Reflections on the climate change networking meeting

Last month I helped facilate a climate change networking meeting. I discussed some of my thoughts before the meeting but realised that I haven’t commented since the meeting. There were 29 people from a variety of groups including Transition Newcastle, Climate Action Newcastle, the Newcastle Bike Ecology CentreNourishing Newcastle, the Uniting Church, Greenpeace, and various other groups. There were  also a number of groups who weren’t represented and hopefully they will come along next time.

We started around 15 minutes late – I expected to start a bit late, but I didn’t think we would start quite that late.   The introductions went well and it was interesting hearing about the various approaches to addressing climate change. At times we strayed into discussion which was a bit off-topic and a few people would have liked us to keep more on task. Other people (including me) felt that the discussion was important (and relevant) and helped build relationships.

Because time was short we just did a quick brain storm of assets rather than proper asset mapping. It would have been good to have a bit more time to do the speed asset mapping, but we really didn’t have enough time.

We finished up with a very quick open space. Again we really needed more time, as the discussion only just scratched the surface.

I often seem to try to cram too much into the available time, but when I asked for some feedback at the end of the meeting and suggested that we should have left out the asset mapping, quite a few people disagreed. I still think it would have been better to only do the asset mapping or the open space and not try to fit both in. I’m not sure which I would have left out. I think I would have focussed on the open space. While asset mapping is an important tool, there is a danger that we don’t do anything with the assets we identify. I feel we need to do be a bit clearer about why we are asset mapping.

With these types of occasions it is challenging to balance task and process (or task and relationship building). For some people, the introductions needed to be more task oriented. Other people appreciated the opportunity to build relationships and to get to know other people better. I believe that a great deal of our work is based on relationships and so relationship building is crucial. If we are to successfully engage the community we need to be achieving things, but we also need to be building strong relationships and connections. My experience is that if we want to engage more than highly motivated people and radicals, we need to create groups that are welcoming, warm and inclusive.

Essentially I think the meeting was a good start to the networking meetings. It will be interested to see how the next one goes when it is hosted by Climate Action Newcastle.

About Graeme Stuart

Lecturer (Family Action Centre, Newcastle Uni), blogger (Sustaining Community), environmentalist, Alternatives to Violence Project facilitator, father. Passionate about families, community development, peace & sustainability.
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