After the usual housekeeping items, the day began with a constellation exercise. “How many believe that a credible alternative is possible/impossible? How many feel comfortable/uncomfortable articulating a credible alternative?” Interestingly, while nearly everyone shifted to the “possible” side of the room, the tide shifted back toward discomfort in articulating. Clearly raising the economic literacy of ourselves, our groups, as well our community, is an important undertaking.
The next session was a rapid fire series of “inspiration” presentations. All were compelling and inspirational. A couple struck me as being important for strategic reasons. One is Incredible Edible Todmorden, which is spawned two social enterprises, each of which addresses resilience and sustainability issues, growing food, re-skilling, creating livelihoods. Their modus operandi is to not ask permission, but to just do it. Hard not to like that kind of moxie. The other is Growing Communities, a charity with the purpose of setting up successful food businesses, rather that support people in setting up successful food businesses. Like a virtual incubator, they help with business planning, peer to peer networking, and other support. And they can offer start up funding from a loan pool. Hard not to like that either.
Later, the Crowdfunding workshop drew a crowd, as expected. It seemed there is huge interest in fund raising for a range of projects. And there is strong interest in a “transition” crowdfunding platform. That’s interesting for a whole host of reasons. Yes, it can be a key enabler in boosting local social and sustainable enterprise. It can also serve as another network that links and aligns Transition activity, supporting the growth of the Transition phenomena into a more robust movement with growing economic influence.
A nourishing lunch of conversation and connection followed – a surprising number of people had come from abroad, (and of course from the UK, too). Caroline from Transition US spoke a little about their work supporting a continent from tiny Sebastopol. Howard joined us having just arrived from Philly on his first trip outside the States on a mission to collect and bring back vast quantities of knowledge. My experience mirrors that of many - great to run into friends from Paris, Brussels, Spain, and new friends from Sweden, Finland, Scotland, Swindon, Brixton, Crystal Palace.
After lunch a useful exercise Reimagining the High Street, where people formed little groups, developed ideas, then populated a giant town plan with a collection of practical and dreamy retail establishments. This seems a useful tool for engaging members of the community and blue sky thinking and identifying potential entrepreneurs to encourage and support.
The last workshop sessions focused on a range of economic development strategies ranging from incubators, to coop strategies, to the gift economy. Initial reactions from the workshops I missed suggest that they were really valuable. The workshop I did was focused on new business incubation where I shared what we are doing in Totnes and Inderpaul Johar discussed the Hub. Contrasting models both, which led to a well rounded conversation. More on that in another post.
Finishing the evening was a well attended launch party for the Transition Free Press, which is looking for Transition Initiatives to distribute copies. First task is to raise funding as a social enterprise. More on that later, too. The twin highlights of the party were exceptional cocktails mixed by Alexis, and a superb herbal elixir Mark conjured from his garden.
Images: the Reimagining the High Street session; Theresa Burton from BuzzBnk leading the crowdfunding workshop