Last night I gave a de facto convenor report at Transition Newcastle’s annual general meeting (AGM). Even though I had stood down as convenor at the 2015 AGM, the position had remained vacant and I’ve been doing quite a few of the roles anyway. As nobody else has been able to take on the role, I have been reappointed as the convenor. The following post is based on the report I gave last night.
If we had held our AGM at the end of2015, I think I would have been reporting on a group that was in a decline.
We didn’t run any Transition Streets groups last year, the numbers at our meetings were declining and so we had decided to stop them for a while, and the committee had been only meeting occasionally. There were still some glimmers of life:
- The Nourishing Newcastle Urban Tucker Stall was still held twice a month at the farmers market
- The upcycling group had started in October and it looked like it had potential
- Transition Streets in Australia had been featured in a publication by the international Transition Network of 21 stories of Transition prepared in the lead up to the Paris Climate change talks
- We had a strong presence at the Sydney climate change rally also in the lead up to the climate change talks
- We had finished the year with a dinner which had attracted a number of enthusiastic new people.
But now a few months down the track, the story is very different. There seems to be a new found energy and passion. In fact I’m feeling a little bit nervous about how much we have planned!
The Upcycling group has proved there is a great deal of interest and there is potential to help people rediscover old skills, and challenge some of the waste and consumption that is so rampant in our community. They have run four successful workshops, organised a chair repair and upcycling day, held two events at the Uni, started a sewing class (based on upcycling), built strong connections with a range of other groups and created a Newcastle Upcyclers Facebook group (which has grown to 115 members after only five weeks).
A number of people have expressed interest in hosting Transition Streets in their community, and there is some new energy for expanding this community building program.
We have decided to keep our meetings on the first Wednesday of the month, but with a focus on upcycling.
We have a new look website which was developed by a student doing a work placement with us from the University. One of the great things about Newcastle (as in other places) is that there are all sorts of initiatives that could easily be Transition Initiatives. There are community groups like CleanAs and the CycleSafe Network (to name just a couple) and businesses like Car Next Door and KnotOneTwo (both of which presented at our AGM) that sit very comfortably with our approach to sustainability. One of the things I think we can do is to help promote what else is happening in through our webpage and Facebook page.
We have started discussing a Fair Share Festival in November this year focusing on the effects – environmental, ethical and social – of our rapidly increasing consumption and waste production, with a particular focus on the textile industry. Events could include films, speakers, forums as well as workshops and creative upcycling events.
It was quite a big decision to return to being the convenor as work is very busy and I have started facilitating with the Alternatives to Violence Project again (which is quite a big commitment), and I think it is good for groups to share these types of roles. I agreed to taking on the role again for a number of reasons including that it helps me to stay grounded in reality as a lecturer who focuses on community engagement, I think Transition Newcastle plays an important role in community building and sustainability, and I have relevant skills. But probably the main reason, however, is that Cathy is essentially the driving force behind the new upcycling project and we need somebody in the convenor role if they are going to apply for funds or enter into agreements with other organisation. Probably I can also best support her through some of the administrative (e.g., funding applications and ensuring we have a strong organisation) and communication (e.g., maintaining the website and looking after the email list) roles that I will do as convenor. I’m not very creative in that sort of way so am unlikely to get involved in the actual upcycling, but I can help in the background.
So essential I feel much more confident about the strength and vitality of the group now than I did five months ago and I’m looking forward to an exciting year.
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