Engaging Town and District Councils with an outcome of mutual respect write up by Paul Birch
Paul started with the story of Taunton Deane Borough Council who have been brilliant at adopting the Transition agenda. Paul and Chrissie (his wife) ran eleven workshops for the council a couple of years ago. Almost all staff attended as did half of the elected members. The output of these workshops is attached as a PDF. The structure of the workshop was a forty five minute talk on peak oil, climate change and local resilience followed by visioning a green future for Taunton Deane in 2026 (prompted by a series of provocation cards on various issues). The final part was people using post-it notes to say what they would do, what their communities needed to do and what the council could do in the short term to help create this longer term future.
There was a brief question on whether this approach used the triple bottom line approach. It didn’t get into that sort of detail
There was a question about the initial approach to the council and how it came about that we were taken seriously. There were two answers, one that we hit it off with the person we were meeting with (starting with a discussion about him playing the guitar) and secondly that we were a surprise in that we were both professionals who presented ourselves as well as the issues and weren’t the “tree huggers” he’d been expecting.
Ruah pointed out that in smaller communities this surprise might be difficult because the people going to the meeting would be known.
Armin spoke about the fact that local government in Germany were very keen to talk with Transition because they are running out of ideas and Transition is seen as a resource that can help. This has led to communities talking to each other.
Some ideas from the discussion
- Talk to the council at their level to generate trust and then help them to see the potential.
- These issues should be on the council’s corporate risk register. If they have one then the biggest risk is corporate social irresponsibility.
- Is there training in how to convince someone of the issues? The transition Network’s training in giving Transition talks was recommended.
- When presenting, go into any discussions in pairs so that you can support one another.
- Go in expecting the best outcome.
- Be interested in their concerns. Listening can be more important than talking.
- Find common ground.
- Offer support. Armin gave the example of the “200 families” project that involved giving 200 families support to help them cut carbon. Transition groups were able to offer events that helped e.g. films and training
- Where there are many different groups with some common agendas, how do we help them to share
- Masako talked about offering space to community groups to meet.
- Don’t major on the Transition name – it doesn’t matter who gets credit.
- Support existing groups and bring them together – be a facilitator, get them together.
- Taunton is intending to run courses in creating Digital Stories with a view to getting diverse groups to tell their stories. The idea is to collect stories about the positive things that are happening.
The final area of discussion was about Hull City Council. Seimens are probably going to set up a plant to build wind turbines. This is seen as the start of creating a green manufacturing hub. The question was, how do we get them also to focus on some of the smaller local issues. We had very little time to discuss this.
A final contribution from Ruah; in tours around their off-grid property, people often ask for advice on installing solar. Her husband always gives the advice that before installing it, first cut your total energy use by at least fifty percent.