Striking up relations

You have may noticed in my profile that I’m a trustee of European Alternatives, so I thought it was time that I we went back to where we started a network.

The Transeuropa Network was born in the Hanbury Hall. The Hall is where the word ‘strike’ was first coined; it’s where the ladies’ from the local matchstick factory met to address their terrible working conditions.

We didn’t strike over work, but like with the match stick ladies, this was the founding meeting of people coming together because they wanted to strike up relationships and match make ideas to develop a festival.

We are passionate about developing democratic and creative alternatives and we wanted the Network to develop in a way that was creative, democratic and productive.

  • Creative, using exciting techniques to explore new models.
  • Democratic, using approaches which allow everyone in their local groups to take part in this process in ways which suit them.
  • Productive, exploring and testing out different models that everyone feels happy about.

As we hopped from table to table to swap ideas on the diverse topics, we started to find out which theme would really make us tick.

The criterion we were given were:

  1. What issues could act as themes for the festival?

2. Which issue would have the greatest resonance for which city?

3. Which themes would we be the most enthusiastic about and would want to get involved in?

Once we’d done that, we then got into the group of the theme of our choice and started with a blank sheet. And it was amazing to see the insights of people from really different environments and how their cultures shaped their ideas and opinions on the themes, and how clear it was what we wanted to achieve to better involve others in developing transnational activities that didn’t provide the answers to the big questions, but explored the issues by asking the questions in a different way.

In fact I remember reflecting on the first meeting that it was very clear that the organisation helping support the network, European Alternatives, wanted to involve people in shaping what the network was going to be and how it developed.

And from that meeting, we agreed that one person from each thematic group would write up the discussions from the meeting and these notes would turn into a wiki page which we would build up over the coming months to be more and more comprehensive on the theme, informing local activities and all the work carried out by the network.

We also pledged to identify one example of an interesting action performed related to their theme or an example of an urgent issue relating to the theme which we thought the Transeuropa Network should do something about. Each group would then decide on one such action or topic to present at the next meeting.

So what can we learn?

Embrace the mess; you need rules for radicals not for robots

The start of any activity is inevitably uncomfortable and confusing. Allow for this, as people move closer to being involved. If you try to move too quickly to a rigidly planned activity, they won’t feel a sense of ownership in it.



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Head of Policy Design, Scrutiny & Partnerships @newhamlondon #localgov Co-founder of #systemschange & #servicedesign progs. inspired by @cescaalbanese