Re-introducing Common Spark*: New topics, new purpose

Michelle's Wordle

Words from my Bush Fellowship Plan (2011)

Today, I re-introduce Common Spark* as a blog that explores community as the place, world, people that feed us, that give us energy, or that “spark”.  This blog will still cover energy and behavior change, but will also explore energy, what drives us, motivates us, and inspires us and our community.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my little blog here – for your hardy readers out there, still sticking with me…  I’ve been wondering how to keep something that began in 2011 relevant today after so many changes, turns, and new adventures!

In looking forward, it is always helpful to look backward too, so here I share some of my reflections of this blog and where we’re going next!

Why “Common Spark*“?  The “commons” are a symbol of community, shared identities, resources, and values.  “Spark” is a nice reference to energy.

Why I started Common Spark*:  In 2011, I was honored by being named a Bush Fellow of the Bush Foundation’s Leadership Fellowship program.  Through this fellowship, I endeavored to dig deeper into issues that are vital to MN communities and that are deeply important to me: energy and community, hence the name, Common Spark*.

Through this fellowship, I researched, provided trainings, and developed skills to promote and expand the use of community-based social marketing, as a way to leverage existing local resources to produces broad and lasting change in communities.

This blog was originally created to cover topics such as community-based social marketing, community, leadership, energy issues, and professional development.

In 2012, I moved out to the DC area and continued my journey into behavior change and energy issues, and in 2014, I even began consulting more formally on these topics.  It has been a truly rich and adventurous journey, and I thank the Bush Foundation and my supportive community (namely, MN CERTs) for the opportunity to grow in so many ways!

What is Common Spark* today?  My journey has taken some new turns since I began this blog.  While I still work in energy, and I’m even a stronger believer in community-led action for a more sustainable future, my work is now a blend of behavior change, policy development and implementation, management, and new energy issues, such as financing.  I’ve also developed (per recommendation of my Bush Fellowship) a strong wellness habit with running, yoga, and nutrition, and I see this directly impacting my leadership practice.  Lastly, I’ve enjoyed several work and leadership opportunities in the DC area since 2015 and have been challenged in new ways and learned so much about myself and my work.

A new mix of words, meaning, and ideas!

A new mix of words, meaning, and ideas!

I’m proposing that Common Spark* is now a venue for a broader range of topics that reflect a new scope of interests, activities, learning, and experience.  It is and will continue to be about community and how I want to continue to live and work in that context.  And it will still be about energy, in terms of energy issues (policy, infrastructure, behavior change), but also the things that energize…that which motivates, moves, inspires, and sustains.  Thanks for sticking with me as I “let loose” and unfold this new chapter!

– Michelle Vigen, July 2015

Everyone is doing more to save energy!

As I looked through my fellow fellows’ Monthly Reports, I realized I hadn’t fully documented some of my activities.  This post is a summary and “catch-up”.  And what I’ve found is a lot of care and energy around helping people over the hurdles of behavior change to live more energy-efficient and sustainable lives.  Everyone is doing more to save energy (but we need to do a whole lot more to show what everyone is doing!)  Here’s the latest… Continue reading

A Game-Changer: Construction company builds sustainability in their workplace

On Friday, I had a wonderful conversation with Kathy Kuntz from Cool Choices in Madison, WI, in which I learned about the success they have found with an energy efficiency game in a construction corporation.

Kathy and I connected a year ago after both attending the Fostering and Sustainable Behavior Workshop in Milwaukee, WI.  Since then, we have both been working on applying concepts of behavior change around energy.  Below are a few reflections on our conversation, some helpful findings, and valuable thoughts!

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Practicing leadership every 11 minutes

Why Small Interactions Matter (in the GALLUP Management Journal), interviews Douglas Conant, former CEO of the Campbell’s Soup Company about “touchpoints”.

Touchpoints are the small face-to-face encounters that make up our work day.  They appear to be “interruptions” – the unexpected phone call, a reminder, a “bopping in to say Hi!”, or a quick chat in passing.  And these touchpoints happen every 11 minutes on average (not counting when we interrupt ourselves).  That’s a significant part of our workday.

…The real work for leaders is in dealing with all those encounters in a productive way. How effective are you in those minutes with those interruptions, those phone calls, and in those conversations with someone in the hall who’s been meaning to talk to you or with someone you bump into on the plant floor who has a question for you? That’s the real work of leadership. What you make out of all those small everyday encounters defines your impact on your organization and ultimately, your reputation.

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