Recently I had the privilege of spending a few days working with Hong Kong government officials to improve how they interact with and involve the public on projects. I was asked to design and deliver a training program about public participation in environmental impact assessment. I did that. And I also had the opportunity to share the attitudes, behaviours and ways of being that make our relationships and communities stronger and more vibrant.
I’ve worked around the globe, most of the time in western democracies. Until now, I’ve never worked in Asia. Culturally and socially, this was an enormous opportunity for me to learn about the experiences, challenges and successes of others, and to share my experiences, lessons learned and best practices.
Here are some highlights:
- All human beings want the same things in the end. Safety, a better life for their children, a clean environment, a home, to be treated with respect etc. It doesn’t matter your culture, geography or the system of governance you live under, some things are universal.
- Doing good work you can be proud of, and making a contribution to the world matters to all of us. The effort, energy and time required to thoughtfully complete a task reflects a sense of personal accomplishment and credibility.
- Finding a way through the maze of human reactions, responses and concerns is something we all want to accomplish. No one wants to be mired or sidelined by conflict, controversy or opposition. We all have a deep desire to be seen as credible, trustworthy and responsive, and we each want tools and ideas to address the anger or opposition we face when trying to make positive change in our organizations and communities.
- The values of respect and consideration run deep. Those values enable people to come together to find common ground and alignment, and ultimately to make better long-term decisions that reflect the values of the communities and public they serve. Your geography and political system are only context for the motivation to respect and be respected, and to find common ground with others.
- We all struggle with the tensions of addressing the concerns of the public, and the needs of our organizations. How do we find the middle ground? How do we balance divergent views?
- Personally, we all strive to learn more, stretch our skills and knowledge, and be more open, caring and responsive.
It is in the attitudes and behaviours of how we show up that we make the biggest difference in this work and in the world. If you want to be seen as trustworthy, then you have to care, be committed and thoughtful.
These are ways of being that go far beyond your ability to share information or plan a project. In the end it is how you show up that matters.
I live in Canada, and this group of colleagues live in Hong Kong, and our geography, political environment, social norms, and culture are different. Our humanity, values, commitment and care about building stronger communities and improved long-term decisions are what connects us. I’m looking forward to my next trip to Hong Kong, and to continued learning, sharing and connection.