Ecoteams Schmecoteams

MCFly spent a glorious sunny Saturday morning… indoors, being depressed by the format and execution of a climate event called “Eco-teams”. Not asking for sympathy – MCFly is an idiot, and getting too old for this stuff.

The event was organised by “Global Action Plan”. They had contacted all sorts of groups, and invited people along to hear about what they do, with the idea of people leaving all fired up to lead “Eco-teams” of 4 to 6 people reducing their emissions over a few months.

As feared, it kicked off with a goodly portion of death by powerpoint. First off, a Council officer gave an overview of the Manchester Climate Change Action Plan. She managed to mention AfSl, FoE etc but not the group that actually created the conditions for broad participation. No surprises there then.

After that the audience sat through a twenty five minute explanation of “Ecoteams,” a straight-forward concept that anyone who came was – by definition – sold on. It could have been explained in a two page briefing that could have been sent out earlier, freeing up time and bandwidth
Just when I – and others- were losing the will to live, we had a pseudo-mingler where we had to go around the room to find people who had led meetings, had alternative energy sources at home etc.

I say pseudo-mingler, because that didn’t lead on to us forming groups based on where we live, what work we do, what we’ve already done, what we might want to do. Typical of the underlying (and false) liberal assumptions about individual behaviour change, we spent the day being bombarded with facts and gimmicks but never was any attempt made to find out what people already knew, were already doing, specifically wanted to know.

We then had lots of “put laminate cards of these appliances in order of least to most polluting” games, that you’d get teenagers to play. Nothing wrong with that, but is it the best way to embed an enthusiasm for/interest in being an EcoTeam Leader, and role-playing the difficulties etc?

The whole day seemed predicated on the tedious and ineffective* “information deficit model”, and the underlying assumption was that Consumer Capitalism was fine as long as it was Green Consumer Capitalism. In academia this is known as “ecological modernisation“. All the talk is of “efficiency” and “waste-reduction”, never of justice, or lessening consumption.

Tony Lloyd, recently re-elected MP for Manchester Central bravely took on the post-lunch slot. His advice for effective lobbying?
a) feel entitled to do it
b) lobbying is a discussion, in which you have prove your case (blackmail along the lines of “Do as I say or I won’t vote for you” is not effective!!)
c)the most direct (face-to-face) engagement is the best

Two more sessions and then we were done. We had the same person facilitating throughout the day (a mistake. If there are other people who could take some on, then let them. They will benefit from the experience, and the audience will hear a different voice!)

Trouble was, even on its own terms- of encouraging people to become eco-team leaders, this event was at best a half-success. At the end of the event, someone asked me “so, what now? Is there a pack that you get if you agree to be an Ecoteam leader?” This person is intelligent, dedicated and effective. If he/she is not able to get that basic information from a day, then the organisers have some soul-searching to do.

But, I suspect most of the feedback forms they got spoke in glowing terms (English people rarely tell hard truths, even in anonymous feedback forms) and that at least some of those who attended will start up teams. But not as many as could have. Verdict: yet another missed opportunity.

Disclaimer – MCFly is jealous of Global Action Plan’s resources, and irritated that a bunch of Londoners have come up and done something that AfSL, FOE, C2RA, MCA between them could have done, only better.

*Ineffective in achieving the ostensible goals of the organisation – creating empowered and effective citizens who maintain long-term reductions of their carbon footprint and that of a bunch of people around. Very effective in allowing people to stay in their comfort zones, tick the boxes that say “information delivered” and so forth.

For how it SHOULD be done, see Cambridge Carbon Footprint

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2 Responses to Ecoteams Schmecoteams

  1. Hi MCFly, Thanks for coming along to the training & exhibiting. Thanks also for your input; we’ll use what we can to improve the event. Hopefully that way, even more people will enjoy it & find it beneficial. You’re right, we receive lots of positive feedback, & many people we have trained go on to run or join really successful EcoTeams.We will reduce the use of PowerPoint and also try to explain EcoTeams more succinctly at the start. Unfortunately, not everyone who comes will have the time to pre-read material and you’re right, people do have different levels of environmental experience and knowledge. Of course as an exhibitor, you were one of the most knowledgeable attendees & we wanted to give others the chance to learn more. There are a few of your points we want to look into it a bit more before making changes, & others we don’t fully agree with e.g. there was only one trainer at the front, as lots of the morning was spent on activities at the table with different facilitators. Much as we would love to have more trainers at our sessions, I’m not sure they’re necessary and would cost our medium-sized charity significantly. We’re proud that the event is free for people to attend, and for chosen local environmental organisations like yours to exhibit, so we don’t want to burden ourselves with extra costs.Our head offices are in London, but we are a national charity with projects, employees and partners across the country. We invite people such as yourselves and local MPs to give even more relevant and local information. That is because the more people who work together, the more we can achieve. We hope that you found it a useful opportunity to promote your activities. Let me know if you would like to chat about it further. I think you already have my contact details, but you can also get in touch through http://www.globalactionplan.org.ukHave a good weekend.Clare Whiting, Senior EcoTeams Programme Manager

  2. Hi Clare,Thanks for your reply. There are at least six temptations when responding to a public critiqueimpugn/diminish the relevance of the messengerignore the substantive issuescreate a straw man and have a go at that insteadanswer a different questionsay that perfectly good ideas can't be implementedchange the subjectWere these six tactics eschewed in the seven paragraph reply? Sadly, no. But it serves no purpose to get into a "he said-she said" on this issue. I can only reiterate three disappointments – that the people who came were treated as blank slates with no prior knowledge or experience. They were empty jugs into which GAP tried to pour its idea of relevant knowledge.that the facilitators, while generally good, were massively under-utilised.The fact – unacknowledged in your reply – remains that at least one person who was up for being an eco-team leader was left none-the-wiser at the end of what was entailed and what would be provided.Someone I sent the blog post link to thought it was “brilliant” and had no quibbles with it being unfair.Two other people I was in touch with afterwards said the following “Have now recovered from Saturday and on reflection…………..wot a waste of a sunny day!!”and “Saturday? – bit too 'american smooth' for my liking – I would not use them to set up a group with my neighbours.”I don't know if any of those people put such things on the feedback forms. Probably not.Why does this matter? Well, in all probability Global Action Plan will get a contract with Manchester City Council to do more of this sort of “education” and “empowerment” work. And I fear that other groups, with more genuinely participative and astute theories of personal and collective change (for example, Cambridge Carbon Footprint), will not get to show what they can offer. And the people of Manchester won't get the best carbon literacy and effective reduction help on offer.

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