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Badger Bioneers is the region’s foremost forum on sustainability and social innovation. This collaborative, invite-only event in Madison, Wisconsin explores emerging ideas and strategies for today's most pressing environmental and social challenges.

Badger Bioneers brings together a rich and diverse group of over 200 business, civic, academic, and community leaders who are actively engaged in sustainability and social change in their own capacities throughout the Madison Region. 

Our experience tells us that sustainability leaders have a wealth of untapped knowledge, success stories, and insight to share. Badger Bioneers is a platform for sustainability leaders to come together to share insights and experiences, to collaborate on new solutions and innovations, and to make connections in order to build their capacities to make a greater impact in our region and beyond.

Badger Bioneers 2013 Program Agenda

Distinguished Speaker Sessions Descriptions


"Driving Sustainability Innovation with Design Thinking"

with Tracy Brandenburg - Read Tracy's Bio

Today’s complex sustainability challenges beg for innovative and creative solutions. As cities, schools, and businesses look to a future of diminishing resources and growing demand, our standard operating procedures are no longer an option. We need a sustainable path forward.

This calls for innovation – and not just haphazard or spontaneous sparks of it. Rather, we can approach sustainability innovation as a fire that we ignite and continually fuel through a proven, systematic process – Design Thinking.

In this special session, anthropologist and design thinking coach Tracy Brandenburg will take participants on a highly interactive and collaborative tour de innovation. Tracy will introduce the key principles and real-world potential of Design Thinking, including how to mindfully observe situations and interactions to uncover real challenges, not just reported ones, and how to use prototyping to advance an idea into a viable solution. Working on real-world sustainability challenges, participants will employ Design Thinking methods in a highly collaborative setting so that they can begin to work towards real solutions.

What is Design Thinking?

Design Thinking is a highly adaptable, process-oriented protocol that designers use to systematically innovate and to discover new opportunities.
According to IDEO CEO Tim Brown, “It is a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.”

Additional Resources - 

Check out our recommendations for books, videos, and articles on design thinking.


“Communicating to Inspire Change and Sustainability”

with Bret Shaw, PhD - Read Bret's Bio

Do you ever feel like you’re talking to a wall trying to move your colleagues, companions, or customers towards more sustainable behaviors? You’re not alone. Research shows that awareness and knowledge alone often do not lead to behavior change, which may help to such explain paradoxes as a chain-smoking doctor.

As a sustainability champion, you must be able to communicate within your sphere of influence in ways that inspire your peers to take action and make lasting behavioral changes.

In this insightful keynote presentation, UW-Madison professor and environmental communication specialist, Bret Shaw, will share his research on strategic communication and social marketing for behavior change. Participants will discover what techniques and best practices will help them to more effectively bring about change within their organizations. Participants will take away tools and tips that can be readily applied in any organizational setting and environmental behavior change campaign.

Additional Resources - 
  "Sustainability is dead: it's time to change the way we talk about sustainability," Peggy Liu, ENSIA


“Aligning Stakeholders’ Values to Your Vision”

with Michael Washburn, PhD - Read Michael's Bio

Changes to our existing social systems, however innovative and sustainable, are disruptive to our norms. The greater the change, the more disruptive. Whether you are trying to introduce garden produce in your cafeteria or convert your fleet to hybrid vehicles, you must be able to align your stakeholders to your vision by communicating in ways that resonate strongly with their own values and visions.

It’s no small task, and it’s one that Michael Washburn knows well. In the past few years, Michael has taken on an ambitious effort to drastically change – and drastically improve – our public recycling systems in the U.S. by shifting responsibilities and incentives towards the private sector. This effort requires Michael to align a diverse group of stakeholders, including major private corporations, local and state governments, environmental and activist organizations, and individual consumers.

In this captivating tale of large-scale social change, Michael Washburn will share his insights and experiences in working to communicate for buy-in and to strategically align stakeholders with starkly different priorities to a common vision. Participants will be challenged to analyze their own priorities and values as stakeholders, and they will learn how to reach other stakeholders within their organizations through peer-to-peer engagement.

Additional Resources - 

"EXECUTIVE PERSPECTIVE: U.S. recycling not meeting industry demand: Here’s how to fix it," Michael Washburn, Thomson Reuters, 2013


About the 2013 Program

Badger Bioneers 2013 aims to be more collaborative and engaged than ever before. This year, Badger Bioneers puts the audience on stage New in 2013, we have abandoned theatre-style seating, opting for small round tables of 6 to 8 participants. A trained student faciliator will be assigned to one or two tables to lead discussions, activities, and assist with the overall event.

A special thanks to Jim Lorman and Kathryne Auerback, Edgewood College Sustainability Leadership Graduate Program, and Terry Ross, Sustainable Business Instructor, Madison College for their assistance in presenting the facilitation opportunity to their students, and to Craig Benson and Sabrina Bradshaw at the UW Office of Sustainability for coordinating and sponsoring the student facilitators and their training.

The student facilitators will receive professional facilitator training from Darin Harris. In addition, Darin is assisting Sustain Dane with the "design" of the event. He is a longtime supporter and organizer of the Badger Bioneers Conference.

About Darin Harris

Darin works as a consultant and facilitator at the UW-Madison Office of Quality Improvement delivering services in strategic planning, meeting management, project management, and process improvement. Since joining OQI in 2004, he has worked with dozens of academic departments and administrative units to achieve optimum results. He approaches each organization from a systems perspective, taking into account how processes, people, and content interrelate. Darin emphasizes practical, concrete methods of implementation and change so that great ideas can be turned into sustained action. In 2007, he teamed with FacilitatorU to create a comprehensive, week-long facilitator certification program that has drawn participants from across the US and Canada. Before coming to OQI, Darin spent 10 years as a policy facilitator, conflict resolution specialist, and organizational consultant for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. He is an alumnus of UW-Madison and enjoys exploring Madison's rich community with his wife and two children.