So with the ordering of Hotpress #5 here in Buenos Aires and the departure of two-thirds of the core team of Waste for Life, a natural ending and celebration point has been reached. We are thrilled with the progress we have made so far. But we don’t have long to sit back and relax, because the press is now being built and is officially on its way to the Nueva Mente co-operative. So after a few days of transitioning, planning and house-keeping, now it’s time to start in earnest on this next phase of implementation. Though we really have accomplished a lot, in some ways it feels like going back to the beginning!
We have learned that at least initially, some local youth will be working on the Hotpress. While this takes the project in a slightly different direction than we had pictured (having only ever really considered working with adults before), we are really excited about the profound possibilities for learning, mentorship, creativity and general inspiration. As a seasoned ‘change agent’ from my previous career as a Continuous Improvement/Sigma Leader I (Erica) have been turning my thoughts toward how we can accelerate the acceptance and adoption of this new Hotpress machine within the co-operative. We want them to feel that this press is theirs – not a random gift being thrown at them by some nice northerners. We want them to know that this press has been designed and built to provide them with an opportunity. That opportunity will only benefit them if they embrace it, and they will only embrace it if they want to. They will only want to if… well, that part I don’t really know. It remains to be seen what obstacles are in the way there… but whatever they are that’s where my job comes in.
What will be most rewarding and inspiring to them? How can I act out my responsibility to protect and provide adequate support while still letting go enough to let them chart their own course? What will sustain their efforts and give them hope even when things go wrong, or the first products they produce don’t look like the picture-perfect prototypes we have been showing them? Of course I am principally concerned about the physical safety of all those involved; I have informally adopted the medical ethics maxim about ‘first, do no harm’, so we’ll be paying attention very closely to the possible safety issues with using the press. Like my mother’s very superstitious Irish grandmother, I am seeing potential for injury everywhere. Burns from the hot aluminum coming out of the press! Cuts from the exacto knives! Passing pizza across the table could poke somebody’s eye out! That kind of thing.
Fact is, it’s impossible for us to eliminate risk completely, but we can substantially reduce it if we plan for it and act responsibly. Safety is one way that we can all care for each other, look out for one another together. Once we have the safety fundamentals established in this little manufacturing organization we are evolving out of the membership of this recycling co-op, we can move on to other important things like quality and efficiency and branching out artistically. I am heartened by the presence of a great support network here in Buenos Aires – from the university, the artistic community, and the NGO Abuela Naturaleza – as we face each challenge one-by-one in making this project work. I have seldom in my life felt as honoured as I do now to be part of this process.