Sustainability Programs

Sustainable Handprint Teams

hand-print-partyMuch of the dialogue around issues of sustainable behavior that supports the creation of a healthy global environment focuses on the negative consequences of our current actions. Researchers are finding that instead of motivating individuals toward positive behavior change these negative oriented messages have often had the opposite effect of creating a sense of despair and hopelessness – a “why bother” attitude that limits positive change.

The concept of “Handprint Teams” seeks to leverage insights from environmental science and positive psychology to build social relationships that influence positive behavior change. The issue of reducing our global “footprint” is addressed by the formation of Handprint Teams which work together to build their collective “handprint” – the positive actions they can take to build a sustainable world. These Handprint Teams are initiated through “Handprint Parties” which help each member identify what they can do to contribute to the creation of a sustainable lifestyle. In essence, these teams are engaged in team-based process improvement for the planet.

The Handprint Parties create teams through a unique combination of online and in-person activities which leverage the social interactions that are necessary to make any long-lasting and sustained change possible. The groups are developed through applying social dynamics which create a safe container to catalyze the energy of the group for personal and social action. The collective handprints of the team provide a collective visibility of their planned activities which helps support and sustain on-going action.

Each Handprint Team is connected to an on-line system that calculates and tracks the impact of the actions identified. The power of the on-line system is that it allows for visual tracking and sharing of ideas. This visual tracking creates a social connection beyond the team itself to the larger community of Handprint Teams adding power and support to the individual and team initiatives.

Pinetree Institute is working with instructors of the long-running sustainability course and the University of New Hampshire and the creators of the Handprint Network approach based at the Harvard University School of Public Health to develop this initiative. The goal for 2014 is to development the overall framework, run a pilot team-based program and prepare the process for enlistment of initial groups by Fall of 2014.