Friday, June 8, 2012

Community workers seek to harvest ideas for the future

By Robert McNamara and Allen Meagher


A new way of looking at communities in Ireland is being sought in the run-up to the 20th anniversary of the Rio Earth Summit.
President Michael D Higgins thought this work was important enough to officiate at the opening in Cloughjordan, Co. Tipperary, of Convergence 2012 which was filmed by 'Changing Ireland'. The move is towards promoting “community resilience” in place of “sustainable development.”


A wet summer's day in Cloughjordan
Most of the global promises made in Rio in 1992 were not honoured while economic growth continued to be promoted, destroying ecosystems and increasing Ireland’s temperature in the intervening two decades by 0.75 degrees, meaning we’re on course for a four degree rise here within the lifetime of some of today’s children. 

The message 20 years after the first Earth Summit in Rio is that too few people took notice of the “Think Global, Act Local” slogan to change their lifestyle, become more active citizens and embrace sustainable development.
Instead we’ve had industrial and economic development on a global scale and that’s despite nations promising to slow down to avoid irreversible climate change, the destruction of habitats and so on.
But if the doomsday predictions of societal collapse and species wipe-out didn’t get the message across, what will people listen to? What values shape our behaviour?
That’s the question being discussed around the country this year as part of what’s called Convergence 2012, led by environmentalists and community workers in County Tipperary, who feel we’ve reached the point of “Peak Everything” – a time when the best ideas are likely to come to the fore – as nations and societies begin involuntarily to slow down.


The 'Convergence 2012' programme kicked off on Wednesday, June 6th, in Cloughjordan with an event entitled “Conversations for the Future We Want” which brought together community workers and experts from around the country.

The aim was to re-examine values and breakthrough ideas in order to bring about systematic change.
Participants engaged in group sessions where ideas and information were gathered and “harvested” into a chart for use on the organisation's website.
“We are collecting and illuminating breakthrough ideas, and we will be showing where these conversations have taken place around the country," said Davie Philip, event organiser.
Davie Philip on community resilience.

Convergence 2012 is different to previous years and Davie believes a new approach is needed.
“Community resilience is a sort of re-framing of sustainability. We need to build the resilience of our communities and our organisations to be able to thrive in an environment of change, uncertainty, unpredictability and surprise,” he said in a presentation.
“We've had 20 years of trying to inform people, organisations, businesses and communities to be more sustainable and yet we've probably failed in our objectives. We are really not any more sustainable. The word doesn't resonate with people,” he added.
Facilitator Chris Chapman, said a change in thinking about sustainable communities was needed in order to make progress.
“Just carrying on and doing more of what we have been doing didn't feel like it was going to work. It didn't feel like it was going to end poverty or help climate change,” he said.
Tom Crompton, Change Strategist at World Wildlife Foundation, spoke to the audience in a pre-recorded video that will be shown at other conversations around the country.
“Values inform our work. Intrinsic and extrinsic values are important to all of us. On what basis can we collaborate to create the future that we want? Seen in one way the challenge is simple; finding out what matters to us collectively and finding out what shapes what matters to us collectively.”
Tom, who is based in Britain and does not fly, will be in City Hall, Dame Street, Dublin on June 20th for the next installment of the Convergence programme. 

For more information, or if you and some people in your community wish to hold your own local event, log onto
Meanwhile, if you sometimes wonder about other people's values and attitudes or wish to examine your own values in an illuminating way, this should interest you:
And finally, if you're one of the many asking is it too late to shift values and to create change - of course it's not!

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