I arrived in the rain at Hope University
for the Northwest meet-up
. A bit late, everyone’s in a circle introducing themselves (approx 25 people). Michelle, the only person who would volunteer to organise such an event(!) suggested we have a few small group discussions (world cafe style
). We started off talking about what was going well in our different groups. Lots of inspiring stories, including Lancaster who are setting up a community interest company to manage finance and employment, and Bolton
who have just had a meeting, co-organised with the local college where 22 local organisations joined in. They made cards with words such as energy, food... and asked each group to take cards which were appropriate to their activities – then used these as conversation starters in small groups – a great way of engaging diverse groups and starting conversations. Another great example from Bolton was a kitchen in a high street shop. They had received lottery funding, and were located between veg shops – it regularly attracts a multi-cultural group – Somali, w. Indian, Pakistani.
We then moved into new groups to meet new people and discussed problems/challenges and other issues. Some groups had experienced difficulty communication with councils – eg one of us felt that their council were coming to realise that some of their economic plans aren’t going to work out. The economy isn’t going to recover the way it was. Also councillors had strong business interests; prioritising roads, supermarkets, football...
Other groups had positive reports about the council. Lancaster has several Green Party councillors and these are supportive of transition projects. At my local Transition Village Eastham and Bromborough
two of our local councillors are regular attenders at meetings. Talking about meetings – this was another problem. Too many people are put off at the prospect of 2hr meetings, particularly when you consider the ratio of meeting time to activity ‘doing things’ time (sometimes more than 1:1). It was suggested that activities could include talk, for example at a community orchard, talking could be done whilst working on the trees.
I was asking others how to really get our community projects out into ‘community’. We have received funding for a small healthy food growing project (from council and housing association). So we’re keen on getting going and getting people involved – and due to the funding we need to get this done and evaluated! This need to get things done and have visible outcomes came up a few times too. Several people suggested that slow and gradual was better than fast and burning-out. That maybe if nothing seems to be happening, it may still be smouldering under the surface. However this doesn’t usually fit with funding routes... but maybe we should also be challenging the status quo of funding structures...?
Final discussions were about links with other groups – virtual networks or real networks... There was no consensus on twitter, facebook, ning or googlegroups, so we ended up with the usual email list on a piece of paper... Although we did all say we’d try to get onto the North West Ning
We all agreed that we would like to continue the conversations, with future visits to exciting projects, and networks. We’d like to continue discussions around advice and guidance, and highlight stuff that’s working. There was a concern about burn-out and advice to be confident about asking for help.
Thanks to Michelle for organising and Dinah for tea and coffee, then we quickly dispersed to go and register for the conference!by Neil Chadborn