Mike Thomas visits Powys networking day
By rob hopkins 26th June 2014
I was really happy to go to the county network for Powys Transition and Low Carbon Communities Network launch event on 29 March and hear about some great projects and meet some keen Transitioners in Powys. Powys in Transition was successful in gaining funding from the National Lottery through the PAVO’s Community Voice programme “One Powys Connecting Voices” to setup a regional network of local organisations involved in Transition or Low Carbon Communities within the Powys region. They have employed an administrator to help manage this process, who works one day a week and will be employed for five years.
As well as this the network has funds to offer member groups free places on Transition Training courses, organise annual county gatherings, provide promotional materials, help with resident opinion surveys and provide opportunities for sharing knowledge experience and resources.
I am really interested in Powys, as they are one of the areas of the UK where they are beginning to develop a regional network of groups. This model could be really beneficial to Transition groups as interconnectedness and peer support could enable groups to support each other. At the event you could see people were already chatting to each other and sharing experiences which is crucial to building strong networks.
The day itself was fascinating. I got to hear about many great projects. Renew Wales director Rob Procter told us about how they had got over 200 local community projects to begin to think about climate change and act to address it. They have done this through over 50 Peer Mentors and networks of like-minded groups and organisations. The project is based on bottom up action.
What I found really inspiring was the range of groups they had worked with, such as tenants groups, rugby clubs, faith groups and community councils amongst others. Through working with these groups they had setup Hydro power, community energy projects, community building improvements, food projects and much more.
We heard about a car share project in Llanidloes which was doing very well and helping lots of people to get around as well as reducing car use in general. Then we heard about community based renewable energy form Jeremy Thorp of Sharenergy. Finally before lunch we heard about the some great Permaculture work that Steve Jones had been doing in Wales and Liverpool that has engaged disadvantaged communities in food growing and much more.
Just before lunch there was a Powys Network AGM and election of officers and it was great to see people coming forward to sit on the Management Committee, this means that the network will have ownership and accountability to its members.
After a great lunch we had a World Cafe where people came up with their own topics and had meetings on them. I was there to host a space on how Transition Network could help a regional network and Transition Initiatives. During this session I heard about some great projects happening in Powys.
I also heard about the challenges that groups were facing such as energy poverty as lots of people not being able to afford energy now and the floods that have been occurring; concerns about the organisation of regional networks in terms of how a regional network register on the TN website; what type of constitution should a regional or county network have and the unique support needs that a regional network has compared to Transition Initiatives.
There were also questions about how can Transition groups monitor and evaluate their work so they know whether they are making a difference, how can groups keep up their momentum and issues of funding and developing shared visions.
Other workshops looked at different questions, such as how to communicate the latest facts on climate change to people in their communities; how food systems can be developed; how can volunteers be supported and how can community owned wind power and electric bikes be promoted. Out of these workshops came loads of great ideas on how to move things forward. This was a great example of the power of coming together to look at issues together, using a collective intelligence to discuss solutions.
At the end of the event was a Question Time style panel activity where all the speakers from the morning where quizzed on a variety of topics, before everyone headed off back to their hometowns having made some new connections, a greater understanding of the Powys Network and what it can do and hearing about some great projects.