Recap of Webinar- Staying Hopeful: Gathering Strength for the Work Ahead

Recap of Webinar- Staying Hopeful: Gathering Strength for the Work Ahead

How can we remain creative and hopeful in these crazy times?  Jaimie has been thinking deeply about this question for the past few months.  Her recent blog posts, Game on or Game over?  (with video) and Easier Done than Said:  Move from Fear to Action by Educating for a Sustainable Future address this topic and encourage us to get to work. In her recent webinar, Staying Hopeful: Gathering strength for the work ahead, Jaimie asks the question, “Why should we be hopeful?” She offers up three big ideas that have been a source of inspiration during this time of negativity and chaos.  These concepts are useful, natural occurrences that can serve, both as metaphor, and as examples of how life organizes towards life on our spaceship called Earth.  

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Easier Done than Said:  Move from Fear to Action by Educating for a Sustainable Future

Easier Done than Said:  Move from Fear to Action by Educating for a Sustainable Future

In my experience, it is harder for people to think about what it will take to educate for sustainability, than it is to actually educate for sustainability. This makes sense, given that change of any kind is threatening to our reptilian brains. We have a biological fear of change. Add to this the fact that most educators think of “sustainablizing” as an add on to an already packed life, curriculum and to do list. Given the flavor of the month way that schools often operate, it seems like just one more thing to do.  It isn’t.  It can’t be. It is the thing we all must do if we want to thrive over time.

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Game Over or Game On?

Game Over or Game On?

For the past three years, I’ve taught a required graduate course on the Ethics of Sustainability in the Design for Social Innovation Program at the School of Visual Arts in NYC. During this time, I’ve witnessed the unintended results of educating about unsustainability.  Although my students come from all over the world, they have at least a few things in common at the beginning of the year. These young people report feeling depressed, hopeless and guilty. Many of these students, believing they hold degrees in sustainability, have become experts in its opposite--unsustainability. They are nervous at first at the thought of discussing the ethics of sustainability. They tell me that their professors were very effective at pointing out that it’s too late, that we’ve already exceeded too many critical thresholds and that there is no way back. Game over?   

My response to them is always the same, “I think what your professors have actually been saying is that they cannot imagine and they don’t know how we are going to pull off the mid-course correction that is required if we want human and other life to flourish on Earth indefinitely.  I think this has more to do with their imaginations, mental maps and knowledge base than it does our fate.”  Game on.

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How to Sustain Sustainability Education

I have been working with Kapalama Middle School at the Oahu campus of Kamehameha Schools for the past seven years. We would like to continue our work together, but for now, the contract has been completed.  How can we know if the work we have done together to educate students for a sustainable future will last and will be improved over time?  We can’t.  What we can do is create favorable conditions for it to flourish over time—just like everything else we want to sustain.  As I always say, there is no such thing as “sustain-guaranteed” but there is such a thing as “sustain-able”.

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Sustainability In Schools: What Kind Of Future Do We Want

Originally published on April 1, 2016 By Vicki So, Rubicon International on the Rubicon PD Update.

Jaimie Cloud, founder and president of the Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education, begins most projects with the following questions:

"What kind of future do we want? What do we want to sustain? For whom? For how long? .... And what does education have to do with it? 

 A fundamental part of the Cloud Institute’s mission is to inspire young people to think deeply about their relationship with the environment and to empower them to influence it. The Cloud Institute’s Framework for Education for Sustainability demonstrates the interdependence between students, educators, school systems, and communities at large. In order to achieve its mission, the Cloud Institute has embedded research-driven knowledge, skills, attitudes and habits of mind into the Education for Sustainability (EfS) Standards and Performance Indicators.

In the three-part webinar series below, Jaimie discusses her work in partnership with the Rubicon-Atlas Curriculum Mapping software team and the NYC Department of Education. In particular, she explains why the curriculum mapping process is so important for bringing the EfS Standards to life [Download Jaimie’s top 10 reasons here].


“Aligned to national and state educational standards, each EfS Standard has a set of coded Performance Indicators used to guide educators as they infuse their school culture, curriculum, instruction and assessment practices with Education for Sustainability. We believe that by meeting these EfS standards, young people will be prepared to participate in, and lead with us, the shift toward a sustainable future.”

 In the first video, Jaimie defines sustainability and her work with the Cloud Institute [Click here to download presentation slides].

The second video highlights how the EfS standards come to life in the Atlas Curriculum Software and explains why the curriculum mapping process is important [Note: an open Q&A is included at the end of this video].

The third video provides an in-depth case study how the NYC-DOE has transformed their Career & Technical (CTE) program through the global Sustainable Development Goals created by the United Nations [Click here to download presentation slides].

Do you have a sustainability program at your school? Shoot us an email at and share your story. If you are interested in learning more about trends in environmental education, click HERE


When I first heard about STEM, I thought, “Oh—it’s the new and improved Science, Technology and Society (STS)!” But no, Society did not seem to play a part in the new equation.  I looked for benchmarks for quality STEM.  And, no again.   Then I asked people about what it really was, and they spelled out the acronym for me: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.  I knew what the acronym stood for, I wanted to know what it meant i.e., what goal it was in the service of, and what problem it was designed to address.  I discovered it was generally understood that our students were not performing well in science and math compared to many other countries with whom we were competing in the global market place.  STEM seemed like a robust way to address that…problem?  symptom?

Then I heard that a significant investment of funds was to be made by government and private institutions to support STEM initiatives that increased students interest in, and preparedness for Job Readiness in the 21st Century.  OK—That I could understand.  That seemed like a good idea.  If we want education to contribute to a sustainable future for us all, we will need to design and re-design infrastructure, buildings, food and transportation systems, and we will have to be cognoscente of the Earth’s carrying capacity.  If we had all been able to “do the math” since the turn of the century, one could argue that we would not have exceeded Earth’s carrying capacity in the 1980s.  Doing the math helps us identify and tap the power of limits.  So I began to think I understood what STEM was for.  As I continued to look for quality criteria for STEM programs, I came across the idea of STEAM. Since the arts have been so marginalized in our schools systems, I thought it was a creative idea to make sure arts and creativity was added to STEM to make STEAM.  Of course once you add the arts, then all you have to do is add the Humanities and you have school—all over again. 

So, why not make the same significant investment in transforming our schools into learning organizations that can prepare our students to thrive in the 21st Century? When that happens, students experience truly interdisciplinary design challenges that weave together the science, technology, engineering and math with creativity, ethics, systems thinking and anticipatory thinking, for example.  When that happens, students seamlessly move from class to class weaving together the experiences they are having into an integrated and whole understanding of what they are studying. When that happens, it is obvious that what they are learning in school is relevant and meaningful, applicable and transferable to life outside of school and over time.  And when that happens, our students will be more likely to contribute to a healthy and sustainable future for us all. 

- Jaimie Cloud for The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education

Teachable Moments | Let’s Optimize Our Children’s Capacity to Be Creative and Smart

Sir Ken Robinson describes creativity as, “a process of having original ideas that have value”1. Fritjof Capra describes it in this way: “Creativity is a key property of all living systems and contributes to nature’s ability to sustain life”. Either way, it’s a good idea if you like living. We should be cultivating it.  Sir Ken is famous for describing how our industrial model of schooling kills creativity by not preparing us to be wrong—by not honoring our originality and by operating mindlessly - trapped in the past, instead of taking us into the future we cannot grasp yet.  Fortunately, we have already begun to create learning organizations designed around how students learn for the future we want.  We have some exemplars of schools that are intentionally educating for a sustainable future.  We don’t have enough yet and we don’t have the data we need yet to go to scale.  I invite you to make the commitment to optimize our children’s capacity to be creative and smart, to be responsible and to make their unique contributions.  It is less expensive and more productive to educate for sustainability then it is to educate for un-sustainability.  You can quote me on that.  Better yet, join me.

- Jaimie Cloud for The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education


1. Azzam, A. (Setember, 2009) Why Creativity Now? A Conversation with Sir Ken Robinson. Retrieved from

Teachable Moments | Water Here, There, Not There, & Where?

The California Drought, flooding in North Carolina… water water here, there, not there, and where?  Water is one of our most precious natural commons.  We –you and me- must tend it as such.  The fact is we all depend on it (we can only last 3 days without it) and we are all responsible for taking care of it. California has legally declared that every citizen has a right to safe drinking water, and Detroit has privatized it.  Regardless of how our State governments perceive it, we need to learn the difference between natural changes and disruptions that are part of dynamic life on Earth, and the kinds of changes that we are contributing to, and, therefore, can do something about.  There is never going to be more or less water on Earth.  We have what we have.  This is due to the First Law of Thermodynamics (Matter and Energy don’t appear or disappear on Earth) and gravity.  We cannot run out of water, but, we can disrupt or displace the water cycle in our places, and we can undermine its quality by polluting it and by causing saltwater intrusion, if we are not careful. We are all responsible for the difference we make. 

Here is what we can do:  

  • Respect and contribute to its purity. Keep it clean. Don’t dump chemicals or drugs or weird things down the drain or the toilet. There is no such place as away.
  • Value its value. Celebrate it, think about it and use it well and wisely  
  • Avoid disrupting its natural cycles. Make sure our towns plant trees and plants, maintain and restore soil fertility, build green roofs wherever possible, make the shift to clean green renewable energy,  and use permeable surfaces wherever possible (roads, sidewalks, driveways).
  • Tap the power of its limits. Don’t waste a drop of it. Individually and collectively monitor the water tables in our regions and make sure we don’t use more faster than nature can replenish it there.

Here is a quote I picked out from an article at on the California drought.  “The drought [in California] is dragging on. Water is only becoming more precious and more expensive.” 1

The truth is, water cannot become more or less precious. It is the source of life on Earth. It is more “expensive” because we have made good clean water a scarce commodity instead of a limited commons.  We have not been tending it.  Now would be a good time to do so.

- Jaimie Cloud for The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education


1. Bliss, L. (Oct 1, 2015) Before California's Drought, a Century of Disparity. Retrieved from

Want a Sustainable Future? Educate for it!

Repost with permission from:, &
Published June, 2015. Written by Christine Kennedy

Jaimie Cloud, Founder of the Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education, with other education reformers, is looking to change K-12 education to create citizens ready for the challenges of the 21st century and beyond.  She has built principles and curricula supporting Education for Sustainability. The list of school districts that she has helped transform are on the Cloud Institute website’s client list.

Education for Sustainability stands in contrast to Educating about Unsustainability: the depressing story of how much is wrong with the world and how horrible we are as humans for destroying the planet and each other.  While many feel that “fear, doubt and uncertainty” is an effective way to wake people up, Cloud believes that it has the opposite effect on the psyche.  The brain shuts down when it perceives a threat and stops participating, leaving the body to fight or flight.  A disengaged brain is not effective if you’re trying to change mindsets. Jaimie tells a story about her preschool daughter coming home sad that “air pollution is bad.”  She didn’t fully understand why or even what air was but while she knew that bad stuff was out there, she didn’t know what she was supposed to do about it. What a burden for a 3 year old!

Educating about Sustainability presents a hopeful view of a new future: good food, community, living within planetary boundaries, meaningful work, and joy.  Jamie feels, however, that prior efforts at this lacked the competencies for building this wonderful future. She has set out to remedy that.

Educating for Sustainability (EfS) is based on the belief that we must create new neural connections.  Cloud suggests “an alternative to the air pollution story teaching children about the reciprocation of plants and humans:  humans breathe out CO2 which plants use to create food and give out O2 that humans can breathe in to support life.”  What student wouldn’t appreciate plants after that type of lesson? Of course this is a very simplistic view of the CO2 problem, as it relates to climate change, but it’s a foundation level appropriate for pre-school that can then support advanced learning in planetary systems as a child progresses through school.

Cloud’s journey toward EfS begins in Evanston, Illinois, as a student in one of the first Global Education schools.  It was 1968, the Vietnam era. The world was in turmoil, and schools were not immune. Global Education was created by professors at various universities with schools of education who came to believe that U.S. schools didn’t prepare their students for the complexity, diversity and uncertainty of the world around them. They came together to create curricula to ready students for the 21st century, which was still 30 years away.

Students, even as early as 6th grade, began to track data about the planet: the loss of languages and biodiversity, the changes to the atmosphere.  The data they collected showed that many aspects about our planet were in decline. Cloud felt like “the boy in the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes.  Didn’t anybody else see the problem?”

In 1987 with the Brundtland “Our Common Future” report that there was a name for this: unsustainable.  The 1992 Rio Summit then created Agenda 21, a roadmap for sustainability.  Within this was Chapter 36 delineating the first set of competencies needed to educate young people for the future.  Using her early schooling and the UN’s new competencies, Cloud began collecting and collating curricula for Educating for Sustainability from around the globe: working with NGOs, University Centers, Ministers of Education, local schools.

Today, there is more pressure for schools to reinvent their curriculum through the lens of sustainability.  The Center for Green Schools from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) has a goal that every school becomes a green school in this generation. The U.S. Department of Education has set 3 pillars to define a Green School: 1) health of occupants, 2) green building and 3) curriculum and instruction.  The first two pillars have more data and better defined standards. The third pillar is less defined and caught in the trap many feel that that EfS, Educating about Sustainability and Education about Unsustainable are equivalent. Outcomes of these different pedagogies need field analysis.

A three issue series in the Journal of Sustainability Education, seeking to bring the field together in a coherent manner, is being guest edited by Cloud.  The first was issued in late 2014. The theme is an invitation to scholars and thought leaders to weigh in on the essentials. A matrix of their work was created that spanned nine competency categories. The second issue, currently being edited, is a meta-analysis of the information received using grounded theory methodology to create benchmarks and measure impact.  The third issue will call for exemplars based on the nine competencies matrix and the meta-analysis.

What Cloud is doing is somewhat risky. Even Cloud Institute’s framework could need to change based on the creation of the new pillars. “But it’s worth the risk so that there can be a meshed framework”, says Cloud.  She believes that “one big area that needs to be included as a standard now as a result of our consensus process is the epistemology of thought: cognitive frameworks or ‘thinking about thinking.’ ”. It is difficult to shift mental models if you can’t recognize them or have language to describe them.

With all this is exciting work, there is still frustration.  Many sectors—government, business, energy, food, design—are addressing global un-sustainability, but to date, K-12 education has not been invited to the discussion table. There is little investment from the corporate or philanthropic worlds. Cloud has three ideas for why this is the case:

1)   Education, for good reason, is not considered innovative. For many, school was the least creative experience of their lives and they’ve had to unlearn mental models that keep them from building a sustainable world. To transform society we need to transform education. This is a daunting task.

2)   Investment in education is considered a 20-year payback and there aren’t 20 years to make the shift. “This is a classic misunderstanding of the power of youth leadership,” says Cloud. Young people are not afraid of innovation and their minds are creative, as long as they are given permission to use them. Adults who will not change their mindset for their own sake will break through mental brick walls for their children. See organizations like Teens Turning Green or Two Angry Moms.

3)   On the school side, branding as “Education for Sustainability” sounds like there is an agenda.  However, once educators see the curricula and programming they realize it is a curriculum based in meta-cognition, science, math, humanities and everything that goes into a good education.

The biggest barrier is understanding what EfS is all about. The EfS standards complement and can help make come alive the non-negotiable standards being imposed on school districts.

Some of the most enthusiastic supporters are underserved communities. The whole idea of sustainability is built around a positive reinforcing loop of justice, community health, and elimination of poverty. For teachers, it’s not just another set of standards they need to meet; teachers are remembering why they became educators.

I can’t help but be excited every time I talk to Jaimie. It is “joyful work” for her.

How can we all help her bring the vision of EfS to life? As a parent, you can encourage your local schools to engage in the EfS revolution. As an educator, build the competencies into your curriculum.  As a sustainability leader, bring educators to the table. As a citizen, support and advocate for systems that make a difference.

Originally published on Fairy Ninjas, Christine Kennedy’s personal blog. Christine is a scientist and engineer who sparks connections between people and ideas. She has experience with product development and sustainability impact metrics. Her objective is to make science accessible and relevant to a diverse population driving better social, economic and environmental solutions. She completed her Bard MBA in Sustainability in May 2015. You can follow her @CKennedySTEM

Jaimie Cloud Wants YOU to Say No to Waste!

Repost with permssion from:
Published October 2015

The more people I educate for sustainability, the more I am convinced that it is not our values that need adjusting, it is our thinking.

I don’t meet too many people with unjust values. I meet educators, students, community members, and people who work in non-profit organizations, businesses, and community based organizations, and governments. Our values are perfectly reasonable by any ethical or moral code. For the most part, the people I meet and work with are good people who love their families and friends, work hard at meaningful jobs, pay their bills, and want to leave this world better than we found it. So the question is, how could such good people be responsible for undermining the health of the living systems upon which our lives and all life depend?

The answer: the unintended consequences of our behavior are inconsistent with our values, and the laws that govern the physical world in which we live—and we simply did not see that coming. So what can we do about it? One of the Big Ideas of Education for Sustainability is, “Live by the Laws of Nature: We must operate within the physical laws and principles derived from nature rather than ignore them or attempt to overcome them. It is non-negotiable.” If we don’t have a choice, how is it possible that we are not abiding by them?

The 1st Law of thermodynamics, a law of physics, explains why matter and energy don’t appear or disappear from Earth—why we say there is no such place as “away”. Here is a classic example: as a result of the forces of gravity and the 1st Law of thermodynamics the stuff we have here on Earth—the water, the soil, the metals, the yogurt containers, the whole material world—is what we have to work with, forever. Everything we eat, breath and use comes from somewhere on Earth and goes back to somewhere on Earth. Since matter cannot be created or destroyed, nature up-cycles everything, creating value every time ­­­things move through the cycle of biological materials, and so life goes on. While entropy (another law of physics called the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics) breaks things down over time, photosynthesis puts it all back together by producing order and structure. Think: trees, leaves, decomposition, soil; trees, leaves, decomposition. More examples of material cycles include the rock cycle, the water cycle, and the nitrogen cycle—around and around and around they go…that is how it works.

Somehow, we good people of planet Earth must have missed the memo.

We produce materials that can’t join the biological cycle and create a thing we call “waste” i.e., materials that have no use. Even things that can be composted end up in the waste stream. We produce waste and we throw it out to a fictional location we call, “away”. We have been ignoring the 1stLaw! We are, in fact, the only species that leaves behind materials that have no value to any other living system. The only one. “Waste” has become such a normal thing that we don’t even think about it. What are we thinking? We need a new normal.

A no waste society will contribute to our ability to be a sustainable society. That is where we are headed. After all, waste is, well, a waste. For every 100 lbs of manufactured goods we produce, we generate 3000 lbs of waste in the U.S. (Hawken). We waste 50% of our food in the U.S., and the same globally (USDA). Given that more and more people are going hungry in this world– especially farmers, it is as wrong as it is unfair. It is unsustainable for us to continue to use up natural resources (forests, fisheries, farmland) at a rate of 50% faster than the Earth is able to replenish them—and a huge part of our ecological footprint is waste and wasted. We have a design challenge and we have a different choice to make. The design challenge is fairly straight forward. Design and use things that can be re-used, upcycled, or continually left out of the waste stream. We already have a “techno-cycle” (a human-made invention that mimics the way nature cycles materials) for things that can’t go back to nature (plastics, metals, chemicals etc.). So let’s stop pretending that there is such a place as, “away”—and cycle things we can. We can all take responsibility for the difference we make. Simply put, we need to become conscious of where our stuff comes from, what’s in it, and where it is going when it leaves our care. It is a lot of responsibility, so it will be easier if we keep the flow of stuff, to a minimum. Anything that can go into the compost pile and back to nature contributes to nature’s ability to sustain our lives and other life on Earth. Anything that can’t, needs to be continually up-cycled in the techno–cycle. No waste. A healthy, fair and sustainable future is possible and everything we do and everything we don’t do makes a difference.


The Journal of Sustainability Education Publishes the 2014 “State of the Field” Issue

By Jaimie P. Cloud, JSE Guest Editor

I am proud to announce the first in a series of three issues of the Journal of Sustainability Education entitled, Sustainability Education:  The State of the Field.  As Guest Editor of this Journal series it has been my privilege to work with an outstanding Editorial team who designed this series for one purpose - To create benchmarks for Sustainability Education by asking the thought leaders and scholars who have created and continue to study EfS to address the following questions:

What is Education for Sustainability (EfS)?  What are the “essential ingredients” of EfS that distinguish it from other educational frameworks? What paradigms, knowledge, skills and attitudes characterize EfS?  What instructional and engagement practices are congruent? What are the favorable organizational conditions that will make it possible?  What types of school/community partnerships are key?

I invite you to go to the Journal of Sustainability Education to see the Table of Contents of this first issue in the series.  Then I invite you to read my introduction to the series here, and finally to explore the Matrix we have created of the different author’s work. You will see that some authors have spent decades drilling down deeply into one aspect of Sustainability Education, while others have worked to conceptualize the whole system of EfS. Some have focused on content for one or two categories in our database template, and some have contributed material in all the categories. We have combined all grade levels here as a starting point - before we attempt over time to determine the developmental appropriateness of the different aspects of EfS for different age groups (although some of us have already begun to do that in our own work driven by the markets we serve).  You can sort the data by author and by category and you are invited to compare and contrast the thinking represented there. Remember, the overarching question is “What is essential to Education for Sustainability?”

Sneak Preview of the next two issues:

The 2nd Issue in the Series:  A Meta-Analysis
Fourteen years into the 21st Century, educators and decision makers on the ground must be able to trust that what they are doing, and what they are receiving in the way of assistance, meets the industry standards for EfS. In order for that to happen, we need to have agreed upon industry standards or “standards of excellence” for EfS.   In the 2nd issue of the series, a core group of the thought leaders and scholars and a group of emerging scholars will come together to conduct a meta-analysis of our collective body of work with the goal of developing industry standards for EfS.  These standards, which should come to represent the whole of our collective thinking to date, will be used by school administrators and Board members, text book publishers, parents, faculty, students and the community at large so that they can assess the extent to which their institutions are educating for a sustainable future, and to what extent they are meeting those industry standards. More importantly, these benchmarks can help us to produce and distribute the highest quality EfS programs, curricula and learning experiences, intentionally designed to accelerate the shift toward a healthy and sustainable future.

The 3rd Issue in the Series:  Exemplars
For the 3rd issue in the series, we will invite educators worldwide to submit exemplars of curriculum units, courses, assessments, rubrics and other forms of explicit performance criteria, as well as student work samples (with aligned performance criteria) that meet the EfS Standards of Excellence that emerge from the meta analysis published in the 2nd issue.

Please let us know your thoughts about the first issues - we are feedback driven and would love to hear from you.

Introducing Schools to the Future | The Journal of Wild Culture

Repost from:
Original Post Date: September 28, 2013, by Whitney Smith

Education as we have come to experience it is a system structured around 19th century models and needs is heavily influenced by the industrial revolution. Many have argued that this system is no longer relevant to the demands and aspirations of modern-day society; others have made claims that it is even detrimental. A few organisations have set out to redefine the weary standardised view within the education system today. • One of those organisations, The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education, works closely with individuals within school systems in the US and around the world. Jamie Cloud, lifelong global educator and founder of The Cloud Institute, wants schools to become ‘learning organisations’ which place children in the centre of a curriculum that encourages, inspires and empowers them to think about the wider systems of ecology, economy and ethics. • In these video talks Jamie outlines the origins and importance of the Institute’s work, and how it is now time to relent our old fashion notions of education: to allow the fertile, vibrant, and bright minds of tomorrow to experience a school system that will help to nurture and cultivate their potential. • If you have a story like this one please let us know. The domino effect of a few of these can make the difference that Jaimie Cloud is talking about. — Matthew Small, Education Editor.

Here Jaimie discusses using the Fish Game and understanding Mental Models as a way to start the conversation about education for sustainability.

Watch the entire video series here:

Janine Benyus: Biomimicry's Surprising Lessons from Nature's Engineers (TED Talks)

Repost from:
Original post date: April 2007

In this inspiring talk about recent developments in biomimicry, Janine Benyus provides heartening examples of ways in which nature is already influencing the products and systems we build.

A self-proclaimed nature nerd, Janine Benyus' concept of biomimicry has galvanized scientists, architects, designers and engineers into exploring new ways in which nature's successes can inspire humanity.

IMPACT2030: Transformational Leadership + The Fish Game

The back story to the following  wonderful article is worth sharing.  I received a call one day out of the blue from a  Dr. Emma from Kenya.  Dr. Emma told me that she was involved in developing an upcoming Forum for Kenyan leaders and that she had asked Peter Senge to be the keynote speaker at the forum. She went on to say that he had agreed to do it on one condition:  “That the leaders play the Cloud Institute’s Fish Game first.”  He went on to say that she could reach out to me for details, so she did.  She downloaded the Fish Game from our bookstore and we set a time for a SKYPE coaching session to prepare her to facilitate it at the Forum.  The SKYPE time came and went—no Dr. Emma.  The next day, I received an email from her explaining that the Internet had gone down in the village and that she was hoping to re-schedule our conversation.  No problem.  We re-scheduled for the next day, and two hours before our scheduled conversation, Dr. Emma called me on the phone:  “Jaimie?” she said, “I came to Nairobi to a hotel so that I could SKYPE with you today, and the electricity has just gone out.  I am sitting in my hotel room with a cell phone, a candle and a print out of the Fish Game Facilitator’s guide.  Can we talk now?”  Of course we did—then and a few more times after that. As we unpacked the mental models of unsustainability and those that are more likely to help us to shape the future we want, Dr. Emma kept saying over and over, “Jaimie: Have you been to Kenya? Do you know these folks?  Are you sure you don’t know them?”  I explained that though I have in fact been to Kenya once, I did not know those individuals personally and that the mental models of un-sustainability seem to be universal and even archetypal. Tragic and true. In exchange for my time, I asked Dr. Emma to write about her experience facilitating the Fish Game to tribal leaders in Kenya. This is what she wrote:

Leadership and Kenyan Renaissance, 2012



Within the last decade, an unprecedented wave of development has swept through Africa. New faces appear across the landscape such as the Chinese, now common on some African City streets.  Highways are being built to connect African countries together.  One country leading in this forward development is Kenya. And, while commending this development, one Kenyan scholar believes that for this to work and still have an impact, Kenyan leadership will have to shift in a new direction. More so, because a wave of resource exploration is revealing that Kenya has lots of natural resources including oil, coal, geothermal, natural gas and wind power.  For these resources to benefit the public, a new type of leadership will be critical.


 “Kenya is undergoing the most aggressive devolution that the world has ever witnessed” (World Bank Report, Dec. 2011). The goal is to curb negative systemic social, economic, political and development issues. A recently amended Constitution (CK2010) seeks to reshape the way citizens relate with the government, and places a strong emphasis on principles of participation, transparency, and accountability. The new constitution avails ordinary Kenyans an opportunity to take the lead in the development of their counties, innovatively modeling a development that works for them.  Leadership styles and models for the 21st Century will be critical and must be learned.  This period of change comes at a time when Kenya is witnessing new recourse identification to include:  oil, natural gas, wind power, geothermal power, coal, and biofuels on a limited scale.  The Cloud Institute’s Fish Game simulation was played to create awareness about resources and leadership, deemed critical in the development of Kenya.


Dr. Theuri adds that Kenyan success will depend on how well leaders harness the county synergy to reap the benefits that are independently un-obtainable, and, which will be greater than the sum of all 47 Kenyan counties. Recognizing the need to identify available resources, and utilizing them without depleting will be key to local and national development.  To achieve this, a “Shared servant leadership is critical, and it must be the new song”, says Dr. Theuri.


The Issue

But how does this rebirth take place, “Dr. Theuri asks”, when Kenyans and the international community are grappling with uncertainty and a lack of trust with the Kenyan leadership?  A time when Kenyans are wondering whether the great hopes they have on the new constitution will come to fruition, given that it will be implemented by the same leadership that brought Kenya down. A leadership that is likely to protect its own interests, and has the power to do just that. What will support the hopes among Kenyans, that the strong roots of corruption, eroded ethos, joblessness, and hopelessness will no longer prevail, in a country where over 65% of the population is youth aged under 35years?


The Fish Game was used against this background, to communicate the role of servant leadership in resource mobilization and sustainability; to demonstrate the power of unselfish leadership in economic development, and the power of collaboration and re-union between the government and the people of Kenya in resource mobilization, utilization and sustainability.


The Forum

Dr. Theuri conducted the four-day IMPACT2030: Transformational Leadership Forum in Kenya 2012, with participants hailing from government and private corporations.


Participants were from government and corporate managers, CEOs and an ex-ambassador.  Their role at the forum was to endure 12 hours a day, exploring the uniqueness of their counties and their country.  Also, engaging in thought-provoking hands-on experiences, addressing global roots of poverty and how this is sustained.  


Further, looking at servant-like, and the 21st Century leadership; mental models and change.  An introduction to systems thinking and its application in a Kenyan context was an eye opener into leadership greed, corruption, root causes and impact on resources. Local invited speakers spiced the Forum.  Forum participants became residents of the 48th Kenyan County by default, a simulated County that exposed them to the reality of living on 2$ a day, and as government planners, coming up with a plan how the 48th County in Kenya should develop and grow.


The Game

Groups of four teams (1, 2, 3, and 4) played the game.  Teams 1, 3, and 4 depleted the fish in their first round.  But, when playing Game # 3, they were able to play several rounds without depleting the fish pond.   Team #2 did not deplete the fish even in the first round.  Apparently, they had an individual who insisted that they could not take as much as they all wanted.  She was the only female in the whole training crew.  She stood her ground and sort of dictated that the group ration fishing from the word go, because without the rations, some people would get no fish.  The group negotiated, disagreed, and finally settled to one fish per person.  For this team, they were able to keep going for 5 rounds before the instructor stopped them, they could have gone on and on for a long time.


Lessons Learned

During the debriefing, the teams used Kenya as the Fish Pond to analyze the case of Kenyan resources and poverty.  They were in agreement that in Kenya, people believe that:

  • Natural resources belong to the government so, no one takes care of them, and as a result, they are easily depleted by the citizens.

  • That the leaders have misused natural resources because they are the government property, and so, they own the (resources).

After the game, participants had two critical observations:

  • That if people were educated about the impact of resources on their lives, and the ownership they democratically possess, then, the citizens would protect those resources for their children, and future generations.

  • That development of Kenya lies on the hands of the Kenyan people.

The Fish Game served as a self-reflective process on the participant’s leadership, their management styles, and use of public resources.  After the program, participants had the following to say: verbatim):


“I learned that to be a leader, one must first become a human being.

 Learned that leadership is about taking a stand no matter how unpopular you become.

 If resources are used wisely, our nation will prosper.

 I learned how to optimize the gift of leadership. 

The vision that is important is that which people share.

A great leader provides an opportunity for people to shape their future.

That there is a lot of potential in our counties and Country.

Strategies to transform a county, and even communities.

Major learning was that our country is endowed with a lot of wealth and potential.

The resources and potential in Kenya are enormous. 

If resources are used well, then the country will prosper. 

There is need to have a clear understanding of our National Goals and work together to achieve them.  

General overview of leadership at community level. 

Problems in agriculture sector in Kenya and how it can be advised through empowerment of community.

Communication between leadership and the grassroots.   

How to contribute to community development”.



In summary, the learning from the Fish Game was powerful.  It was amazing that a simple game of Fish could provide such deep penetration, quest, and awakening for knowledge and skills building in areas that matter the most in life.  It was clear that simplified communication of knowledge has the ability to provide a deeper meaning of the subject.  Participants did grasp the power of servant and team oriented leadership. They gained a better understanding about resource utilization.  They realized that Kenya has lots of resources which, if properly utilized are enough for all, and for future generation. There was a deep self-reflection, and change of mind sets, on leadership and resource utilization.  Participants left the forum fired up to go make change in their leadership positions. 


The Leadership Forum would not have been such a success without the great contribution of renowned trainers and speakers such as Dr. Peter Senge, who joined the Forum participants in Kenya via video conference from USA.  Dr. Peter Methabula from South Africa; Dr. Jonathan Ciano, the CEO Uchumi Kenya; Peter Kenneth, the Assistant Minister in the Ministry of National Planning and Development; and Dr. Emma Theuri, the convener. 


Special thanks go to Jaimie P. Cloud, President of The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education.  Jaimie is commended for her flexibility and zeal in getting the work done.  Being in the US at the time, she spent over three hours on a Phone Training about the Fish Game with Dr. Theuri who was in Kenya at the time.  (The only communication channel they had, after several power outage experiences in their earlier attempts to accomplish the task via Skype).  Without this effort, the Fish Game exercise would not have taken place. 

Dr. Emma Theuri is the Founder, Institute for Promotion of Sustainable Community Development (IPSCoD), an organization with a focus on transformational leadership as a tool for change and empowerment.



  • The Fish Game.  Facilitator’s Guide.  Developed and published by The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education, 2012 Edition.

  • Laurie P. & Diebel. A.  Bridging the Divide between the Public and Government.  A Review of Research KF.  Connections, Kettering Foundation’s Washington, D.C. Summer, 2006.

  • Kenya Constitution 2010.

  • Kenya, Vision2030.

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