Micheal O'Loughlin

We came to New England - Armidale nearly 8 years ago after I had left working in Newcastle industry, helping to build team based, Learning Organisations. We had spent a year renewing ourselves in the Channon Valley Rainforest above Terrania Creek of the Bundjalung people, re-thinking what to do next. That stay taught us a lot about rainforest communities.

Coming to Armidale allowed us to give 3 of our youngest ones a good secondary education and for my wife Sue and I, a chance to research what we never had time for before and to get our PhD's at UNE. I reckon when you turn 50 you need to do something for yourself that we delay while raising a family of 5 and working.

I've been very lucky to have a chance to do some action research around a new collaborative approach to planning and catalyzing sustainable regions and enterprises (co-design) which, we employed in the concept and brand development work for the Waterfall Way Track ecotourism initiative between New England and the Bellingen - Coffs Coast. I've also been lucky to work with our then Northern Tablelands Lands Council in their regional planning - 'shaking hands' project which taught me a lot about this adopted 'country' that seems to have 'dreamt' and 'sung me up' into coming here.

A few of us came together recently to establish our social enterprise think-tank Evolveris to further this work of supporting sustainable regional communities. We are now working in this region but also in the Pacific and next Africa. We are interested in using new ways of 'thinking' (systems, design thinking), ways of 'seeing' (regional communities as complex co-evolving social, cultural, environmental & economic systems), new ways of 'knowing' (synergising local place, scientific, intuitive and Indigenous knowledge) and new ways of 'being' to enable sustainable futures. We feel we need this type of cultural re-thinking and transformation to help us re-design and re-story sustainable regions as a way of 'acting local and global together'.

It's a long way from my birthplace of Bondi Beach and my peoples' first settling in Wiradjuri country in the south-west slopes of NSW and then the coal mines of the Hunter valley. We like it here because of the cultural diversity and also because it a beautiful place we want to be sustainable into the long term for our great, great granddaughters to come.


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