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Creating stories as foundations for change: Please join for our next 6heads meetup on 15 October


To tell a good tale requires an understanding of the narrative. Whether this story is for your 5 year old niece or a Chief Exec of a FTSE100 company, being aware and clear on the foundations underpinning a story is important for communication and change.

This interactive and fun workshop will focus on understanding the narratives that we tell ourselves and others about our world. By exploring our narratives we will gain a deeper understanding of how to create powerful stories.  Once we’ve understood more about our own back story, this experiential session will give us the opportunity to generate powerful stories for change.

Please do join us to explore your stories and to meet like-minded sustainability professionals in a relaxed environment.narrative.

Facilitator:  Adam Woodhall is a behaviour change and engagement specialist and over the last 8 years has worked with clients including PwC, Wessex Water, Network Rail, University of…

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Change for Chimps

Every now and then we meet someone  we know will have a significant and positive impact on the world.  One of these people is the author of our guest blog – Aimee Oxley.  Below she tells of her inspiring journey to help rainforest, primates and people – and shares her despair and hope for the future.

if you have ever wanted to ‘save the Amazon’, wondered at our likeness to chimps or wanted to support young people to change the world, please back this amazing change-maker to make a difference. See her crowdfunding platform: And of course – do spread the word…



The mighty Amazon rainforest at sunset. Photo: Aimee Oxley

I first heard about it in school – geography class with Mrs Parker. No sooner had we been mesmerised by the structure and biodiversity of the Amazonian rainforest, we were told that it was being ripped down at an unprecedented rate. That was it. I had to do something. I started a paper recycling programme in school and put a tray for unwanted paper in every single classroom. It didn’t really take off and I ended up policing all 20 classrooms myself, collecting the trays, dismayed at the lack of response my great idea had received.

It took over 10 years from that class until I finally experienced a tropical forest for the first time. I went to Bolivia, volunteering at a rescue centre for wild animals recovered from the pet or circus trades. It was beautiful forest, miles and miles away from any large towns or cities. Wild jaguars, giant anteaters and tortoises roamed freely around the forest. But all it took was to hitch a ride down to the nearest village to realise that everything was far from okay. The roadside is the best place to appreciate the extent of forest disturbance, since once a road is built, human activities usually centre on the road and spread out.

What became immediately apparent was that our slice of jungle paradise was just one small fragment of forest in a sea of farmers’ fields. Either side of our forest patch, local people were growing maize, sunflowers, papaya, rice, or keeping herds of cattle and trucks full of enormous trees would pass by daily. A month after I arrived, fires ravaged the forest. We were working 18 hours days, night long fire-fighting missions in the dark with nothing but a spade and a litre of water, caring for multiple animals, covering each other when people were getting sick and sleeping when we could find an hour or two.

forest ire 1forest ire 2

Left: The results of the forest fire. Right: the effectiveness of the fire breaks we cut in can be clearly seen. Photos: Aimee Oxley

These fires were the result of slash and burn practises used by the farmers to clear their fields.I felt sad. Well, in truth, I felt mad. I was steaming at these human beings who had the audacity to cut down pristine rainforest – the forest and incredible fauna and flora it holds is way more important than a tiny bit of maize, I thought! Additionally, the animals we were caring for had been captured from the forest in the first place, often having been taken from their mothers, who would get shot. The humans were the enemy and the forest and the animals my friends.

Of course I knew that this was a ridiculous stance. I’d studied politics as an undergraduate and was particularly interested in international development and the causes of poverty. The majority of these people were extremely poor and their one field or few heads of cattle were all they had. They needed to survive and even after the harvest of their crop, the financial rewards might not even be enough to send their children to school. In rural areas of Bolivia as much as 80% of the population lives in poverty.

I returned to South America five years later, this time to Paraguay. I was going to study the impact of forest fragmentation and edge effects on small mammals in the Atlantic Forest as a project I designed for my Masters. Now I was much more aware I noticed that the entire roadside during my 6 hours journey from the capital to the field site was no longer natural forest habitat. Soya, cattle and rice dominate Paraguay’s list in terms of the major players in the game of mass forest loss and you cannot but notice as you drive through the landscape. In fact, whilst we were all paying attention to Brazil in the 90s, Paraguay had the highest rate of deforestation in South America and the second highest in the world.

Next was Peru. I worked as a field assistant on a primate project in deepest darkest western Amazon basin. The field site was a 5 hour boat away from the jungle city, Puerto Maldonado, itself a 12 hour drive from anything else. I thought that this would be the most pristine forest I’d ever see, and for sure, once inside it is absolutely out of this world in terms of biodiversity. But as I followed the monkeys down to the river edge I could hear chainsaws. People were clearing the forest even within the conservation concession to make way for gold mining. We stopped the boat on the riverbank one day and had a look around. Everything was gone, the soil dry and, unseen, mercury was impregnating the water.

Borneo. We all know about palm oil but I wasn’t working in palm oil territory. From the plane on my way in I saw the amazing forest I was to work in for the next 16 months collecting data on wild orang-utans and gibbons in the largest chunk of forest left in Borneo. But from the river bank, there was a kilometre or so of sedge before reaching the forest where it had been cut down for timber. Then there were expeditions to the ex-Mega Rice Project. This was an ill-conceived idea whereby a million hectares of forest would be cleared to grow rice in peat, which is of course too acidic to grow rice, meaning that the forest got cleared but the rice never grown. It left what can only be described as an elephant graveyard of the remnants of burnt trees, burning hot from the black ash-ridden soil covering the ground. Indonesia is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, oil palm is spreading like wildfire, over 80% of their timber exports are from illegal logging and fire itself rampages through the country yearly and especially severely in El Nino years.


Wasteland and burnt trees at the edge of one of the remnant forest patches cut down as part of the Mega Rice Project. Photo: Rebecca Purse


It’s been a bleak story so far, incredible landscapes torn apart by human disturbances. But what can we do about it? Do I give up and lose hope? Well of course not. We all have a part to play in the big game of life, which is now more globally inter-connected than ever as economies open and produce is exported around the world for the gain of better lifestyles… orfor those privileged enough to be able to afford them. I’ve decided my small part to play in all this is to understand the impacts of these habitat disturbances on forest-dependent species, with primates being my main focus and interest, in order to help develop the best strategies to protect both endangered species and human livelihoods at the same time. This can’t be done without understanding and, importantly, accepting that a certain level of human disturbance is inevitable and necessary.

Collecting data on primates is not enough on its own. Local people need to be involved, their plights and perceptions need to be understood. There have been several studies investigating farmers’ perceptions of crop-raiding primates in the area I will be working, in and around the Budongo Forest Reserve in Uganda, but surprisingly very few studies looking at the issue from the perspective of the primates themselves. I’m hoping to bridge this gap. I’m not expecting a silver bullet from my research, but I am hoping to shed light on exactly how different human activities – different scales of farming, roads, human presence – impact the species that are now trying to adapt to a new landscape, shared with human neighbours. In the unprotected forest fragments outside the reserve, chimpanzees are living in human-dominated landscape mosaics and forest loss is continuing. With a full understanding of both sides of the story – from humans to the forest-dependent species – I think we can create the most informed solutions for human-wildlife co-existence. I’m feeling positive – there’s no other way to feel or else you’d simply crash and burn or live a never-ending battle that cannot be won – but I know it won’t be easy.

chimps wasteland

A local field assistant collects data on chimpanzees in recently burnt forest. Photo: Kimberley Hockings

I’m running a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to support my research, which you can read more about on the webpage and from the video. My research will directly feed into local conservation strategies in and around the Budongo Forest Reserve, as well as IUCN guidelines on human-great ape conflict mitigation. I’m dedicated to working with both the academic community and conservationists on the ground to ensure that my results have a positive impact for endangered primates living in human-dominated landscapes.

I’d like to ask anyone who feels passionately about this issue to please have a look and support funding this important research on my crowdfunding page at:

Please do share and spread the word too – I’ll keep you posted on how the research comes along, with some good news further down the line I hope….

Will Social Intrepreneurs save the world?


A guest blog from Rob Kyle, current Imperial MSc student

Sosicial entrepreneurship in an organisation has been aptly reclassified as ‘social intrapreneurship’ (SI). These intrapreneurs are described as people within a company that direct an initiative for innovations which address social or environmental challenges profitably.

Clearly intrapreneurship is an evolution from entrepreneurship and holds many of the same characteristics. However there are obvious boundaries and advantages to intrapreneurship; internal politics and lack of support or greater resources and more partnerships, to name but a few.

There are a growing number of social intrapreneurs in organisations around the world, all going against the grain in business to create social as well as economic value. Examples such as Ray Anderson in Interface or Jo Da Silva at Arup have shown that creating social as well as economic value can be achieved. To read in greater depth case studies of successful SI…

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Getting Streeetwise

On a beautiful London summer evening a large group of innovation and sustainability practitioners  wandered through the Southbank experimenting with a new innovation technique.

Street Wisdom combines a meditative state with divergent stimuli to produce new ideas.  It can be used to solve a personal or organisational challenge and may be for new products of services, new ways of thinking or a new direction.  Challenges are varied. In our group some wanted to think about a job change, another launching a new business, a third how to help their mother and another to solve a thorny problem at work.


Street Wisdom works through honing awareness of one’s surroundings.  As hurried Londoners we often miss the beauty and life in the streets around us. Refocusing on our environment made us appreciate it and, of course allowed us to access its ‘universal wisdom’. Many people found this the most rewarding part. 

It asks participants to connect with their environment first – through time alone noticing patterns, people, and beauty. It then allows for participants to ask specific questions and receive stimuli towards answers. 

As an innovation technique, I believe it is particularly pertinent to sustainability as it forces personal congruence – to move into a mindful personal space from which to test and originate ideas.

Feedback from innovation professionals, students and sustainability practitioners was excellent. Some of the comments included:

“I so enjoyed yesterday, both for the innovation approach itself and the whole new look at familiar spaces” Julia
“Thanks for the event yesterday. I had good time!” Ashish
“Last night was lovely. Great to be around such an open gang of treasure seekers (and finders)”  Tiu
“What an absolutely lovely evening! I feel privileged to have been included” Maggie

wise3Working with the Streetwisdom team was a pleasure. They embody openness and inspiration and offer the course for anyone who wishes to participate or teach.

We recommend you look into other Street Wisdom sessions – they can be found on

Have you done anything similar?  Do you have an interesting technique to share? 

Beyond Brainstorming – Innovation is Everywhere

Bored with brainstorming? Fascinated by mindfulness? We are experimenting with a fresh technique that is effective, collaborative and works with awareness.


I was and went along to Street Wisdom. I did a random tai chi class, met wonderful kindred spirits and discovered an interesting technique to get creative, reflect and solve business and personal issues. Others spoke to strangers, found beautiful architecture and discovered new parts of London.

As an innovation practitioner, it was useful to find a new technique. Changing the context and creating awareness brought fresh perspective. It is particularly useful for the divergence stage of creative thinking.

6heads will be co-hosting a Street Wisdom experience, with the wonderful Street Wisdom team on 16th July. You can learn a new technique, meet some of our wonderful members and enjoy a summers eve on the South Bank. Coming?

RSVP here: Innovation is everywhere

More info: Street Wisdom


Thursday, 3rd July at 6:30pm, Sir Richard Steele Pub, Chalk farm, NW3 4RL 

We are building a network of young professionals interested in investing their money in socially and environmentally responsible ways. We believe investing should be simple and that money has the power to do good. If you think so too, we’d love for you to join us.

If you discovered that your money was being used to finance child labourmilitary weapons, or harmful chemicals – would you be concerned? It is a troubling fact that 35% of savers in the UK have no idea what their banks do with their hard earned money. We are Light Up The Crowd and we want to change this.

We’ve noticed that investment can be overwhelming for first-timers. Yet whether it’s £50 or £50,000, we believe everyone should feel empowered to invest in the things that they care about. That’s why we want to help young professionals like you make simple but well-informed investment decisions that are both good for your wallet and good for the planet

Our founding members event on Thursday, will allow you to learn more about responsible investingshare your input and ideas, and become a founding member of our network as we learn to navigate the middle ground between young people and the financial world.

 We have a fantastic speaker lined up –  Jonathan Maxwell, Founding Partner & CEO of Sustainable Development Capital LLP. At SDCL he has advised on the formation of a number of investment vehicles involving total capital raised of approximately US$600 million. He has also served as an advisor to governments, to the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative and is a director and trustee of the Institute for Sustainability in the UK.

It promises to be a fun evening with drinks, talks, lively conversations and interactive sessions as we explore how we can change the landscape of investment for young people.

There will be half an hour of meeting and greeting, with talks starting at 7pm.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Please RSVP to reserve a ticket.

Can business change the world?

Creating conditions for positive business engagement in society

Leading businesses increasingly recognise the need to go beyond traditional corporate social responsibility approaches and see contribution to societal good as a strategic imperative.

Some are engaging fodeloitte 1r commercial return, recognising opportunities to develop new value. This might be through access to additional revenue from new markets, to solve a problem and/or to build new strategic capability.

Each of these motivations results in different pitfalls for which there are some useful ‘remedies’.

1. Accessing new markets
Most businesses are aware of the value in the bottom of the pyramid. Some have noticed that this segment is also more resilient to economic flux and that businesses that have engaged here have received significant public visibility – all good reasons to develop a new market.

Some companies get this right. Grameeen is the much touted example.  Another example comes from the insurance world. One issue confronting the poor is the lack of any support system – if a child is sick or a shop burns down, there is no access to bridging funds or reparations. In many cultures this is addressed by women pooling funds to support each other through crises. Recently AXA created an initiative to support groups of these women (working through PWDS in India) to access family health insurance. Based on a community verification and penalty scheme, operating costs are kept low. This is a positive example of a company engaging with new markets in a way that is in line with existing structures and which meets real needs.

Other companies don’t get this right. A large water company tried to set up a water purification scheme in India. This provided entrepreneurs with the equipment to purify water, at an ongoing cost for maintenance over a ten year period. This wasn’t successful – it required new entrepreneurial structures, forced communities into long term debt but also, importantly, didn’t address the real problem – prevention of dirty water would be better than cure.

The main pitfall with this motivation is lack of alignment to communities and this is best solved by operating closely and within communities to determine and meet their actual needs.

2. Solving a problem.

Often this is driven by CSR practitioners or corporate philanthropists as a more sustainable alternative to traditional ways of donating. This may take various forms – the Carbon Trust was tasked with creating new businesses to shift sectors towards low carbon alternatives, M&S recently looked at how a new initiative could solve both a growing skills shortage in the food industry and help employ young people.

Both of these initiatives  – like most other initiatives of this type – suffered from a lack of inherent commercial rationale. They were looking for solutions where unmet customer needs (and therefore a commercial value proposition) were not the main focus. This made creating a business case very difficult.

These cases were ‘cracked’ by developing an indirect customer (e.g. suppliers, philanthropic funders), using new business models (e.g. long term equity upside) or finding a value differentiator (e.g trusted brand ).

A solution to a lack of inherent commercial rationale is therefore using ‘extreme’ commercial creativity. 

3. Strategic engagement.

These forward thinking pioneers are actively creating the customers, capabilities or resources for their future. A great example is Interfaces Net Impact programme.  It pays fishermen for old nets and then transforms these into tufting material for carpets. Fishermen from poor communities receive value from a ‘waste’ product. These nets are no longer thrown into the ocean and loss of marine life is prevented. Interface has a differentiated input for its carpets and new capabilities in setting up partnerships and accessing resources. Currently we are working on another Interface initiative to alleviate poverty, create a secondary market for used carpet and develop capability for global recycling.

A pitfall of companies operating with a strategic intention is the negative effect of ‘unintended consequences’. For example by enriching only part of the population resentment may be stirred up which results in domestic violence or tribal warfare.

Uninitended consequences can (often) be addressed by organisations taking a systems thinking approach to any new initiative.

For any organisation venturing into this space three new competences need to be built:
– extreme partnering: bringing together unlikely play mates with different agendas and resources towards achieving a common goal (e.g. AXA, PWDS charity, local women),
– lateral innovation: designing business value in entirely new ways, and
– ecosystem thinking: making sure that supporting initiatives and structures are in place to provide all the elements required (for example
Interface recognised the need for a banking partner for its networks initiative).

There are tremendous benefits for companies venturing into social change. From the bottom line benefits (e.g. new customers or premium products), to risk mitigation (e.g. diversified sourcing) to intangibles (e.g. employee loyalty, customer aw

I’d go further and say that no business can, over the long term, separate itself from the society that supports it – as suppliers or customers. Positive engagement with society is an imperative for business to build a robust and resilient global future. 


This article is an excerpt from a talk Nicola did for Deloitte at a Net Impact event. She is focused on creating new commercial solutions for social and environmental change and is interested in exploring thinking and opportunities in this area. What is your experience in this area? Any lessons you’d like to share? How could your company engage better with society?

Please contact her on for further information.

Make a difference – three opportunities in London next week

Many of you have followed the blogs related to the remarkable Tsiba University, attended the Transformative Education event at LSE last year or donated to the Tsiba cycle for change campaign. We are inspired by Tsibas innovative approach to transforming individuals and societyin South Africa and impressed by their success – in terms of the quality of graduates and the significant awards won, including 5 Mandela Rhodes Scholars and a Kofi Annan Scholar.

Next week Adri, Tsiba’s CEO is in London.  We have some wonderful ways for you to connect with Tsiba and do great things…Kindly RSVP using the links below.

1)      Thursday 15 May 18:00 – 19:30 pm, London Business School More About Mentoring

Are you interested in learning more about mentoring a TSiBA student long distance? Join Adri to hear how TSiBA facilitates this very special and impactful relationship and how you can make a positive contribution to a South African’s young life in a very direct way. Drinks and snacks will be served. There is no charge for this event.

RSVP at :

2)      Saturday 17 May 08:30 to 10:00am, Richmond Park Fun Cycle Ride and Breakfast

To celebrate TSiBA’s successful Cycle for Change campaign, our London based friends are invited to enjoy a relaxed half hour cycle around Richmond Park, starting at 08:30 at Roehampton Gate. Bring your bike and helmet with you and join Adri for breakfast thereafter at Roehampton Café. You are welcome to skip the ride and just join for breakfast at 10am! There is no charge for this event.                           

RSVP at:

3)         Friday 16th May, Introductions

We are building our community here in London with the aim of raising an endowment fund for long term support of the University.  Please do get in touch if you have any ideas for funders that would be interested in Tsiba.

We hope to see you next week.

Yours in Igniting Opportunity,

6heads and the TSiBA Team


More information on Tsiba:

TSiBA (which means ‘to jump’ in isiXhosa) provides scholarships to pursue world class education to deserving people throughout Africa. Its innovative approaches include partnering (a big 5 firm lecturing the accounting curriculum for free) and Pay it Forward (graduates returning as lecturers and mentors) and its whole person approach develops dynamic, emotionally intelligent entrepreneurs and social change agents. Professor Otto Scharmer of MIT observed, “TSiBA is a living example of a new breed of business schools.”

A 6heads series: If education is the foundation for how our society evolves into the future – then how do we align this important system to our emergent societal needs?


Samuel challenges you to “Zep it”!

Serial innovator Samuel Gordon came up with this smashing idea and was kind enough to share it with 6heads. And we, of course are kind enough to share it with you!  We’re also interested in your views for Sam on how he can grow this into a strong campaign for change… Let us know at

Sam introduces the concept here:

There is an easy way to make climate change campaigning more successful and fun.

Rather than encouraging people to cut their emissions, we should be encouraging them instead to “ZEP it!” – to replace the emitting objects they own with alternative products that release Zero Emissions at the Point of use (“ZEPs”).

Examples of ZEPs could include heat pumps, electric boilers or a lithium-ion battery for an electrically-powered bike. These emit no CO2 at the point they are used but they also emit no nitrous oxide, sulphur oxide or carbon particulates either. For the sake of this project, the amount of energy ZEPs use is irrelevant.

Why ZEPs? Well, if we adopt this approach, it becomes far easier for consumers to lead on tackling climate change. It is tough to do this when trying to cut emissions, because no matter how hard we try we will always be emitting indirectly via the electricity we use. Everyone has their hands dirty, so to speak, so it is tough to credibly convince other people to change.

The “ZEP it!” campaign is different though. Because you’re only responsible for what you own, becoming a role-model is a much faster process. Do you own any objects that emit at their physical point of use? No? Congrats! Under this approach you’re now guilt-free and can start persuading your neighbours and power company to ZEP it too.

The “ZEP it!” campaign is also easy to draw the public into. The key is focus on fun and convenience. For example, you could create brightly-coloured “ZEP it!” stickers for all the motorbikes in your office car-park then include riding directions to the nearest zero-emission replacements. Under this approach, the complex science and “doom and gloom” of emissions no longer matters – all that matters instead are the benefits of taking action!

The “ZEP it!” campaign is also easier to draw businesses into. The key is to focus on just five types of products. By replacing only their engines, boilers, furnaces, kilns and stoves, businesses will cut the world’s greenhouse gas emissions by around 85% and largely solve the problem. No-one needs to be demonised, and we can bypass the fossil fuels debate completely. Under this approach, our message to businesses is simple and positive: “Replace these five products and you’re mostly done!”

In fact, the “ZEP it!” campaign is easy for businesses to lead. The key is to aim for the single goal of bringing ZEPs to 100% market share. Because all of these five types of products exist in million- and billion-dollar markets, this goal creates a strong commercial incentive for companies to act quickly. The businesses who act first with ZEPs will capture the most market share. Under this approach, funding will be easier to find.

Finally, the “ZEP it!” campaign is also easier to draw governments into. The key is to focus on the benefits of ZEPs. Designing policy to increase these benefits will be far more popular than trying to enforce the costs of widespread cuts in emissions. Under this approach, it is easier for governments to look good when they support us. We’ll make progress faster!

All in all, the “ZEP it!” campaign is the simplest and most powerful way we can solve our climate change problem. Let’s get ZEPping! 

Great idea Sam!


This post is from the brilliant Seth Godin. I follow his thoughts daily. You can subscribe TO more of his brilliance here: SETHDAILY

It seems as though profit-maximizing business people ought to be speaking up loudly and often for three changes in our culture, changes that while making life better also have a dramatically positive impact on their organizations.

Minimum Wage: Three things worth noting:

  1. Most minimum wage jobs in the US can’t easily be exported to lower wage places, because they’re inherently local in nature.
  2. The percentage of the final price of a good or service due to minimum wage inputs is pretty low.
  3. Many businesses sell to consumers, and when they have more money, there’s more demand for what they sell.

Given that for even the biggest organizations there are more potential customers than employees, the math of raising the minimum wage works in their favor. More confident and more stable markets mean more sales. Workers struggling to make ends meet are a tax on the economy.

(Consider the brilliant strategic move Henry Ford made in doubling the pay of thousands of his workers in 1914. The assembly line was so efficient that it created profits—but only when it was running, and high turnover made that difficult. By radically raising pay, Ford put pressure on all of his competitors (and on every industry that hired the sort of men he was hiring) at the same time that he created a gateway to the middle class, a middle class that could, of course, buy his cars, whether or not they happened to work for him). Also, consider this point of view

Climate Change: The shift in our atmosphere causes countless taxes on organizations. Any business that struggled this winter due to stormsunderstands that this a very real cost, a tax that goes nowhere useful and one that creates countless uncertainties. As sea levels rise, entire cities will be threatened, another tax that makes it less likely that people will be able to buy from you.

The climate upredictability tax is large, and it’s going to get bigger, in erratic and unpredictable ways.

Decreasing carbon outputs and increasing energy efficiency are long-term investments in global wealth, wealth that translates into more revenue and more profit.

Anti-corruption movements: The only players who benefit from corruption in government are the actors willing to race to the bottom–the most corrupt organizations. Everyone else is forced to play along, but is unlikely to win. As a result, for most of us, efforts to create transparency and fairness in transactions are another step toward efficient and profitable engagements.

Historically, when cultures clean up their acts, get more efficient and take care of their people, businesses thrive. It’s not an accident, one causes the other.

In all three cases, there’s no political or left/right argument being made–instead, it’s the basic economics of a stable business environment with a more secure, higher-income workforce where technological innovation leads to lower energy costs and higher efficiency.