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I was driving home from the Niagara Sustainability Initiative (NSI)’s launch event, in January 2011, when I first fully came to grips with an important realization: while the past year of coaching NSI had been rewarding and exciting, it couldn’t continue on in such an ad-hoc way. At the time, I blogged about it here. This then led to a critical conversation with the Sustainable Waterloo Region Board, where I vividly remember Barry Colbert – SWR Board Chair – telling me: this isn’t a matter of “if” we share SWR’s approach to engaging businesses in setting targets to reduce their carbon impact, which we were in the midst of piloting in Waterloo Region through the Regional Carbon Initiative. Barry was clear; it’s a matter of “how” we do it because climate change isn’t a local challenge, and so solutions like ours need to be shared. Shortly after, we had secured some initial research funding and hired one of our long-time volunteers and previous interns to begin figuring this all out.

Fast-forward almost three years, and wow – am I ever excited to now be on the cusp of launching Sustainability CoLab, the network that has been formed to share the core approaches of the Regional Carbon Initiative.

Earlier this year I learned the extent to which various supporters are looking for more information about our plans to launch Sustainability CoLab: when the SWR Board began recruiting for a new Executive Director, we included a few sentences explaining that the reason for my transition was for me to lead Sustainability CoLab. And while this wasn’t meant to be the main announcement (rather starting to recruit a new Executive Director was!), the media and many in Waterloo Region picked up on the reference to CoLab and began asking questions to which answers weren’t yet available.

Well, now, after three years of learning: from communities interested in the model across the world; from other social entrepreneurs that have scaled social innovations of all kinds; from leaders across the spectrum of Canada’s environmental movement. After having been named an Ashoka Fellow for exactly this purpose. After over a dozen communities across Ontario alone have expressed interest in adapting the Regional Carbon Initiative for their community.

Finally – I have some exciting news to share: we’re ready to launch Sustainability CoLab.

We’re ready to scale this work across the province.

And all the details that I’ve been asked about – who’s on the Board? Where’s the funding coming from? Which communities will you be working with? The list goes on. All of it I will be able to share on Thursday January 16th, 2014.

Exactly four and a half years after launching Sustainable Waterloo Region. Just under 3 years after the trailblazing team at NSI launched The Carbon Project.

We’ll be at Artscape Wychwood Barns, and we’d be thrilled to have you join us for a celebration almost five years in the making.

Registration is complimentary though required, and available online here.

I hope to see you there, as we set off on the next leg of this journey and begin answering some questions we’ve been tossing back and forth since Barry pushed me to think bigger three years ago: could this idea work in other communities? And if so, what would be the impact of communities across Ontario working with business to set similar goals to reduce their carbon impact?

After years of talking about it, I’m beyond excited to begin answering these big questions.

Mike Morrice
Executive Director

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