COMMUNITY BUILDING CAN MAKE A CHANGE

Hvordan udvikler vi demokratiet

A strong civil society with bottom-up movements is the driving force when moving toward change. Community building provides strong and trusting collaborative relationships and the sense of common purpose which support joint action. Through bottom-up collaboration, we can dream of a planet in recovery.

How can bottom-up change movements work effectively with the various parts of the infrastructure which makes up the EU? I was fascinated during the lead up to the UK’s Brexit vote to see a debate between people passionately committed to working for bottom-up change in the UK inside the EU and others who were just as passionately committed to voting to leave in order to better support such change.

The Transition Movement

This discussion took place inside the Transition movement, which worked with the European Economic and Social Committee to inform the Committee’s recent opinion on building a coalition of civil society and subnational authorities to deliver commitments of the Paris Agreement.  Personally I’m greatly encouraged by the extent to which the EESC is advocating support for the potentially critical role of bottom-up activity by civil society actors in counteracting climate change.

Having said that, I’m also aware of opposite currents within the EU such as the deeply pro-TTIP stance which meant that negotiators at COP21 weren’t allowed to do anything which might impede TTIP despite the impact that it would have on attempting to act proportionately to the scale of the climate change challenge.  While, for now, EU leaders seem wary of appearing too pro-TTIP in public, it appears that other equally scary so-called trade agreements are being promoted behind the scenes.

Strong, trusting relationships towards change

What does all of this mean for those of us who are working for bottom-up change?  In the Transition movement one of our core principles is that, for most human beings, the most meaningful level of scale at which to understand and engage with systemic change is at the level of community.  This is because at that scale it is more practical to build the strong, trusting collaborative relationships and the sense of common purpose, agency and connection which enable and support us to identify what needs to change and take action together to make that happen.  

The Transition movement is underpinned by the belief that the positive systemic change so urgently required cannot be delivered through a purely top-down, directive approach no matter how well planned and communicated. Instead, if we want to see positive change we need to create conditions which support and empower people, groups and institutions to find new ways to collaborate, to design and bring into being new experimental technologies, processes and structures and to then share their learning with others.

A collaboration-friendly-environment

We also need to grapple with the challenge opening our hearts and minds to change across complex systems.  As individuals, at the level of groups, organisations and businesses and within our broader institutions we have many defences, defaults and unhelpful structures and processes that get in the way.

We see cultures of significantly differing levels of health around us and would suggest that the degree of meaningful connection – to ourselves, to those around us and to the natural world –  is a key determinant as to whether we are living in a culture of care or not.  We’re interested in what prompts, enables and empowers individuals, groups, organisations and societies to connect with and care for themselves, each other and the natural world around them and what are the factors which encourage movement in the opposite direction – towards disconnection and a culture of uncare.  

I find great joy in sharing the endeavour of making change and moving towards ever broader cultures of care, and in dreaming of what we might create through bottom-up collaboration – in dreaming of a planet in recovery.