Integration is the Synthesis Consultants hallmark. Without tangible improvement in environmental, social and economic outcomes, an endeavor is hard pressed to describe itself as sustainable. Fundamental change requires a systemic approach. This in turn requires a deep understanding of context, drivers, and leverage points. Synthesis couples this systems perspective with a design-focused framework: everything that humans create has a design component, whether physical artifact, organizational structure, or program for action. Good design is predicated on research, clarity of goals, and an inclusive process. Ignoring this risks increased liability and other failures stemming from unintended consequences.
Synthesis applies an integrative design approach to all of its work product areas:
- Research + writing. Deep research facilitates proper development and informed design of sustainability initiatives. Effective communication to stakeholders requires a thorough understanding of the worldview and motivations of the target audience. Writing rich in defensible, fact-based information delivered in digestible bits is a Synthesis Consultants staple.
- Curriculum development. Education is central for sustainability efforts. Synthesis Consultants approaches curriculum development from a broader than typical perspective, encouraging the creation of a holistic plan for curriculum development and deployment. Our preferred approach to curriculum development employs the tenets of Community Based Social Marketing, recognizing that a successful education program must result in action and behavior change by attendees.
- Training + education. A self-described green building nerd, Thor combines technical knowledge of sustainability concepts and practices with a demonstrable passion for the topic that engages and inspires attendees. Using a mix of presentation, Q+A sessions, brief quizzes, student-led learning, and individual and group exercises, Thor activates various learning styles and enhances attendee information retention. Eliciting information on student knowledge level at the beginning of (or, ideally, prior to) the session, Thor aims to meet students where they currently are and then encourages quick advancement along the learning curve.
- Strategic planning + process facilitation. Sustainability is as much a process as an endpoint. Adopting the perspective that sustainable programs and processes must be as thoughtfully designed as sustainable buildings, Thor employs classic design charrette elements to organizational strategic planning efforts. Believing that once the proper participants are brought to the table the main task becomes harnessing collective knowledge, Thor sees his job as creating the right environment for a rich exchange of ideas and rapid arrival at a shared vision or solution. Employee and volunteer time is a scarce and valuable resource: make every meeting a working meeting, with tangible deliverables.
- Project management. The classic time-quality-cost triangle becomes more nuanced when viewed through the sustainability lens. Cost to whom? Over what time frame? Using what discounting principles? How is quality defined and measured? Sustainability projects are by nature more complex, and up-front investments yield dividends both during the development and deployment stages. Communication is central, yet can be challenged by the emphasis on stakeholder engagement and the potential geographic dispersal of teams. Online collaborative workspaces, well-structured teams and task forces with identified champions, and well-prepared in person facilitated working meetings are all tools in the sustainable project management toolbox.