Collaborating for the Future We Want
The Good Life 2.0 – Community Resilience In A Changing World
By Davie Philip
“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” ~ Henry Ford
In this Good Life 2.0 article, I want to further explore the themes of collaboration and the art of working together. In these challenging times, joining forces with others is both beneficial and cost effective. However, what I’m excited about is not the need to just save money and muddle through, but grasping this moment as an unprecedented opportunity to rethink how we do things together and create the future we want.
Some of the trends around collaboration that I have covered in this column demonstrate that we are beginning to do a lot more in cooperation with others. These include co-working, co-housing, community owned businesses, community gardens, and GIY gardening clubs and transition towns. Collaborative initiatives like these help us to connect in real and meaningful ways and bring people together to share and relearn the skills of participation and community.
Many people are now recognising the need to act and work together to create a more sustainable world, both for ourselves and for future generations. It has been two decades since world leaders and civil society gathered in Brazil for the first Earth Summit, which popularised the idea of sustainability. Although a number of groundbreaking treaties on climate change and biodiversity were created there, there is a long way to go; but hopefully the era of denial has ended, and there is a growing realisation that the future we want cannot be achieved without all of us working together.
For the last 12 years, through Cultivate, I have coordinated Convergence – an annual festival of sustainable living. As the name suggests, it is all about bringing people and ideas together. Since its beginnings in Temple Bar in 2000, Convergence has featured some of the most inspiring thinkers and doers, both from Ireland and abroad. This event champions the changes needed to create a sustainable economy, society and environment. It has inspired, initiated and highlighted many community initiatives including the Transition Towns process.
The theme this year is ‘Collaborating for the Future We Want’ and rather than just holding a number of events over a week we are collecting and illuminating breakthrough ideas and hosting ‘conversations that matter’ to the end of the 2012. At cultivate.ie we are now collecting details on projects, technologies, and business ideas from across the island of Ireland that represents cutting-edge innovation, collaboration and sustainability. We want to showcase the exciting initiatives that are already helping us make the transition to the future we want.
President Michael D Higgins, who attended the original Earth Summit in Brazil, will open Convergence 2012 in Cloughjordan on June 6th. The programme aims to ignite a national conversation on values and how we can most effectively work together to create a more sustainable future for Ireland. The main event will be held in Dublin’s City Hall on the 20th of June the first day the UN conference celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. A ‘Host it Yourself’ facilitation guide is also available allow local groups to host their own ‘Convergence’ and feed into the national harvest and findings
To organise Convergence in the current financial climate, we have had to think very differently. In line with the theme of ‘collaboration,’ the project is being crowd-sourced, with the initial idea and production being co-developed with a growing network of collaborators from all over Ireland. Crowdsourcing is a distributed problem-solving process that involves a large group of people, also known as the crowd. To co-create something on this scale means a lot of conversations, a willingness to let go of your initial ideas, an ability to compromise, and the capacity to trust others. It may be a slower process than coming up with the ideas on your own, but the sense of community and shared purpose makes it all worthwhile.
With a curtailment on spending by our regular funders, it has been difficult to get financial support for this Convergence. Funding for Convergence has traditionally come from a small number of agencies and businesses. Our objective this year is to crowd-fund the initiative, to raise the financial support needed to deliver Convergence through targeting a much wider pool of funders for smaller amounts.
This crowd funding approach has many precedents – charities have been doing it for decades. Now, with the rise of social media and micro payment technologies, it is relatively easy to engage and secure investment from a community of interested people. Crowd funding is used for a variety of purposes, from musicians seeking support from fans, to political campaigns, to funding a movie or a startup company. Of course, you need a good idea that is fundable and you need a large base or community to reach out to.
The events of Convergence will use a methodology called World Café; a technique to host conversations around important questions. Another component is the Green and Social Business Incubator, which utilises an approach called Pro Action Café. This process assists individuals, organisations and communities to see new possibilities, clarify purpose and bring projects to successful fruition. The incubator creates a ‘safe’ space where people can speak openly about their project, and is designed to maximise collaboration and peer-to-peer mentoring and support.
Both World Café and Pro Action Cafe are tools from the Art of Hosting community, an international group of facilitators who are exploring participatory approaches for leading, convening and engaging people in meaningful conversation using integrated change processes. An important part of the art of hosting is the art of harvesting, and the facilitation team for Convergence will be gathering the findings from the events and the ideas collected to create an interactive exhibit that will be the main feature of the Global Green area of the Electric Picnic in September
Convergence is bringing people together that are creating pathways that will enable us to flourish in an increasingly challenging world. We are collecting projects that are inspirational, intergenerational, and that help build a sense of community and equality. We are on the look out for ideas that will contribute to changing mindsets, help build a new economy and reduce our impact on the planet. We are searching for technologies that can help us connect better or use resources in a more efficient way. We are hunting for initiatives that reuse, rethink or recycle waste, enhance biodiversity, and reduce fossil fuel use. We want to showcase businesses that look at more than just the bottom line, and educational activities that are transforming the way we think about our world.
Are you a pioneer in this field or do you have a project that fits this description in some way and would like to collaborate for the future we want? Cultivate would like to invite you to get involved in identifying breakthrough ideas and to take part in Convergence.
Davie Philip is the director of Convergence and runs the Community Resilience programme at Cultivate. He is a resident of the Cloughjordan Ecovillage and a board member of GIY Ireland. He conceived and directed ‘Surfing the Waves of Change’, a Cultivate short film which introduces the concept of community resilience and can be seen at www.cultivate.ie