Category Archives: Collaboration

Anything here which links people together to work towards a greener way of life

A common purpose

There are probably thousands of groups now formed and many thousands more being formed which, like this one, centre on a common purpose, to develop a new kind of society,  one in which selfishness and greed are not predominant, one in which people belong, and one which  has true long term sustainability for all of us and our planet.

Some  may be more political than others, some are simple steps to facilitate change, there is even a Social Enterprise for Social Enterprises.

The August event for Uncivilisation is being held naturally enough at the Sustainability Centre in Hampshire, England, and the organisers have in mind the Dark Mountain Project, which is an intriguing name to say the least.

They have 8 Principles, which are I guess deliberately open to interpretation. All a bit gloomy and for those who were around when Hippies hit the trail some of it will be very familiar.

It is easy to react to the various versions of Change Process without thinking much about why one may suit you better than another, and this post was inspired by the following picture from the Transition Network web site:

system diagram

The picture came from David Pollard who comments: “What is disconcerting,” he adds, “is that there is relatively little awareness among those in the four movements of what the others are doing, and the possible synergies between the models.”

I think one reason why, in an age of media, we find it difficult to connect these 4 is because we have lost how they connect within ourselves. We have become disassociated people.

Economy: How I manage my life, and it does need managing of sorts

My coexistence with others: How I exchange my emotions with others

My activism: How I work with my vision and sense of mission and purpose

My aesthetics: How my reason and intuition work with each other in harmony

My sense is that our sense of being excessively busy is because we have made efficiency more important than it should be, and it is not delivering effectiveness, in which my life as a worker is integrated with my emotional life and my mission and my aesthetics. The endless cycle of work, giving me money which leads to spending which needs more work and more money, it is not working for people.

I’m sure the Hampshire event will be great fun, and for those who go maybe take a copy of David Pollard’s picture as a guide. Thanks David

Does parenting work?

I was sent a copy of a submission to the House of Lords on Foreign Aid, did it work or not. In my head I immediately wondered, does parenting work? The submission answer was yes and no, it depends, which I suppose is understandable, there is unlikely to be a simple answer.

But parenting, surely that works, yes? Well, let’s see what is recommended for foreign aid and see if we can make any comparisons.

1. Make it multilateral – Get many others involved – Oh yes, parenting often only works if everyone else backs you up, friends, family, neighbours, teachers, growing up is a community thing.

2. Make it predictable – Be consistent – well, Supernanny would back that one, do this get that, do the other get the other, consistently.

3. Make aid transparent, accountable and traceable. Oh yes, parenting is like that. Underhand dealings with no comeback don’t work for parents, so don’t try those tricks.

4. Build in accountability to Governments – the interpretation with parenting would be to hand over power to your children, let them make decisions about how to do what you want them to do. Otherwise, when no-one is watching they are off on their own game.

5. Focus on results and simplify – oh yes, ‘Is your room clean? Have you tidied up? Is your homework done?’ None of this have you been a good boy. What does that mean?

6. Invest in global public goods – simply said, this means if the kids have the job of raking the grass then buy them a decent rake! Your kids do need you to invest in things for them which are not rubbish, which do not easily break, which have long term value.

7. Focus on women and girls and chronic poverty – OK, that one is specific to Aid! Though for teachers it might mean, don’t allow the most vociferous to run your class?

8. Leverage the private sector – I think this means get them a paper round! Yes, the basic message as they get older is that all the treats are not going to come from you alone.

9. Use innovative financing – yes, learning to save for bigger and better things is a good lesson, so supporting a savings policy has got to be a good thing, it teaches long term as well as medium and short term.

10. Learn more and fail safely – parenting works when you are in there learning with them. If you come across as making all the rules and having all the answers it does not work.

OK, so a good number of parallels there, but what has that to do with Transition?

10 rules of Transition:

1. Get many others involved – which is other groups not just other individuals

2. Be consistent – I guess this means don’t be pro-technology when it suits and anti-technology when it doesn’t – voluntary groups can often seem all over the place, trying to please everyone. It doesn’t work.

3. Make it transparent, accountable and traceable – whatever you are doing, make the review public, even when things do not go well. Build trust.

4. Hand over power  – don’t parent too much, if people have projects let them get on with it, subject to the 10 rules here.

5. Focus on results and simplify – don’t try to be Sustainability and Resilience Gurus, Have a vision, a mission and some objectives, and keep them simple.

6. Invest in global public goods – investing in things which bring long term goals must be good. For example, some groups are creating their own energy companies.

7. Don’t allow the most vociferous to run your Transition Group. Listen to the quiet ones at the back of the room.

8. Leverage the private sector – a little time on that may bring bigger gains than forever trying to raise the odd pound or two.

9. Use innovative financing – this could mean bingo and it could mean writing your own books and selling them on Amazon/Kindle. It could mean starting your own local green business, food, energy and consultancy even.

10. Learn more and fail safely – sustainability and resilience has got to be about learning safely.

So it looks like Parenting, Foreign Aid and Transition have a lot in common. Maybe that is because these 10 rules are like rules for life?

OK, so what do you think? – Authors are needed for this site so I am not the only one writing, so please get in touch if you want to contribute on a regular basis.

The National Transition Conference

With just two weeks to go, I thought I would plug the National Conference on Transition and comment on conferences in general. Ticket options are varied, so you can go for a day, or all three, stay 3 nights or 2 or 1 and so on.  The date is July 8th to 11th if you don’t know already.

One way to ‘participate’ is to fill in their survey, so next year will be even better.

I can’t say it is the most exciting survey I have ever completed, but give it a try, we all need to help each other don’t we?

Now on to the main theme, why do we have conferences? Despite high costs, inconvenience and pretty negative feedback from most people about most events, in my experience anyway, they continue to exist with not a lot of change over the years. So now, for example, instead of planned short coffee breaks which went on longer than they should because everyone talked to each other for too long, you now have longer coffee breaks in which the same thing happens.

In preinternet days, one purpose was to learn from experts, but in these days of TED.com and general UTube expert, and of course non-expert knowledge and views can be shared liberally.

Some conferences, using things like Open Space and World Cafe, some processes here, become opportunities to learn from each other, in ways which allow the cross fertilisation of ideas and understanding to build opportunities in novel ways.

Meeting processes seem to be at the heart of the resilience movement, which is a natural part of Transition. From the simplest self Governance of Quaker meetings to the almost totally paralysing processes of Multinational bodies, from the anarchist rioting in Greece to the relatively peaceful self organising committees in Tahrir Square, how we come together, how we confer, how we listen and how we make ourselves known, has existed as an exploration from Greek and Roman times and most probably long before that.

But there is one more very important thing that for me is a must for conferences, and that is to celebrate success. Change, Transition, is never going to be easy, so we need to celebrate. So my suggestion for the National Transition Conference is to spend some time on creating things to celebrate and ways of celebrating.

 

Waving at the screen

In one of my very occasional breaks in gardening, I sat down with Tea Mug and watched a bit of Wimbledon. At one point the camera was switched so that the people on Henman Hill were in view, and they all started waving, at the screen! It struck me that this was odd, but not odd. Of course we want to see ourselves waving, but we wave to other people don’t we? So they should have been waving at the camera?

When using my web cam I have the same problem. I want to talk to the person on the screen so I look at them, but this means I am not looking at them, I am looking at the screen not the camera.

So what on earth has this to do with Transition? When I spot dilemmas in thinking, or decision making, I try to see if I make the same kind of errors elsewhere. So what would the parallel situation be in terms of Green behaviours, or Resilience. It seems to me that there is an analogy here. We tend to  be looking for evidence when trying to decide what to do, should we do one thing or another. The problem is the evidence becomes more important than the desired outcome. If the evidence for bullying in the classroom is the number of reports of bullying then we may too easily be satisfied that reports are going down, but bullying may be going up! The bullies are intimidating the reporters.

So how would that stand in relation to CO2? Well, as any Greenhouse grower will tell you, CO2 is a good thing to have. With new technology growers are pumping the CO2 from engines used to generate heat into the greenhouses and this increases growth rate in plants. The problem for the earth is it acts as a Greenhouse Gas, letting rays of energy from the sun down to the earth as light and preventing them escaping at a different wavelength when they come back up. Clouds do this too but they are not such bad boys as they bounce energy up before it hits the earth as well as bounce it back from the earth (which is one reason nights are warmer with a cloud cover.

In many ways it is better to get evidence of temperature rise, this is the big danger, but the problem is how distributed the temperature is, in the air and just as importantly, or even more important maybe, in the sea.

The problem with the sea is the ocean currents, water is at its most dense (heaviest) at about 4C, so colder and it rises and hotter it rises. At the poles the water is hottest down below whereas at the equator it is hottest at the surface.

A lot of the dispute about global warming is in one sense about ‘waving at the screen’, the suggestion that there is too much concentration of effort on the data we can find rather than the data which tells us we are in real danger.

This was very clear in what was reported recently in some press about the possibility we could enter an ice again, not a period of global warming. This reminded me of my teenage years when all the worries were about a possible ice age ahead.

Waving at the screen is a capture on how we behave, it suggests we need to stop and think sometimes. Do I want to see myself waving or do I want to wave to other people. Do I want to see myself doing good or do I want to see good being done. Life is not easy when it comes to change, and occasionally, we need to ask, am I waving at the screen?

Resilience

I had a big experience with resilience the other day when my computer completely collapsed. Which is why we have a 2 day gap in postings.

It was odd that the mix of feelings it generated didn’t make immediate sense. There was a sense of loss. But then I realised important things had copies. My books are copied into Dropbox.com and most friends and acquaintances were somewhere in Facebook or Linked-In or Skype, and the rest in a physical diary.

There was an odd sense of relief, but what was that about? As I tossed and turned through the night, I started working over how my brain was truly rebooting, getting used to a new life without all kinds of things that it had in the attic and which had now been sent to the dump. I probably had 5 versions of Mindmapping programmes, 4 ways of producing videos, hundreds of course and workshop modules that I would refer to when doing something new.

Now my brain could work from fresh, and it was a great sense of freedom.

When working on Swap Shop days (Transition Chichester has had 2 successful events so far) I have had the sense from some people how exhilarating it is to get rid of stuff. Now I know this is difficult, but I have a way of doing it which you might like to try. Instead of going through room by room and slowly and painfully deciding what you could or could not throw out/give away/reuse in a new way, you opt for a time limited hunting game. You allocate 5 minutes of your time and rush round the house trying to find as many items as you can that you don’t want, placing them in the middle of a large room, or maybe your garden. As you look at the large pile of things that are now going to go, you decide you can celebrate, most of the work has been done. So a small celebration takes place and then you do a bit of work deciding what to do with each item. Maybe it goes for free to a charity, or a swap shop, or maybe it goes in your Xmas present box for someone? That’s OK, just because you don’t want it doesn’t mean it is not nice. Other items might be reusable, as garden tools, as packaging (like old clothes/books) – be creative. Some things you might decide to sell at a car boot sale, but if you decide this then you HAVE TO pick a date when you will do this or it will go back in the cupboard and you have achieved nothing.

Having had one success, then the next week you repeat the fun you had, and keep repeating it once a week until the pile (don’t forget to keep to the 5 minute rule) is very small. Then you can stop. For a year.

So what has this to do with resilience? Well, if you are overloaded with STUFF, then you are more vulnerable to pressures of change. You have less room for manoeuvre. This even applies when travelling. I travel almost always with hand luggage only. So when I arrive I can catch a bus, or walk, and I can leave open where I am staying because I can move around easily. This is the backpacking mentality. If we have the same backpacking mentality to life itself then we have more freedom.

The last thing about letting go of STUFF (and you can interpret that in any way you like) is you can find out and enjoy the advantages that come your way when you do so.

The final funny advantage I found on getting my new, little, very portable notebook, is that while switched on I am saving 90 Watts per hour, so with 3 years constant use it has paid for itself, and saved the planet a bit of CO2?

Sustainable groups

Looking through all the Transition groups along the south coast it’s clear that small clubs are at the heart of operations, whether it is Garden Share, Hearts and Minds, Energy or putting on Plays, yet there is a sustainability element to all groups, not just in Transition but across the club world of the UK. This includes the overarching Transition Group itself, which in some areas is struggling.

So what makes groups sustainable?

The same kind of questions are asked in business, as even when paid, some project teams are highly productive and others struggle to get to the finish line.

The learning from business is that sustainable groups are ones which not only achieve but FEEL they are achieving, which will also remind us of the importance of Celebration. And link this to How to Kick the Habit psychology, we find the need to have targets and to work in steps to achieve them.

Choosing targets does not always feel easy, set them too high and people feel they are failing, set them too low and they don’t feel challenged enough. This is where leadership comes in.

There are no clear criteria for good leaders overall, because the kind of organisation they are trying to lead and the context in which the work vary so much that you need and benefit from different leaders at different times. Leaders in times of crisis are often not the best leaders when things cool down, as poor Winston found out, rightly or wrongly.

Fighting fires is not the same as creating forests.

So what kind of leaders work with Transition Groups? Well, it would be good to know, so how about we create a leadership survey for Transition? If you think this is a good idea I will start one, and well, I may start one anyway.

My sense is that as we are all volunteers, leadership tends to be very democratic, but at times so democratic that there is no clear sense of where we are going and how we get there or what the steps are on the way. So groups lose their sense of purpose, watch out for that.

To counter that there may be some groups which get driven by an autocratic leader, which works for a while but then loses momentum, in the end everyone gets fed up  with being told what to do and newcomers see what is happening and drop ot before being committed. If you are wondering about your groups, you could ask them and ask yourselves, what kind of leadership do we want and what kind do we have? It feels like an embarrassing question, but the planet may be depending on your addressing this kind of issue.

In the end the planet is the thing that is providing the leadership. If we get the targets wrong the planet will tell us. And at the moment, it is telling us to leave, maybe?

Hasta luego, let me know what you think about a leadership survery by Email or through replying here so we can talk about it.

 

 

I am Joy and Empty Housing

Walking into town (well, city, but that doesn’t quite fit, yes?), I saw this amazing set of art works on panels, created by I Am Joy, and the panels cordoned off a housing area which has been abandoned at least for a few years. This is Chichester, where property is not cheap. I hope they got permission but I don’t care if they didn’t, as before the panels were just grey. Since they were emptied the houses have been used for police training, but otherwise, are a blot on the landscape.

It struck me, as I was heading to the Farmer’s Market, that empty housing has got to be a pretty high non green thing. First, you have a site which could be doing other things, like being a community veg garden, or just housing people who have nowhere to live. But more importantly, as we have this yearly target for building more houses, why do we allow so many to stay empty?

It isn’t just blocks like this, which was perhaps some kind of assisted housing group which has gone bust, it is so many big and small houses which are empty because people have bought only for investment, or it is elderly people who have gone to live elsewhere, to maybe assisted accommodation and no-none wants to take charge of selling or letting it out, or people who have gone abroad and are not sure if they will stay, so they want to keep options open, and so on.

Forget your airflights, your full carbon footprint for having somewhere to live has got to be pretty big. And if people abuse it by having 2 or 3 places to live, then that is multiply wounding the planet.

We seem to have got very casual about housing property, it is something owned not leased from Mother Earth. Maybe we could get creative about how to get the message out about your right to a planet footprint? Maybe a campaign, One House is Enough! Maybe more aggressive, Use it or Lose it?

And of course it was the abuse of the financing of housing that lead to the current Western Economy melt down. The economies of the developing and newly developed world are doing OK thank you.

Finally, do we really like Estate Agents taking up so many key city/town centre locations (it shows how much money they make from selling your house that the prices are affordable for them) when we could have Art Centres, Community Cafes, Open Music Venues, the City Centre is there for you, not there for profit?

I am Joy is like so many great community based ventures, they build capital, social capital, into the community, where other types of ‘business’ take it out.

If we like the idea of Zero Carbon, maybe we could add, Zero Empty. A programme of full occupation of ‘Our’ community space. If you like that idea, why not contact your local council, for Chichester it is here.

 

Tornadoes, Tsnunamis, Earthquakes, Volcanic Eruptions

What is it with the weather? Is it just we have got more interested, so that it is reported more?

Or are all these things going up and up in scale and who knows what might hit us next?

On the grand scale of things there is no doubt the Earth has seen it all before, and more, big time. Meteorites from space, volcanic eruptions daily, everywhere, somehow the planet sorted it all and left us with, well, some pretty good stuff really.

And in some ways, we have got less adapted rather than more, we build on flood plains, we build flimsy houses (castle and moat anyone?), we keep less by, we rely on ‘just in time’ and we ‘really know’ fewer people.

Some of the responses to events are also not too good. Someone in Japan thought that a flood gate system would protect houses against millions if not billions of tonnes of water heading their way fast. Big Mistake. In the UK sandbags are used to ‘protect’ people’s houses against flood water running past their door, yet the sandbags divert water into the house, not away from it, Big Mistake.

In the USA they protect themselves against Tornadoes by building shelters, while the buildings blow down, not realising that buildings blow up from the inside (usually) not down from the outside (the struts in your roof are to hold the roof down not to stop it falling in).

Earthquakes and volcanoes have been around for a long time, but building huge cities where none have gone before, especially in fault zones, seems to be inviting disaster, the earth’s crust is floating, in a fragile way, and loading it all in one place, well, not good engineering?

What seems to me to be rather silly is this idea of having your house on the ground floor. For a start, if there is a flood, you’ve had it. In Queensland the houses are one floor up.

You can grow a lot more food, easily, under your house than on the roof. And of course, on your roof you want our solar panels. You can also put your car under the house, and your bikes, and then use your garden for what it was meant for, growing food!

All in all we seem to have a design problem. Our city/town environment is not designed for weather, bad weather, catastrophic weather, but it could be. To do it we need to understand how things work, real things, like how water really works, like how wind really works, and how people really work.

Building a fantasy world is fine as long as the real world stays away. Unfortunately, it might not be willing to stay away for much longer.

Car Share

I signed up for West Sussex Car Share the other day. So far no-one has contacted me about a little trip around South  America! 😉

It is interesting that despite cars littering every street and more and more cars being the size of a small bus, car sharing is not top agenda for most people.

I will be convinced that fuel is expensive when I see evidence of two things:

1. People switching off their engines while waiting for Level Crossing Gates to open, or while they sit in their cars by the side of the road on the phone, or eating and drinking, or, well, you see everything on a bike.

2. People decide that one car between two families is enough.

I don’t understand why one of the local car hire companies doesn’t encourage more people to car share, it would increase their business enormously. I know some offer car sharing but the arrangements are more like lease hire than car share. Bring the prices down, make it simpler, then when I need a car I hire one or get a taxi.