I help people to be at their very best within organizations and communities by inspiring new relationships and connections to place.
Helping Groups to Transform
Organizations and coalitions come to me seeking help in transforming their practices toward deeper community engagement. I help organizations to understand why this is important, to discern between what may be authentic and strategic, what structural changes may be needed, and on occasion I act as a trusted ambassador bringing an organization together with parts of its community to create new relationships and understanding. Read here about my work with collaborators in North Carolina.
I help organizations to succeed and innovate be living more closely to their vision and values. Watch the video below about my work in coastal California.
I use story to help groups understand the dominant and often unspoken narrative of their organization that likely needs to evolve before the organization can become something different.
I help organizations to succeed and innovate by living more closely to their vision and values.
I believe in the power of personal narrative
I help others to find their voice
Working with the Ruth Mott Foundation, I helped former General Motors assembly line workers to find and express a new story about their home of Flint, Michigan. For the Chicago Botanic Museum and The Center for Humans and Nature, I worked with their conference speakers to find the most powerful story that connected all their presentations and most compellingly addressed the role of people in nature. See what Gavin Van Horn has to say about that event.
I share my voice
Many things about the relationship between people and the land have inspired me to speak. I have chosen to use my voice and my art of photography to speak up about our human relatiionship to land, about what is true wealth, and what it means to work together to create healthy, whole communities. I’ve given over 100 keynote addresses at major national and regional events in 25 states including at Fire and Grit, Bioneers, Etown, The National Land Conservation Rally, River Rally, and the Quivira Coalition. I’ve shared the stage with some of the people who have inspired me the most: Wendell Berry, Sarah James, Dana Meadows, John Francis, Michael Pollan, Scott Russell Sanders, and Peter Matthiessen.
I’m grateful to have been called at important moments to give voice to a situation. I gave a eulogy for Buzzards Bay after the oil spill, I spoke to 1,800 conservationists about the role of land in a civil society ten days after the twin towers came down, I’ve closed conferences with impromptu spoken word poems, and I was asked by a community in Washington to help them think together about generosity and gratitude during their worst economic moment. I’ve shared what matters most to me with hundreds of loggers in Tennessee, with classes of third graders in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and with thousands of Gandhi activists in the cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. I’ve been called upon to honor the lives of my teachers: Dana Meadows, Helen and Scott Nearing, Bill Coperthwaite, and Rachel Carson.
I have led with ideas
Through my writing, teaching, the organizations I've created and worked at, and the life choices I've made, I've endeavored for almost three decades to re-imagine conservation as being about nururing relationships between people and between people and place. I believe we will never durably protect the earth and other species of life until we discover and hold better relationships between people. I have, therefore, focused hard on issues of race, power and priviledge because these forces are the origins of our destruction of the planet. I have worked with others for decades to foster community conservation, as a parallel to conservation biology, to better understand the habitat and the ethics we humans need to produce a healthy, sustaining culture.
I have helped the field of leadership development to understand the role of contemplative practices and personal creativity to making social change. I have helped to remind thousands about the role of land and nature in their development as leaders and in their capacity to create the conditions for diverse people to work togther and to make lasting change.
I have helped thousands of environmental and social justice advocates to better understand the role of story in personal, collective and national transformation.
With many others, I have made a compelling case for collective action across sectors, and I've created the curriculum and the context where leaders can actually taste and feel what wholeness is.
I believe in the power of personal narrative.
Bringing ideas into form and reality
Once I helped to create a village
Working with Dana Meadows and others, I did the real estate transactions and helped conceive of the legal structures (though I’m not a lawyer) that enabled Cobb Hill Cohousing to come into being.
Another time I co-created a community
Working with Bill Coperthwaite and five other families, we co-created an intergenerational transfer of property and knowledge to create a homesteading community in Maine that supports the development of all of our lives while honoring the work of our elder.
Many times I’ve been trusted to co-create organizations
Helen Nearing asked for my help to create The Good Life Center to continue her and Scott’s life work after their deaths. I was on the founding board of Center for New American Dream. I’ve started two for profit businesses including our family farm. And with my wife and a board of directors, I co-founded Center for Whole Communities.
I’m a trusted partner in the co-creation of books, curriculum, conferences, and events that inspire and transform
I’ve co-edited three books, produced more than 100 curricula for seminars, workshops and public events. I’ve work equally well behind the scenes and at the front of the stage.
My goal is co-creation: collaborating with others to bring ideas and potential into form and reality.