Gillian Martin Mehers

Managing Director and Head of Learning, Bright Green Learning@Atadore SARL
Crans-Pres-Celigny, Switzerland

About Gillian


Gillian is a learning practitioner, sustainability advocate, student of productivity, and avid blogger. For over 20 years, she has worked across the various social platforms to help the sustainability community engage with more considered learning processes. Since 2006, she has blogged ( actively about her work in informal and formal learning within different environment and development organizations. From her previous position as Head of Learning at the International Union of Conservation of Nature (the oldest and largest global conservation network) to her current one as founder of the social micro-enterprise Bright Green Learning, she helps organizations increase their resilience and leverage their impact through learning. Gillian also serves as Co-President of the Balaton Group, a cross-disciplinary, multi-cultural and inter-generational network of researchers and practitioners in fields related to systems and sustainability which was founded in 1982 by Dennis and Donella Meadows—co-authors of the ground-breaking book "The Limits to Growth". This is an important community for her, and one to which she has actively contributed for over 15 years. Previous work affiliations include: Director of Capacity Development at LEAD International (Leadership for Environment and Development - London), Programme Manager at the International Academy of the Environment (Geneva), and Environment Specialist, International Labour Office (United Nations Geneva). Gillian is also a Certified Professional Facilitator.


English, French

TED Conferences

TEDGlobal 2014, TEDGlobal 2013, TEDGlobal 2012, TEDGlobal 2011, TEDGlobal 2010

Areas of Expertise

leadership development, Systems Thinking, Sustainable Development, Learning and Development, blogging and social media, Process Facilitation, informal learning, Intercultural Communication

An idea worth spreading

How can we change the way people look at growth and consumption issues? How can we generate enthusiasm and creativity around notions of sufficiency in material goods, yet drive growth in areas like personal development, learning, and community engagement? I believe that people have a genuine desire to better themselves. And I think that in the past betterment has been primarily defined in economic terms. For many of our global citizens, this is an absolutely valid interpretation. However, for others, those with better access to resources, there are opportunities to broaden this definition of betterment. I would like to champion "learning" as an option for attaining those feelings of satisfaction/achievement/competition. In the final chapter of Limits to Growth "Tools for the Transition to Sustainability" the authors talk about visioning, networking, truth-telling, learning and loving - and perhaps in these areas there are no limits to growth.

I'm passionate about

Sustainable development, informal learning, my blog, web2.0, working with others, communities of practice, cool new facilitation techniques, games, systems thinking, & my family -but not in that order

Talk to me about

New models for learning; Social media applications for the sustainability community; and how business will become both social, and socially responsable in the next 5 years.

People don't know I'm good at

I grew up in a rural area so I am very good at self-sufficiency things like fishing and foraging, as well as vegetable growing and chicken raising.

Favorite talks

Comments & conversations

Gillian Martin Mehers
Posted about 4 years ago
I want to see the adult equivalent to Girl Scout badges. After sufficiency, how can personal development replace capital development?
You're right Philipp that we do have some adult-badges today, and people do put the ones you mention above in various places (business cards, name tags/plates, CVs) and indeed they are hard to come by for many people. In some cases, these badges give people an idea of what you "know" and perhaps not always what you can "do" (except for some technical/medical fields). They do exclude people who have qualifications, skills or knowledge derived from informal learning, and more service-related abilities. I guess the origins of some people's names, way back when, were a kind of badge which indicated what they could do - Weaver, Smith, Gardener, etc., and today it would be interesting to see how many different things people could do, as we get better and better at multi-tasking, changing our jobs, and learning and relearning things all our lives. Making all that visible and something that would incentivise learning (instead of getting a new boat) would be very interesting.
Gillian Martin Mehers
Posted about 4 years ago
I want to see the adult equivalent to Girl Scout badges. After sufficiency, how can personal development replace capital development?
I think you are right, Scott, with the nod to diversity of ways to engage in this issue (effectively about consumption). It is interesting to think about why people buy things. Some people might not be as concerned with materials possessions, but someone must be (if you go into one of these enormous big box stores you see floor to ceiling goods - and then realise that this is just one of hundreds/thousands of stores like this.) Probably there are many individual answers to this question. Just to go back to Tim Jackson (since I linked to his talk) in another presentation he made where I asked this, he questioned greed as the primary driver. People may instead buy things to gain a place in the community. Tim drew on Adam Smith's linen shirt example and spoke about the life without shame and the symbolic function of materials good and the importance of these commodities in our lives. So if buying is linked to participation and placement in the community (like keeping up with the Jones') then individual learning may not be as good a replacement as, say, community learning. Could this help people find their place (and minimize their need for stuff?) There are many examples of social "experiments" in intentional communities, local currencies, community agriculture schemes, which may better connect individual learning, through community learning, with sustainable development goals. In small communities, people might know what you know (although it is often surprising how little you can still know about your neighbours) and can do to contribute to the overall well being of the community. However, I still like the badges idea, or something like that, as anyone could merit them - children, youth, adults. And if you were a newcomer it would immediately help people understand your contribution, and you to see the resources available around your new home. Just a thought.