Second SCP workshop
The second Sustainable Communities Programme workshop took place in Brussels on September 23rd and 24th 2019. It was supported by a small grant from FundAction, and timed to coincide with follow-up events to the European Day of Sustainable Communities and kick-off meeting for the Ecovillage transition in action project. It was attended by around 30 in-person participants.
The Sustainable Communities Programme identified a lack of shared capacity of transition initiatives on a regional scale. The programme wants to connect local activities and community initiatives by scaling local tools and examples up to a regional level. This Community of practice of system change facilitators who want to foster transformation at a regional scale is still at an early experimental state. The guiding question of the workshop was therefore how can we bring those local solutions together and collaborate better while recognizing the diversity of our backgrounds?
As a first exercise to get orientated, the workshop began with a mapping exercise based on the Berkana Institute's two loops model, facilitated by Davie Philip. The model helps to locate a project's work in the bigger picture of transition. Another tool that can help to do that is the three horizons mapping, which is especially valuable when working with the main stream.
Two loops model
The two loops model presumes that systems, appear peak and decline and are then replaced by a new system. The two loops exercise helps to locate oneself in that process.
- The participants of the workshop identified the characteristics of the first loop as industrial civilization, colonization, modern state bureaucracy, enclosure of the commons, industrial revolution, invention of corporation as autonomous legal entity, East India Company, communications technologies and nuclear power. Peak oil, the oil crises and the rise of populism were classified as the peak of the loop, where the system starts to decline. The further decline of the system was described as becoming visible in the erosion of democracy and extreme inequality. The decline was seen to be accompanied by pioneers starting to walk out of the old system. Examples for pioneers listed were Henry David Thoureau, Permaculture, Ecovillages, Transition towns, Degrowth, Systems thinking, the Overview effect etc. With the further decline of the system more and more break out movements started to appear, which the participants called the biggest wake up call for a long time. Examples for related actors are Extinction Rebellion, Fridays for Future, the Ecocide movement and others.
- Those walking out of the old system at first used the hierarchical and control-based organizational patterns which were prominent in the old system. As they started to interconnect and build networks a new culture started to emerge and the second loop started to arise. New organizational pattern are e.g. Sociocracy, Otto Scharmer's Theory U and Deep adaptation. The participants observed a wake up of the mainstream, who is slowly discovering the new culture. Nevertheless they perceived the second loop to be rather marginal. One of the biggest challenges identified the current situation was to strengthen the movement by building ecosystems of transformation with strong connections among kindred networks. CSA and Via Campesina were listed as good examples. A second challenge identified was the need to make the second loop more visible and create bridges to cross over from the old to the new culture. A crucial point was to find a language that is accessible for the mainstream, but avoids the danger of appropriation (e.g. ''meditate to work even harder''). This could be achieved by deepening and distilling the movement's messages rather then oversimplifying them. Also the positive aims of the movement should be named rather what it is against. The new culture should be normalized keeping in mind and overcoming the privileges that prevent people from contributing.
- In the following discussion the participants gathered several insights and reflections. The two loops model made clear that different roles are needed for social-ecological transition. On a strategic level pioneers have to be connected and networks have to be strengthened. To illuminate bridges to the new loop researchers were assigned the role to make the new culture accessible for the mainstream. Composting what is valuable from the old system was another important role mentioned. Other roles are located on an emotional level and interpersonal level. The decay of the old system elicits fear and other strong emotions, that need to be accompanied. Also pioneers have to deal with strong emotions of insecurity and detachment. The participants concluded that the SCP Community of practice supports its members with professional matters but also far beyond that on a very personal level. The BLAST project was named as a related project dealing with that.
Insights from Existing Initiatives
A fishbowl discussion began with reports from key actors in several existing cases of transformative regional initiatives: the Sustainable Neighbourhoods Programme, the Bioregional Learning Centre, the Living in Sustainable Villages project and Moray ecovillage development. Further discussion, also involving other participants, identified key challenges and success factors.
Key Patterns Observed
- Collaboration with local government is often key. Green parties can be important catalysts (as was the case in Freiburg)
- Participatory budgeting can be a great activator, and help make resources available
- The value of long-term continuity: for example, Sustainable Neighbourhoods in Brussels have been operating for ten years, enabled by working with local authorities
- The importance of stories of place - really sinking into where we are and the richness of relationships - and the art of building that understanding of place through listening
- The importance peer to peer inspiration
- The need for people with a clear sense of vision
- Concern about replicability in contexts beyond Northern Europe, where public funding (a key ingredient in all successful projects) might be less avalable
- Build on what’s there already: reaching out to networks that already exist, linking with people who already have strong social connections in places, working with established institutions (which may have originated for entirely different reasons)
- Moving beyond stereotypes, assumptions about people, and the social divisions they generate
- Going beyond normal structures: working within and across existing structures in unusual ways
- All about building relationships - and the time and respect needed to build them - from listening, and approaching people with humility and kindness
Breakout sessions then examined four other methodologies:
- Platform design toolkit (Nenad Maljković) (background here)
- Planetmakers Platform (Gary Alexander)
- Ecovillage design cards and impact assessment (Kosha Joubert)
- Municipalities in Transition framework (Juan del Rio)
Participants were then asked to suggest other frameworks and methodologies known to them, generating the following list:
- Three Horizons (International Futures Forum)
- Regenerative design (Regenesis)
- Emergent strategy - for movement building. (Emergent Strategy Ideation Institute).
- Evoneers journey - Hero's journey, adapted to communities. Created by GEN and partners in the Sircle project
- Archetypal leadership (Lawrence Hillam, Richard Olivier)
- Can you help me - currently available only in Dutch
- Non-violent communication - currently entering a new iteration with a focus on decolonisation
- Process psychology - Arnold Mindell
- CLIPS project resources: http://clips.gen-europe.org/
- Integral City - Marilyn Hamilton
- Teal organisations (Frederick Laloux)
- Economy of the common good - set of resources and tools
- RIPESS training tools
- Modern agile.org tools
- Wise democracy pattern language
- Sociocracy 3.0
- Doughnut economics
- Multi-stakeholder participation/facilitation
- Pedagogy of the oppressed
- Citizen assembly - as used in Ireland and by the Extinction Rebellion movement
- Developmental evaluation - focusing on learning processes on navigating complexity. Now developing into Blue Marble
- Theory U
- Co-Laboratory methodology - combining Theory U, Open Space and other methods, developed by LiFT Erasmus+ project.
- Thomas Hubel
- Deep Adaptation: four Rs framework
- Intersectionality (Kimberlie Crenshaw and Patricia Collins
- Gaian democracy (Schumacher Briefing)
- Dragon dreaming
- Art of hosting
- Green nudge
- Liberating structures: toolkit of 33 patterns used for group processes
Evolving Collaborative Projects
Eamon O'Hara gave an introductory presentation on the funding and collaboration opportunities arising through the Community-Led Local Development programme, which will receive a substantial amount of EU funding in coming years and is already stimulating new contacts and collaborations between established LEADER groups and community-led initiatives.
Participants were then invited to pitch potential projects (existing projects that could be integrated into the SCP and proposals for new ideas that could be developed within it):
- Now what? (Nenad)
- Transnational communication and collaboration, to work with emergence in a practical way through conversations about how to adapt to a changing world. Currently exploring emerging edges, for example between ECOLISE and the Deep Adaptation forum, and the Thriving Resilient Communities network in the USA, with a view to building a global system-shifting network.
- Ecovillage impact assessment link(Kosha Joubert)
- Ecovillage transition in action (Kosha Joubert)
- Towards an ecosystem of transformation (Ana Margarida Esteves)
- Planetmakers Platform (Gary Alexander)
- Speak up! (Augustin Joiris, [www.eco-conseil.be Institut Éco-Conseil]
- Collaborative democracy, cooperative economy Anne-Kathrine Schwab
- Building CLLD in Scotland (Fabio)
- COMETS platform Juan del Rio
- Communities for future (Amelie Krug)
- Training for future - EDE course for XR and FFF people being developed for delivery in Germany (Mieke)
- Liberterra (Mieke): Supporting farmers to adapt their farm for community use: growing space, tiny houses.
- BLAST project Markus Molz
- UrbanA project and community of practice Iva Pocock
The session intended to identify strengths and needs, complementarities and bridges between the activities of different members of the SCP. Activities refer to events, projects, programmes or initiatives. Emerging matches between members pointed to cross-cutting leverage points for increasing impact.
Participants identified snyergies between their activities and after that discussed challenges of synergies in breakout groups. Four edges were identified.
- rural to urban
- multi-level challenge
- cross-sector challenge
- Rural to urban
- First the framing of rural villages was discussed. The question tackeled was if smart village is a more attractive term than ecovillage and if this term would still reflect the understanding of an ecovillage. The second point discussed stressed the health benefits of being in the environment as an important resource. Last but not least regional sourcing by big users (e.g. hospitals) was seen as a resource for rural community-wealth.
- Multi-level challenge
- The challenge of interfacing and distributing labor across levels was discussed with a focus on the LEADER programme. SCP community member can enhance the impact of local action groups by giving input to their local strategis, by strengthening their voice, by inviting LEADER managers to trainings and by using the knowledge of experts to infuence the design of policies. Creating skills for productive work in small teams was identified as a critical competence.
- Cross-sector challenge
- The challenge discussed was how to connect across different sectors, such as economy, research, policy and civil society. Lines of conflict were identified between those who focus on profit and those who focus on regeneration and between sectors that do not want to be seen as associated with other sectors.
Competences identified as needed were:
- crafting a common language that avoids jargon
- paying attention to and sufacing perceptions
- vulnerability in face of power
- shared humanity brought up by climate change
- honoring, witnessing and using conflicts for creating connection
- flexibility, empathy, resilience, ability to do in-depth research, courage, vulnerability, authenticity, mutuality
- The questions discussed were how to achieve a better awareness of and how to share privilege. Privileges were understood as systems of oppression along different axes (class, race, gender, ability, age etc.). Awareness was raised that many communities of practice are not aware of their privileges and that there are discriminatory elements in the roots of many movements. Ideas were collected how to raise more awareness for that topic such as a short explanatory video.
Expanding our reach
Facilitated by Jifke Sol the participants explored the question how the SCP can be made more widely known and attractive. In four breakout groups they explored the question using the method thought storm.
- There is a need to create islands of sanity.
- Healthy relationships are key to healthy and resilient networks
- Healthy relationships are built through personal connections, sustained over time, based on open and effective communication tools, guided by shared purpose and exploration of the social and ecological urgency.
- There are many opportunities for collaboration and connection
- The core concept of policy messages should be passionate care.
- We need to clarify what the SCP, its intention and its expectation is, in order to coordinate communication activities.