I chose August 21st as it’s a weekday, so business people would come if they wanted to; and people, all kinds of people not away on holidays, would come if they wanted to; with luck that late August laidback feeling might prevail. It did.
From the very start, you could tell something really good was going to happen. A wonderful gathering of people appeared and seemed all to become friends instantly.
I wanted to do three things…
- Thank all the people who’ve helped me in the last 8 years, people I know who really care about environment issues (including social justice issues).
- Convey a message that we must get a move on; we haven’t even scratched the surface yet and we’re running out of time and resources.
- Link people in Northern Ireland with people across the Atlantic, the Pacific – all over the world – and with each other.
…and not do three things.
- Use rows: rows promote lecturing, experts, ‘elected’ leaders and a herd mentality.
We need to break down the separateness that so often exists at these conferences: if you know anyone there, you hang with the people you know. How is this networking?
we wanted people to see and hear each other, so we all sat in a big circle round the room. Then the whole room introduced themselves – it was quite moving to see people from all age groups, all parts of Ireland, business world and community world and how much is going on, and how many people care.
- Use name-tags (thanks Iona!)
- Have unsustainable food – we took care with this; lunch was still bready and a bit expensive, but we had great fillings from Miriam prepared by Christine and the Stranmillis cooks.
Film and stills from people and places all over Northern Ireland, including: Arlene Foster (ex-Environment minister); Sandy Lindsay (who plans to use our Respect Arc with his students at Larne High School); St Colm’s Antrim and Antrim Primary School kids asking Tesco customers: “Do You Ever say No to plastic bags?”
Music from Eric Landry on didgeridoo; Diane Wilson on the musical saw, accompanied by Jonny Mitchell on guitar; and Bo Vance on the tubular bell, to open the event proper.We listened to Baglady introducing the event, and discussing the Respect Arc. Miriam Turley gave a fascinating presentation on the series of eco-audits she and her friends have been conducting on each other. The eco-audit is a great way to check how ASAP our houses are, and our lives! You can read how to conduct your own audit, and send it to us, here.
After lunch, Zand Craig introduced our version of Open Space, for discussion and action planning. You can see a PDF document of the outcomes of this session here. We found Open Space an amazingly democratic and inclusive alternative to more orthodox ways of facilitating discussion, and highly recommend it. You can see some pics of this session below.
The day wasn’t all serious, though; we had a laughter workshop with Jacky Ingram, scenes from ‘ASAP; The Play’, starring Nuala McKeever, Bill Jeffrey, Sandra Weir, Maggie Cronin and Jim Johnston. After dinner, Julia Waters led a dance to guide the day to a relaxed conclusion.
Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequence were there, and featured us on their 23rd August show! You can hear the report here:
We’re glad that people felt free both to come late and to go early; and that enough stayed to the end for us all to have meaningful discussions and action planning, and to report that we all felt really good about the whole day.
Thanks to everyone who helped make this happen – porters, gatemen, the general Stranmillis staff – and to everyone who attended. You know who you are! While not everyone was able to make it to the day – some sent apologies, others were far away – many still attended virtually by sending their pledge.
We plan to take these ideas further, with Pledge ASAP, and further focussed workshops and meetings. Keep an eye out here for further updates!