I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the Hay Festival at the end of May. Known originally for being a literature festival, it has broadened into a wider festival of ideas. And, for the second year, the Festival welcomed Hay on Earth. Hay on Earth is an innovative type of conference, bringing experts and stakeholders from a diverse range of organisations together and using systems approaches to create practical plans and projects to tackle climate change, carbon reduction and the need to build security of food supply.
Andy Middleton of TYF/EcoSapiens who ran the conference emphasised the importance of asking powerful questions – a subject that I will return to in a later post. Andy effectively focused our attention on the task at hand by pointing out that every business, organisation and community in the UK needs to be in carbon descent by 2012. That equates to about 700 working days away. And there is no plan.
So my question is – ‘What are you doing for the next 700 days?’ A washing line hung at the back of the stage, with markers from now to 2012, provided an effective, mind-focusing backdrop, as we worked on generating ideas on how we could effectively engage communities in action. And at the end of the two days that I attended, we hung our ‘to dos’ on the washing line. Ideas ranged from allotment projects to ‘community chests’ to fund social enterprises to hubs to facilitate connections.
One of the key themes that emerged for me that was that in order to effectively engage communities, there needs to be a sense of community built on shared values in the first place. Again, I will return to this theme. One project that is in place already is Green Valleys, which aims to enable community groups across Wales to reduce their carbon emissions and generate electricity and revenue from hydro power, one of the most abundant natural resources. Here’s to many more innovative projects such as this in the next 700 days.