Open Contracting” initiative is based on the idea that citizens should be able to scrutinize and debate both the contracts that their governments enter into with the private sector and the ways these agreements are awarded and implemented (www.open-contracting.org).
In 2011 the Centre for Aboriginal Health (CAH), a unit of the Ministry of Health in Sydney, Australia, was struggling to develop a 10-year Aboriginal health plan for New South Wales. To develop the report, CAH partnered with the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council, which represents the Aboriginal community–controlled health sector. In particular CAH wanted the 10-year plan to challenge orthodox planning approaches and generate creative thinking that would lead to new action and energy in addressing Aboriginal health issues.
Each of us must choose, in each situation, how we will approach the future. Sometimes we choose to accept what is happening around us and try to adapt ourselves to it. Other times we choose to challenge what is happening and try to change it. This is the choice that Reinhold Niebuhr pointed to in his much-loved maxim: “Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”