Deckchair Democracy

I went today to a really exciting and innovative gathering on the steps of the Victorian Parliament in Melbourne.
A grassroots group called LIVE (“Locals Into Victoria’s Environment”) is collecting signatures in support of investment in renewable energy and also hosting a brief speakers series every day at 1pm.
They’re calling it ‘Deckchair Democracy’ and, as you can see from the photo, they’ve got their props sorted. Their argument is that the current course of the ship of state is heading straight for the metaphorical iceberg at full speed.
They were very welcoming of newcomers, and I was introduced to other people by name, and so was able to strike up an interesting chat with a chap involved in “Climarte: Arts for a Safe Climate.

There were two speakers today. First up was Associate Professor Phillip Payne of Monash University, an expert on environmental education research. He spoke for about 15 minutes, using a case study of children he taught in primary school 30 years ago, whose self-confidence, literacy and understanding of the scientific method had all been boosted by experiments they did on local pollution which they contacted their local Member of Parliament about.
The second speaker was Alicia Webb, formerly a wind engineer with a company called Hepburn who now works with Embark a privately funded, non-profit organisation, which seeks to eliminate the barriers holding back the growth of a powerful, community renewable energy sector in Australia. She spoke about an inspiring community-owned wind farm project. Her main point (one that needs to be hammered home) is that it is a “long-haul” to explain the why and how, and garner local support.

The model is a great one – of short meetings at locations accessible to people during their lunch break (and ideally symbolic of local democracy!)
Great model, deserves to be stolen…

If I were in charge, I’d experiment with having a 3 or 4 minute basic biographical note/project summation from the guest speaker followed by people forming into pairs/threes and coming up with questions that the guest speaker then briefly responds to, taking each pair/three’s question in turn, with someone scribing so those not present benefit too.

This would –
* get folks mingling better and, long-term, create more links in the wider environmental network
* create interesting questions
* give the guest speaker something to think chew on (ideas and research and action questions might be sparked by the questions she was asked).
* Be a bit more dynamic than the sitting and listening model
and might possibly overcome or reduce the impact of the “can’t hear because of the noise of the trams” problem.

In an ideal world, I’d get the also speakers to do brief (5 minute tops) youtube videos about their field of interest and post them on the internet BEFORE they come to do their session. This would give viewers a chance to know what they were letting themselves in for and maybe dream up questions. It would also give folks who could never get to the talks a (faint!) sense that they too were part of the process.

A few related posts
Deeply moving deep ecology workshop
Why are they called meetings?
Adventures in the liminal zone- why do newbies not come back?
What scares newbies off?
Youtube – from cannon-fodder to ego-fodder


About dwighttowers

Below the surface...
This entry was posted in activism, climate, competence and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Deckchair Democracy

  1. Antonio Dias says:

    Those are some powerful, concrete suggestions! They get past the whole “I’m here to consume” attitude that is an ingrained expectation while attending an “event” and then should generate some solid content heading back the “other way” towards the podium. Also the way they provide a fine grained series of opportunities for people to connect across the entire gathering.

    “It’s a fine line…” my mentor Nigel Smalls used to say. This seems to navigate it well!

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