A couple of years ago, Transition Newcastle decided to build stronger relationships with Council. We took part in consultations (including a community planning process) responded to various issues and tried to raise our profile (mainly with staff). We built some good connections with staff in a few areas, but particularly the Environment and Climate Change Services team who provided significant support to the Transition Streets Challenge. Unfortunately, it feels like we are back to square one as nearly all of the team lost their jobs in Council cutbacks. The decision to drastically reduce the Environment and Climate Change team suggests to us that Council is reducing its focus on sustainability.
It is probably still worth trying again as Council plays such an important role in local communities and they are within our field of influence.
It was thus timely to read an undergraduate research project by Krstyna Ennis, Transition Towns: Building resilience through collaborative planning. Some of her suggestions for how Transition Initiatives can try to build relationships with local councils are worth considering:
- Keep abreast of what council is doing
- Actively seek out opportunities to be included and to collaborate
- Celebrate victories – be positive and social in order to main the enthusiasm of members
- Be involved in community planning consultations
- Respond to council surveys about what the community needs
- Develop good relationships with council officers
- Support council initiatives
- Keep council informed of your plans, achievements and processes
- Invite council members to Transition meetings
- Incorporate a collaborative element into the structure of the Transition model
- Produce and distribute publications to local governments about how peak oil and climate change will affect communities.
Many of the things from Krstyna’s list are achievable with a bit of effort, although I must admit the thought of putting in the work to build relationships all over again is somewhat daunting. But if I think about what potential resources that could help (after all I do promote a strengths-based approach to community engagement) there are some sympathetic staff and Councillors. They would be a good place to start.
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