All eyes are on Climate Assembly UK in Birmingham this month. But across our region, RSA Fellows are leading the way on smaller-scale deliberative events on the climate emergency.
It’s inspiring to see the Fellowship Network working in this way – Fellows from villages, towns and cities connecting with and learning from each other to enable communities to develop local solutions to global problems.
Just as the UK Assembly is being backed by Parliamentary Select Committees, Fellows’ deliberative experiments have engaged local councillors and MPs. Why? They are all part of a worldwide trend – deliberative democracy is becoming more popular.
Here are the places in the Midlands where RSA Fellows are joining this ‘deliberative wave’:
Bob Sherman and Hugh Tott, FRSAs from rural Warwickshire, attended the RSA-supported Making Places Last event led by David Middleton FRSA in Birmingham late in 2018. Six months later held an event in their own village of Harbury to explore how to create and nurture low-carbon rural communities.
At that very successful event, How Low-Carbon is Your Community?, Jacky Lawrence FRSA offered to host another event in the neighbouring village of Napton, which became Creating Low-Carbon Communities. At Napton the baton was passed to John Stott, who organised the third event in Henley in Arden in October. The next event is in Kenilworth, in collaboration with the Town Council, and there are two more in the pipeline.
The events have taken place on Saturday mornings in village halls, welcomed people of all ages, combined expert speakers with opportunities to deliberate on priorities for local action. In all three villages where we’ve held events there are now active climate action groups taking forward those priorities. And there are plans to develop a ‘hub’ to pool resources and make it easier for other rural communities to access information and connect.
Find out more from Bob Sherman (MyRSA).
Clare Gage FRSA organised the Chesterfield People’s Assembly on climate change, held on a Sunday in July 2019 and attended by 70 people ranging in age from 8 to 80, a mixture of local activists, concerned citizens and those simply curious about the notion of a “People’s Assembly”.
A crèche and workshops for children ensured parents and carers were able to take part. The event was facilitated by Fellow-led grassroots democracy experts, Talkshop.
Clare sees herself enabling a citizen-led local movement, which seems to be garnering support from local elected representatives: both the Deputy Leader of Chesterfield Borough Council and the local MP attended on the day and remain supportive. The Assembly came up with a list of priorities for future local action on climate change which Clare is now taking forward with local people. You can follow her journey at Create Change Chesterfield.
Find out more from Clare Gage (MyRSA).
Indrani Lahiri FRSA, part of the RSA Leicester network, held a successful event on Sustainable Futures at De Montfort University in Leicester last April.
The conversation turned to citizens’ assemblies with a representative from Leicester City Council observing that while the Council was interested in holding one, the costs and timescale seemed prohibitive. We connected him with the Democracy team at the RSA and with Talkshop to work up a plan which drew upon the People’s Assembly model in Chesterfield.
Six months later Deputy Mayor Adam Clarke FRSA opened the Leicester Climate Assembly, which gave 60 delegates (selected anonymously from 175 applications to represent a cross-section of the city’s population) the opportunity to explore the council’s proposals for the city to become carbon neutral, following the declaration of a Climate Emergency.
A Youth Assembly took place a week later, replicating the model with 100 young people from local schools.
Find out more from Adam Clarke (MyRSA).
You can find out more about Talkshop’s work and access a really useful series of engagement tips here. These include a Climate Walk, described as a “walking thought experiment”: in small groups, you walk along a timeline from now until 2100. Along the way, you make choices or throw a dice and by the end, the idea is to better understand the impact of the choices we make.
Find out more about the RSA’s Campaign for Deliberative Democracy.