First things first


Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Brainwave Bazaar - The Report part 1

Thanks to all who made it to Transition Westcombe's 'Brainwave Bazaar' on 8 April. We had a turnout of about 25 people, though the hubbub that was generated might have fooled passers-by into thinking we were double that number.

I want to start off with a great comment from one of those who took part:

"I was really knocked-out by the energy & enthusiasm in that room & I believe that we have the makings of a strong, committed community. I wish that there had been more time to 'circulate, but the round-up at the end gave us a good overview of the wide interests and skills represented.I am really looking forward to being part of this developing community."

Beautifully put, and I think the feeling was widespread.

It's a tough call to organise a large and diverse group in a way that allows everyone to have their say and actually produce results, so we used the 'open space' technique. There were six tables, each with a theme or subject (based on the areas of interest you told us you wanted to pursue at our March film screening), and each with a note-taker. Participants could roam from table to table according to their interests, and move whenever they felt like it.

It sounds chaotic but it usually works surprisingly well. The notion behind it is that people at conferences and meetings tend to get more out of the coffee break nattering than from the formal business - so why not try to replicate the interest-driven, organic networking of a coffee break?

The mission was to brainstorm ideas for practical projects, to be clear about how the ideas would benefit our community if implemented and to identify, if possible, what the first step would be to making it a reality.

One development that is very important: We have a Yahoo group for Transition Westcombe now. We'd urge everyone who's interested to sign up, as it's a great way to communicate - and if you are wanting to find others willing to help you with a particular project or event, you can use the group to seek them out, as well as using it for general transition debate, planning, etc. You can join up by clicking here, and if you want to avoid inbox overload you can go to the settings and choose to receive a daily digest instead of individual emails.

So, what did we come up with? There's a lot of information, so we'll take two tables per blog post:


The objectives that were mentioned for this table were:

"Use less stuff, encourage others to re-think & change behaviour"

And the benefits to the community:

"Giving and receiving / cohesion"

Some of the ideas that came up at this table included:

Clothes-swap / swishing events along the lines of the recent one hosted at Greenwich Community College. The idea is that it is like a jumble sale but no money changes hands - and you don't bring along any old tat, but rather nice things you don't think you'll use (wrong size, perhaps) but which you'd be proud to give away. A social event that also cuts our consumption of new stuff: two dead birds.

Book exchange - This wasn't elaborated on, but it might be a localised version of book-crossing, where books are left around for anyone to pick up and then pass on after reading. Or perhaps it would be based around events, swishing style, with people passing on books they'd finished with. It might be that it is for sharing books, magazines and resources that are particularly transition-focused: the Transition Handbook, permaculture guides, make-do-and-mend titles and so on.

Repairs directory - Too often, probably, we chuck things away because we don't know how to fix them, can't think who might and it doesn't seem worth paying a tradesman when you can buy a new replacement. So this idea was for a register of local people who are good fix-its, whether in carpentry, furniture, electricals, clothes or anything else. The forum suggested for this was the TW website - and once we've evolved beyond simple blogging, this does seem like something we could do.

Freecycle - Always a popular recommendation: use Freecycle more. If you don't know of it, this is an email list where you can advertise belongings you are happy to give away. It's a huge and very active community, and you can also browse it for things others are giving away.The Greenwich group is here.

Emmaus - I hadn't heard of this, but it's a great idea: It says 'Emmaus Communities offer homeless people a home, work and the chance to rebuild their lives in a supportive environment. There are currently 19 Communities around the UK and several more in development. We rely on donations of good quality furniture and household goods from the public, which are sold in Emmaus shops.' The more we spread the word about schemes like this and Freecycle, the less excuse there is for people to chuck away and buy new, so do make a point of gossiping over the fence to your neighbour about schemes like these, particularly if you see them throwing out perfectly good or repairable stuff. Click here for the Emmaus website.

Skip-sharing - Who was at this table and can fill in what was meant by this? It sounds intriguing, but is rather enigmatic... Email and talk it up.

Age Exchange - make do and mend - This was an idea to tap the knowledge of members of the Age Exchange at the magical Reminiscence Centre in Blackheath Village (check out their tea garden if you're passing and thirsty). It would be a great way to make use of the knowledge and skills that were passed down to our older neighbours but which many younger people have never had, or not kept.

Recycle craft ideas - Presumably an idea for a group that might meet regularly, or a web forum for swapping tips.

Mors bags – otherwise known as 'guerilla bagging': this is a great idea for cutting people's use of plastic bags - and much more fun, surprising and sociable than other fabric bag schemes. The idea was for a group of people to get together with random scraps of spare fabrics and a fleet of sewing machines, have fun running up these fabric shopping bags and then hitting the streets to give them away to gobsmacked shoppers. If we could get the TW logos on each one somewhere, too, it would also be a great awareness-raising exercise. Will we see Old Dover Road awash with Mors bags? More info here.

‘Eco-fair’ - another idea for a swap shop event, perhaps monthly and this time for anything and everything.

First steps identified for this list of ideas were:

"Pool info for web-site / ideas forum / Westcombe News / posters"

That first action is done - you're reading it. An ideas forum will have to wait for our website to be developed, hopefully not too long now. Westcombe News and posters are of course essential for publicising any of these ideas. But clearly we need people to take a lead and say 'I'll organise that'.

The best way to do that at present is either:

A. Join our Transition Westcombe Yahoo group email list and use it to seek others who can help you

B. Email us so we can appeal for helpers through the blog and help with publicity


The objectives that were mentioned for this table were:

"Fresher air / Safer children & adults"

And the benefits to the community, or the desired outcome:

"Fewer cars on road; 'play street'"

Some of the ideas that came up at this table included:

- Bike and trailer sharing scheme
- Cycle maintenance - with help or involvement of Greenwich Cyclists?
- Bike routes showing safety, hills etc
- Proficiency training
- Car-sharing / shopping buddies
- Map of good cycling routes
- 'Walking school buses'
- Station safety

First steps identified were:

"Proficiency training for adults and children > Zoe Davies to investigate / Dave Sharman to contact Greenwich Cyclists"

As for the other ideas, do head to the Yahoo group or email us if you want to take one of these on and are seeking others to help.

It's important to remember a sound transition / permaculture principle, though: don't waste energy and resources on replicating things that are already being done. So if 'Dr Bike' sessions are already running, perhaps we only need to persuade them to hold an event local to us. Or perhaps there are bike maps out there already. So if you've had a great idea, first have a look around and see if anyone else has had it too.

Click here for Part 2, and here for part 3.

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