Initiative: REFOCUS on Sustainability

The Need & Solution

Let’s face it.  As much as there is progress to report, sustainability remains a costly burden that isn’t a priority within most organizations. But why?  Simply, organizational leaders are mandated to maximize bottom line performance.  For sustainability to be set as a key priority, we must demonstrate it can drive success.  That is possible but will demand dramatic change including new approaches, systems, processes and ways of thinking. 

REFOCUS provides a complete roadmap for developing a transformational sustainability program. Applying REFOCUS will make it possible for your program to drive bottom line performance and establish sustainability as a key organizational priority. REFOCUS delivers advanced theory, executable know-how, and a wealth of supplementary resources that help put learning into practice. 

REFOCUS is applicable to a variety of audiences including students, consultants and industry professionals.  At its core, this education was designed for professionals responsible for addressing the sustainability of their organization; whether starting or taking an existing sustainability program to the next level.  The education can be applied to businesses, non-profits, and government bodies alike.

Program Structure

Individuals seeking sustainability knowledge must first participate in our training workshop.  Once complete, participants are given access to a members-only, online community.  Here they can find a comprehensive digital guidebook and electronic library of valuable resources.

Training Workshop:  An introduction to the REFOCUS model will be delivered through our day-long, training workshop.  The experience includes physical activities, problem solving exercises, self-assessments and much more. The innovative and interactive format will inspire participants and provide the foundation that will ensure they are comfortable using the resources available. 

e-Guidebook:  Our electronic guidebook delivers a universally applicable framework that can be followed to develop a highly effective sustainability program.  You’ll learn about both what you need to know as well as the practical steps you should take.  A candid examination of Harbourfront Centre's experience is also provided, in addition to case studies highlighting specific outcomes generated by applying the REFOCUS model.

e-Resource Library:  A comprehensive collection of resources valuable to sustainability champions has been compiled from a wide variety of online sources.  This searchable library profiles sustainability organizations, educational materials, useful tools, and educational events.  These resources are cross-referenced where applicable throughout the e-Guidebook, so participants can easily find the tools they need to advance and apply their learning.


Social Enterprise Structure

Inception:  Harbourfront Centre is a multi-disciplinary, non-profit arts and culture organization that hosts more than 4000 events and 17 million visitors annually within the heart of the Toronto waterfront.  To put it simply, Harbourfront Centre is NOT a sustainable organization nor is its mandate to deliver sustainability-related education. With the collaboration and support of a variety of partners, REFOCUS was created as an outcome of an altruistic commitment to document and share the valuable experience gained through Harbourfront Centre’s efforts to sincerely address its sustainability. 

Participation: REFOCUS has been structured to function as a social enterprise; our goal is to share the body of knowledge we have refined with as many organizations as possible.  To encourage participation, fees have been set well below market value to ensure the program is accessible to all.  The limited fees collected are designed to ensure an exceptional participant experience and allow the program to be consistently refined and improved over time.

Community-Driven Development:  REFOCUS is starting point, not an inflexible or final solution.  Its open source structure makes it easy for participants to electronically submit questions, feedback and suggestions related to specific content or resources.  The expertise accumulated will be carefully integrated, ensuring the content reflects the best knowledge collectively available.


Sustainability Program Development Model:

The REFOCUS Sustainability Program Model is a framework for developing and implementing a highly effective sustainability program; whether starting from scratch or taking an existing program to the next level.

A. PROGRAM SETUP:  In this module participants are stepped through the process of building the capacities needed for a sustainability program to strengthen the bottom line.  These capacities are like the roots of a flower.  While they are not visible on the surface, they are crucial to the program’s success.  Without well-established roots, a flower will lack nourishment and strength.  Without strong Leadership, Change Management, and Measurement Capacities, a sustainability program will generate limited benefit and remain weak or unstable.

  1. Leadership Capacity:  We will look at how lacklustre leadership can hold a sustainability program back as well as the kinds of skills and abilities that effective sustainability leaders possess.  As part of building leadership capacity, we will examine what is involved in assembling a solid leadership team and developing a strong vision.
  2. Change Management Capacity:  We will examine why implementing change is difficult. We will highlight what change management is all about and why it’s important to success.  As part of developing change management capacity, we will look at what is involved in assembling a change management team as well as techniques for effectively engaging stakeholders and formalizing change.
  3. Measurement Capacity:  We will look at what you need to know about measuring economic, social and environmental sustainability.  We’ll explore how to build the level of capacity a successful program needs, and how damaging it can be if we fail to build the capacity.   To employ the measurement capacity developed, we will lay out the steps involved in building a project assessment framework that can be used to assess the business case for sustainability projects.

B.   PROGRAM MANAGEMENT CYCLE:  This module defines a repeated cycle of steps that participants execute as part of ensuring limited resources are invested into the projects that return the greatest benefit to the organization.  Like a flower blooming each year, this is the actionable process repeated on an annual basis to generate results.  The steps include: Understand Your Impact, Select the Best Projects, and Report on the Results.  While this process is the most visible part of the program, the results generated are largely enabled or constrained by the how soundly the program has been set up.

  1. Understanding Your Impact:  We will look at the importance of collecting data and discuss how to ensure the most valuable information is not missed.  We will highlight a variety of data collection techniques as well as the importance of defining and following a plan.  To make best use of the data collected, we will explore best practices for analysis.
  2. Selecting the Best Projects:  Here, we will examine how to uncover, assess, and prioritize project opportunities.  We will define how to efficiently short list potential projects and select and implement a group that generates the greatest benefit possible.
  3. Reporting on the Results:  We will examine why credibility can be just as important as the actual results generated.  We will highlight the benefits of reporting annually.  Practical techniques for developing a strong report will be provided.  We profile the amazing and often unexpected impacts of sharing success, learning, and continuous improvement.
Project page to be created by project convener and director Randy Sa'd.

Project current website - and on twitter at @<TBD>.

Program Model
Admin Strongly Sustainable Business Model Group,
Jun 6, 2016, 7:59 PM