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WEN Earth Day 2008 – Food Security Open Space at Porters

Transition Town Westcliff ran our first experiment in using ‘open space’ at the Earth Day organised by South East Essex Women’s Environment Network at Porters, the Mayor of Southend’s official residence on Saturday 19th April.

The theme of the WEN event this year was ‘positive news’, so this seemd a great opportunity to present the TTW message of resilience as well as explore how the town might respond creatively and proactively to the issue of food security in a post-oil era.

We started the session by showing a short film about the creation of the community garden at Leaf Street in Hulme, Manchester in order to provide some inspiration as well as demonstrate the possibilities of ‘people power’…

(unfortunately the film is split into three parts here due to Youtube upload constraints)

(part 1)

(part 2)

(part 3)

After this we divided the room into 4 discussion spaces, ‘Onion’, ‘Kale’, ‘Courgette’ and ‘Carrot’. Ron and Graham then gave an overview of the Open Space method, explaining that it is intended to be a more participatory, empowering and engaging way of running an event than more traditional formats such as a speaker being followed by a Q & A session…

We then presented the central question of the event; “How will Westcliff and the surrounding area feed itself beyond the age of cheap oil?”, before inviting participants to fill the timetable with four further questions or ‘sub-themes’. There was a little confusion at first but folks soon got the hang of thing, and very quickly we had four lively discussion groups running around the themes of;

We then ran a second session using the same format (different participants who had been at other workshops), this time our themes were;

The sessions yielded an amazing diversity of ideas and inputs, all of which can be viewed at our Flickr site here

Despite a few hiccups, including not being able to put the timetables up on the wall as blue tac might have marked the Mayor’s wallpaper, and not having enough time for proper feedback sessions, the event was a great success, with participants saying that they’d enjoyed themselves and that it was much more interesting than the usual meeting format.

5 Responses

  1. fantastic!! I so much regret I couldn’t see open space at work but I’m sure we will create many more opportunities like this. Lets keep it up

  2. Its interesting that when I first mentioned this event on the main TTW website I wasn’t sure how to describe it, as ‘food security’ was a rather obscure term that not many people might have been familiar with… A few weeks later its a concept just about EVERYBODY is thinking about… Things are moving fast…

  3. More about Leaf Street community gardens can be found at Rob Squires blog here;

  4. Thanks for the link Graham.

  5. […] WEN Earth Day 2008 – Food Security Open Space at Porters […]

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