20. 11. 2013

Making Good Things Happen

Just back from another long trip promoting the book – and a few other things besides.

Including attendance at a rather wonderful Symposium hosted by the Slow Life Foundation at the Soneva Kiri resort on Koh Kood island in Thailand. (Declaration of interest: I was one of those who had a hand in planning the Symposium, but that wasn’t what made it wonderful!)

I took away six things from the Slow Life Symposium:


For some reason, doing serious brain work about the natural world seems to work a lot better if people go barefoot!

Ok, that definitely wouldn’t work for much of the year in the UK, but even when we do have opportunities to get the socks and shoes off, people are more than a little discombobulated. I tried it a couple of times at Seminars for The Prince of Wales’s Business and Sustainability Programme, and from that point on they had me marked down as an unreconstructed hippy on day release with senior executives – some of whom very determinedly kept their shoes on!


….is an amazing lubricant for the brain. I’ve done more than my fair share of conferences and seminars on every conceivable environmental/sustainability theme over the last forty years, and a frighteningly high percentage of them have been conducted in air-conditioned bunkers from where the light of day has been forever banished. It’s always bugged me, but now it really bugs me.


…..is pretty amazing too! Without a great deal of prompting, participants at this particular Symposium instinctively put a high value on conviviality by the light of the moon, without any noticeable diminution in available brain power to get stuck in again the next morning. Perfect combination.


The Symposium was hosted by the Slow Life Foundation, with a focus on Collaboration through Innovation. It could have been a bit worthy, and we were certainly all more than a little privileged, Soneva Kiri being an extraordinary place.
But the philosophy of Soneva Kiri’s owners, Sonu and Eva Shivdasani, is simple: serving the top end of the luxury market for resorts brings with it additional obligations, in terms of doing the right thing at the resort itself (and it’s very inspiring what they’re doing at Soneva Kiri) and ploughing back a far higher percentage of the revenues into sustainability causes – including some brilliant projects investing in efficient cook stoves in Darfur and Myanmar.


We had a whole series of wonderful mini-presentations from participants – and there were only two rules: no Powerpoint, and take it for granted that everyone else already knows just how dire the situation is out there. Instead of first wandering around forlornly in the bad stuff, cut straight to the good stuff – and stick with it!

I was given a partial exemption, not to talk about the bad stuff per se, but to review why it is that most people just can’t cope with the bad stuff. And why there’s still so much denial, indifference and inertia – despite limitless volumes of incontrovertible evidence about just how bad it is.

But that was only to focus people’s mind on how we should do what we need to do to help people see things very differently through a focus on solutions.


We had more or less three days together. People weren’t dropping in and out, but present throughout. It was incredible to see how both ideas and relationships can be built up through that kind of shared continuity.

And our focus throughout was on outcomes. What was each and every one of us going to be doing, together or individually, to make more good things happen, in practice, on the ground, over the next year.

All in all, a Symposium to remember, and incredibly inspiring.

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11. 12. 2013
Constantin Wollenhaupt

Dear Jonathon,

it was a great pleasure to meet you @soneva´s slow life symposium.

Thank you for the great talks, great ideas and great sustainable stuff we all were talking about.

Many greetings from vienna!


editor in chief nachhaltigkeitpur.wordpress.com

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