Saturday, February 16, 2013

Energy, Caring, and Lots of Ideas at Bainbridge Graudate [Graduate] Institute Intensive

IslandWood Welcome Center
I got invited to the Bainbridge Graduate Institute intensive yesterday and today.  This is a small private school founded by Libba and Gifford Pinchot.  When I asked Gifford today how they came to this ambitious project, he said it happened after 9/11.  He had a meeting scheduled in the World Trade Center on 9/12.  His wife was somewhere on the Amazon on 9/11 and it took some time for her to find out he was ok.  After that they decided to do something meaningful and important.

I've been hearing about BGI because my son-in-law teaches there (which is how I got an invite.)  Underlying this all is a strong belief that people going into business today must have a strong sense of how the business affects the environment, their employees, their clients and a list of other things.  I also got the sense that these students are more likely to end up starting their own businesses rather than be looking for someone to hire them.

From the BGI Website:

BGI began an industry movement by offering the first MBA in Sustainable Business.
Our founders created the Bainbridge Graduate Institute to develop business solutions for the world’s most pressing challenges. BGI’s MBA and Certificate programs are specifically designed to integrate sustainability—environmentally and socially responsible practices—with traditional business education so that you can harness the power of business for good in the world.
Innovation is fundamental to the BGI spirit. Our community’s collective intelligence and energy drive industry breakthroughs that advance sustainability across the globe. Your BGI education introduces you to a dynamic community of change agents—industry pioneers, world-class faculty, business-leading alumni and talented peers—who are working together to change business for good.
Our graduates lead the evolution of business by developing their own successful ventures, guiding established companies and organizations towards more sustainable futures, and bringing sustainable practices to the greater business community. Join our community of business leaders, and you will learn how to create profitable solutions for a better world."

 This was a class on Entrepreneurship and each of the students is developing a business plan for an organization they are creating.  They'd gotten the lecture beforehand online and the class time was spent working on their projects and presenting where they were to the others in the class.  Lots of interesting idea, good exchange, and enthusiasm.  Clearly these students have a goal in mind and the class is helping them get there.

The intensive is Thursday afternoon, Friday, and Saturday at IslandWood - a beautiful and very environmentally correct (they even have composting toilets) conference/education center type place in the middle of a forest on Bainbridge Island.  The focus this weekend is

Sustainable Food and Agriculture Systems: Feeding Our Passions

Currently, the world’s population stands at over 7 billion and counting.  It is no small feat to determine ways to feed our expanding population using sustainable practices. One of the key messages from the United Nations 2012 State of Food and Agriculture Report is “Investing in agriculture is one of the most effective strategies for reducing poverty and hunger and promoting sustainability.”
February’s theme, Sustainable Food and Agriculture Systems, will spotlight the important areas where work is being done to solve local and global food issues, as well as focus on others where we still need to innovate and design solutions that will allow all people to thrive.

The evening featured a panel discussion with some of the visiting faculty and moderated by Board Chair Pinchot (second from the left.)  The others, starting on the left (using the bios from the website) were:

Tim Crews is broadly interested in what agriculture can learn from the prairie or forest about sustainability. Tim’s current research focuses on reducing and eliminating dependence on synthetic fertilizers in perennial agriculture. For 18 years prior to coming to The Land Institute in September 2012, Tim was a Professor of Environmental Studies and Agroecology at Prescott College in Arizona. He was a visiting researcher in Australia with CSIRO in 2002 and with Rothamsted Research in the U.K in 2009. Tim received his Ph.D. from Cornell University in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and was an Ecology post-doc fellow at Stanford University before taking his faculty position at Prescott.

Carol Sanford has been leading major consulting change efforts in both Fortune 500 and new economy businesses for more than 30 years. Her client list includes long-term relationships with Colgate Europe and Africa; DuPont Canada, US, Asia and Europe. She also works with new economy companies like Intel, Agilent and leaders of corporate responsibility such as Seventh Generation. In addition, Carol is a judge and mentor for University of Washington Global Business Center Social Entrepreneur Competition in Seattle.

She combines her economic development experience with her extensive business education and background when working with Responsible Governance in Community, Provincial and Regional Policy and Education. Carol has published dozens of works in 10 languages, including a series of articles in Executive Excellence, Stephen Covey’s newsletter and At Work, a Berrett-Koehler Journal. Her book, The Responsible Business: Re-imagining Sustainability and Success, was published in February 2011.

Frederick Kirschenmann is a longtime national and international sustainable agriculture leader. He served as the Leopold Center‘s second director from July 2000 to November 2005, when he was named a Distinguished Fellow. He joined the board of the Stone Barns Center in 2004 and was elected president in 2007. In January 2008, he assumed a half-time appointment at Stone Barns, dividing his time between Iowa and New York, to explore ways that rural and urban communities can work together to develop a more resilient, sustainable agriculture and food system. He has held numerous appointments, including the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board and the National Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production operated by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and funded by Pew Charitable Trusts.
Upon his return to North Dakota in 1976, he converted his family’s 2,600-acre farm in south central North Dakota to a certified organic operation. He has developed a diverse crop rotation that has enabled him to farm productively without the synthetic inputs of fertilizers and pesticide, while simultaneously improving the health of the soil. Kirschenmann’s farm has been featured in National Geographic, Business Week, Audubon, the LA Times and Gourmet magazine.
As you can imagine, the discussion was full of challenging ideas.  Tim raised more issues I hadn't heard about before like the life cycle of soil including his study of the soils of the Hawaiian Islands which range from some of the youngest to some of the oldest on earth.  The rapid depletion of Phosphorous because of our agricultural practices also came up as did his current work in developing perennial agriculture crops in Kansas.  As I understood it, getting perennial crops preserves the soil better than planting new wheat or sorghum crops each year.  Fred added that there is no one solution.  That going all organic or all vegan would have problems too.  And the incentive systems for agribusiness do not lead them to doing what's good for the soil or the rest of the environment.

Gifford has a little Charlie Rose in him as he asked probing questions of the panelists.

Today I spent time in Carol's class and I'll try to put something up on that later. [Later: There are two posts. The first one on Carol has a link to the second.] It got my brain rocking as a lot of her ideas overlap things I'm working on, but with a twist. 

In case anyone is thinking the name Gifford Pinchot is familiar, yes, Gifford is the grandson of the man who played a huge role in US conservation, including playing a major part in creating the Chugach National Forest in Alaska.  There's quite a bit about him in Charles Wohlforth's The Fate of Nature


  1. The elder Pinchot set the stage for so much.

    Good to see the grandson is continuing to pursue good works.

  2. Anon, thanks for leaving a comment. It must be quite a burden bearing a famous name and living up to expectations you may or may not share. It also can have many advantages, I'm sure.

  3. Graudate Institute? What's a graudate?

  4. I think it's when you take a senior to a German movie.


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