Andrew Gaines

ABOUT ANDREW

Andrew Gaines is the instigator of the Great Transition Initiative, a citizen-led educational movement to inspire thoughtful mainstream commitment to doing everything required to transition to a life-affirming global culture.

His professional background is as a Feldenkrais practitioner, creativity trainer and psychotherapist. He studied philosophy and engineering at Princeton University. He trained in The Natural Step principles of environmental sustainability, and also trained in creative thinking modalities including MG Taylor’s DesignShops, Synectics, and improvisational acting.

Andrew has applied insights into the neurology of improving human performance to creativity, personal development, and large-scale social change.

Andrew was a principal organizer of the Creative thinking forum on transitioning to a viable society in Sydney (2010) and the National Summit on whole system change in Geelong (2011).

Andrew is a Board member of Be The Change Australia, and a Fellow of the RSA (Royal Society of Arts, Industry and Commerce).

His books include Creative Conversations, The Witness: Gateway to self-development, and Kitchen Table Conversations.

MY STORY

I went through a personal epiphany whereby I became committed to the well-being of coming generations. I shifted from being a pessimistic idealist who knew all the trouble the world to being a committed optimist.

For a long time I didn’t know what to do with this commitment. However, I became an associate of EcoSTEPS, a sustainability consulting group in Sydney. This led me to train in The Natural Step principles of environmental sustainability.

During my training I heard the term corporate social responsibility. The phrase was new to me; I thought it was probably important. When I thought through what I thought it should mean, I concluded that CSR should mean corporations taking responsibility for transitioning to an environmentally sustainable society, given the rate of environmental degradation that was going on.

As you might guess, this is not what I found. And indeed, I found very few people talking about the transformative systems changes needed for humanity to stop ramping up fossil fuel emissions and other environmental damage. And the individuals and groups that were talking about systems change had no model for engaging the general populace. So this became my challenge: catalysing an educational movement that will become so influential that we would change the operating character of our global civilisation, and live well in planetary boundaries.

I developed a straightforward way of enabling people to grasp the ‘whole system changes’ that are necessary. I explain this in my article Understanding Whole System Change.

So far so good, but I was still faced with the challenge of how do we reach the general populace? I think the big unmet challenge for the entire environmental/progressive movement is how to engage people who do not seek out information about environmental and social trends. How do we inspire a critical mass of us to commits to transformational change?

I recognized that there are millions of groups that work on various aspects of environmental and social well-being. It seemed to me (stimulated by Joanna Macy) that we can make common cause through the overarching goal of transitioning to a life-affirming global culture, rather than continuing on our present course of ecological self-destruction.

And it occurred to me that the members of these groups, who often mostly pay dues and sign petitions, are a hugely underutilized resource for healthy social change. What if we lifted our game and became citizen educators/thought catalysts communicating with our friends, business colleagues and the general public about transitioning to a life affirming global culture? Then we would have a way of bypassing mainstream media and stimulating the thinking necessary to turn things around.

The combined personal and social networks of members of the environmental-progressive movement is huge. We reach into every level of society. Taken to scale, we could affect mainstream consciousness far more powerfully than we may ever imagined possible.

So my design for reaching ‘the mainstream’ – which includes our friends, business colleagues and larger networks – is for as many groups and their members as possible to communicate with their networks about transitioning to a life sustaining society. The approach is described in Applying Design Thinking to Large-Scale Social Change.

There is a phrase: to change the system, change the thinking. I developed Kitchen Table Conversations as a tool to enable people to move from silo thinking to systems thinking, and to grasp the core operating values of a healthy society.