22 Jan 2007
10 First Steps for a Transition Town Initiative #8. Build a Bridge to Local Government
Whatever the degree of groundswell your Transition Town initiative manages to generate, however many practical projects you manage to get going on the ground and however wonderful your Energy Descent Plan is, you will not progress too far unless you have cultivated a positive and productive relationship with your local authority. Whether it is planning issues, funding issues or whatever, you need them on board. You may well find, in many places now, that you are pushing against an open door.
It is advisable to start the process of drawing them in as early as possible in the process. For each event you plan to run, draw up a list of people within the local authority (as well as local business, the community and so on) who you feel should be there, and invite them personally. Go and see the relevant people within the Council and introduce yourself and the project.
It is key to steer as far clear of any sense of ‘them and us’ as possible. As well as inviting them to attend key events, it can also be good to invite them to sit on a panel which comments at the end of certain events… we are planning an event in April where we show ‘A Crude Awakening’ and then ask the speakers from the Council to comment on what they plan to do about the issues raised.
It would also be very useful to research the development plans that they have generated, to see what they have already done. Rather than your reinventing the wheel, very often Councils have done lots of community consultation and research, and although a lot of it may be based on dubious presumptions with regards to oil availability and climate change, it is worth checking that out too. We are exploring how an Energy Descent Plan for Totnes might work in terms of being written in a similar format to the current Community Development Plan. I have a mental picture of sometime in 2008, planners sat at a table with the ordinary Community Plan and a beautifully presented Energy Descent Plan, on the day when oil prices first break the $100 a barrrel ceiling, looking from one to the other and deciding that the EDP actually addresses the challenges being presented, and the conventional one being gently slid into the bin (we can dream!).
In short, seek to engage. You may well find people far hungrier for your ideas than you imagine. In Transition Town Totnes, we have a Liaison with Local Government Group, who, as their name suggests, work on ways in which the TTT initiative can most successfully interface with Local Government. They do much that I have set out above, and seek to maximise the productive ‘edge’ between the two. Eventually the link with Local Government might extend, once an Energy Descent Plan has been produced, to someone running for election to the Local Council on an Energy Descent Plan ticket. If steps 1-7 have been successfully pursued, they should get in by a landslide!