Category Archives: Environment

Transitioning towards personal and community resilience

I’m in the middle of the three-day Transition Towns conference in Liverpool, and so far it feels like the best conference I’ve been to since … well, maybe Ties that Bind in Cupertino in 1996.

That one was exciting because it was a chance to connect with North Americans who had been using the still-new Internet for local community building. Over the past 15 years the emergence of community and social media has given us the tools and inspiration to explore new ways of sharing, creating, collaborating.

Online has been the new frontier, the promised land, the place to try and pull the unconnected across the digital divide. It can offer great benefits, but I think that even the most committed of the digerati would concede tech isn’t enough. Social media doesn’t necessarily produce social behaviours. Just because people can share it doesn’t mean they will … and more and more information and apps can become a burden not a blessing.

Time for a new framework … for me anyway. Transition has a lot to offer. read more »

Getting back to Government Is Us

We’ll hear a lot of high-level policy discussion about Big Society versus Big Government in the run up to the general election – due to be rekindled by the Tories next Wednesday, I hear – but amidst wonky talk of localism it’s easy to lose touch with what that can mean in reality. A meeting last night with Jim Diers, from Seattle, brought some down-to-earth optimism. read more »

Green Valleys show the way to Mass Localism

Today’s Mass Localism event at NESTA offered a rich menu over breakfast: principles by which government could stimulate and support communities to take the lead in addressing major social changes; an inspirational story from a winner of their Big Green Challenge; and some hints on what a Tory government might do in this field. read more »

Technology in a cold climate – follow the seminar

I’m at the RSA today helping report a seminar on Technology in a Cold Climate … which is only indirectly about weather. It’s about how technologies can help us in hard time, with presentations on four papers:

  • one on technology’s application to delivering better and more cost-effective public services
  • one on the benefits of greater digital connectivity
  • one that looks at the potential of technology to transform society towards a more sustainable form
  • and one on the innovative behaviour that is essential to developing the kind of entrepreneurial action that we need

We’ll be starting with a keynote speech from Stephen Timms MP, Minister for Digital Britain, and here will be much tweeting and live blogging on that the further presentations and discussions from Paul Henderson and Steve Lawson, and I hope others in the 60-strong audience. I’ll be shooting some video. Do follow us on the project blog and through the Twitter tag #techcold

Could 20thC civic join up with 21stC hyperlocal?

The Civic Trust was an important force for conservation and local pride for 50 years, with a network of campaigning civic societies and an awards programme. I found the Regeneration Unit in particular great people to work with on a number of projects.  But earlier this year the Trust ran out of money, and closed … and I confess I didn’t even notice. That shows how far I’ve given up reading magazines, and moved online. It may also show how little visibility the Trust had in the new online world. read more »

Join us for the social collaboration game at SHINE

If you want to find out how social technology can be used collaboratively to solve neighbourhood problems, do join me and colleagues for a lively session on May 16 in London at the SHINE unconference for social entrepreneurs. You’ll find

If you want to do it quickly, do it alone. If you want to do it well, do it together.” – African proverb.
Join the Social Collaboration Game on day two of SHINE. Everyone’s talking about the advantages of collaboration, open-source working and social technology to drive through social change. But how do you make it work in practice? Based on real life problems that SHINE participants are facing, get ready for a two hour game where you’ll have to crunch problems, make quick decisions and find ways to work together to get the job done. You will be doing that within the framework of an imagined but realistic neighbourhood where people are trying to tackle problems innovatively as recession bites. There’ll be competing interests to balance, barriers to getting what you need from partnerships,…

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Environment Trust is credit crunched

It’s a sad end to the year: after hearing of Steve Snow’s death I’ve just caught up with the demise of the East London Environment Trust, which I had a hand in setting up 29 years ago. It was Jon Aldenton who gave the Trust lift off, and stayed to end. “We were credit crunched” he said sadly. It sounds as if ambitious ventures in Wales and Sheffield were the Trust’s downfall … but then there’s no innovation without risk.

Simon leaves ruralnet|uk – lucky Defra

Since the mid 1990s ruralnet|uk, led by Simon Berry, has been at the forefront of innovation using social media for social innovation – and not just in the countryside.

Now Simon has announced on his blog that he is moving on to take up a secondment in Government to work on Defra’s Third Sector Strategy and the new Greener Living Fund, and won’t be returning to ruralnet|uk when that ends. read more »

Explaining the world through a village

I find it difficult to really connect with statistics on world poverty, literacy, and economics. Human stories are compelling, but don’t give an idea of scale. That’s why I think the little book If the World Were a Village, by David J. Smith, is so clever in bringing the figures to life. As the back cover says, if the world were a village of just 100 people (rather than 6 billion) then:

  • 22 people speak a Chinese dialect
  • 20 earn less than 65p a day
  • 17 cannot read or write
  • only 30 always have enough to eat
  • 25 have a television in their homes

I can understand that, and so it seems can many others, because about one million copies of the book have sold, with 18 foreign language editions.

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West End Debut for the (Plastic) Baglady

Social innovation can be simple, and singular … at least at the outset.

Shirley Lewis had been a journalist and broadcaster, had practised acupuncture and homeopathy before her concern for the environment led her to the simple – if personally challenging – idea of the Baglady. Not a carry-all-your-possessions-in-bags sort-of baglady, but a Plastic Baglady.

In order to highlight the problems of litter and waste, first in Australia and then in her native Ireland, Shirley dressed up in plastic bags and adopted an ASAP lifestyle. That’s As Sustainable As Possible. From that  flowed lots of appearances, films and – coming soon – a play. In this video the Baglady visits Cookstown. More here at Baglady Productions, and on blip.tv. read more »