Community climate responses: co-creative insights

I’m writing this thinks piece in January 2022, to see what I’ve learned from two years’ work in my hometown, and to share my hopes for the year just starting. On this journey, I’ve had to dig deep in my co-creative toolkit, and add some new approaches. So here’s a co-creative take on my local climate work.

a. Wandering with intent: this is how the youngest brothers in fairy tales find their goal. In my work, it has meant trying out a wide range of contacts and initiatives, wandering through online searches, and gradually learning what worked. For an overview of our year 1 insights, see here.

b. Build partnerships: collaboration is part of the co- in co-creative. Two years ago, my small Seeding our Future project was unknown in Bridport. To build our credibility, and ensure we worked along with what was already happening, we have partnered with established local organisations for most of our events and major initiatives.

c. When you’re stuck, make a change: in August 2021, I felt frustrated. The climate crisis was worsening fast, and our team felt that our progress was limited. I used my Diamond Process, going for long walks as I ground my teeth with bewilderment, until at last an idea emerged. It took weeks to persuade others, but in November, we organised two Climate Forums, for organisations of all kinds, consulting them on how they and their members could widen local involvement in climate responses.

Participants at the November 23 Climate Forum

None of us had tried such an idea, but it worked. We had forty organisations participating enthusiastically, some excellent ideas on next steps, and several people with expertise to take this forward. See more here.

d. Evolve fluid structures: this is a paradox in many projects, but especially in climate responses, where it’s so hard to be clear on the best options, and there are probably different views even within your core team. It may be best to focus on a couple of initiatives at a time, each lasting a few months, such as our new Bridport Climate Response website. For example, a major aim from the Climate Forums was to give local young people a voice in local climate responses. A small grant will pay for some capacity to start a process to involve young people, and a budget for a comms programme they can shape, without being sure what form that will take.

e. Be extremely patient: these two years have shown me that most people in Bridport, as elsewhere, find the climate crisis too overwhelming to engage with. So don’t expect big results: just keep trying and hoping.

f. Play with the challenges: this can ease your frustrations, and bring you new insights. It’s hard to do with something as serious as climate change, but I’m trying! This comic strip is an example: I am gently sending myself up with the central character, so I don’t take myself too seriously!