Research & Practice

Emergence Document

Launch event at the Wales Millennium Centre for the bilingual Emergence Eginiad report. Arresting ideas, practical advice and useful contacts from the 20 pioneering talks featured at the Emergence conferences in 2010/11.

‘Emergence has worked from the ground up…it has been a creative catalyst’. Louise Wright, British Council Wales Emergence launches a legacy document after three conferences in Wales. September 21st 2011 Cardiff

The original intention after the conferences in Cardiff, Swansea and Caernarfon was to finish with a similar event at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth. As many organisations were facing an uncertain future in the light of new policies and investment reviews from Welsh Government, Cynnal Cymru included, the timing was difficult to commit to the intended event. Originally this seemed a blow as the energy behind and interest in the project was becoming more palpable. We decided therefore with the support of our funders to redirect our grant not into another event but into creating a publication. In retrospect this seems like we were trusting in emergent design rather than allowing a prescriptive plan to lead us! The talks at the conferences were such a valuable resource it felt an important step in the process to make these as widely available as possible. We had already filmed each of the talks and began to put them online, however it seemed essential to collect these extraordinary presentations together in one place. This meant that the whole story of the three conferences as it had unfolded – from context, through interconnectivity to resilience – could be told.

Fern met many people since the beginning of Emergence who voiced that storytellers have a great role to play in the transition to a more sustainable society. Transition Town’s project ‘Tales to Sustain’ and Dark Mountain’s work are two examples of the power of story at this uncertain time. The story of industrial progress of continual growth and the creation of wealth through increased commodity consumption is just that – a story. This story however has become the dominant paradigm and has shaped the world in which we live and is the reason we find ourselves in our current global predicament. There are other stories and it is high time to hear them.

The power that drives Emergence is the story that it is hearing, collecting and re-telling. The Emergence document became the next piece of work – the next project, a homage to the storyteller.
With the help of the original speakers, we began the work of editing the talks into a distilled, readable version that retained the power, accessibility and immediacy of the spoken word. This was a more complex undertaking than we had originally thought. We wanted to keep the talks fresh, the use of language personal to each speaker whilst at the same time create a coherent document which would make sense to those not at the live event.

Hearing the right words at the right moment in our life is a crucial precursor of change. Sometime we hear but do not listen – or is it that we listen and do not hear? The spoken word can move us in a way that the written cannot. Perhaps the vibrations enter our bodies and literally ‘move us’ to act. How to retain this power in the literary form?

The publication of the document became another marker in the unfolding story of emergence. We decided to shine a spotlight on it by using its launch as another opportunity to gather people together and continue the conversation.

The Wales Millennium Centre offered us their venue in return for the opportunity of sharing with guests how sustainability is being incorporated as a core organising principle into the management and practices of this iconic building. This created a focus for the event and encouraged us to organise a low-carbon infrastructure seminar. After the speeches and supportive words of encouragement from John Griffiths (Minister for Environment and Sustainability at the Welsh Government), Louise Wright (British Council Wales), and Nick Capaldi (Chief Exec Arts Council Wales) this is what we got our collective teeth into.

The example of what was happening at WMC (and how it had significantly reduced emissions and running costs) and a presentation from Catherine Langabeer at Julies Bicycle galvanized those present into action. Representatives from some of the major companies, arts organisations and venues in Wales were present in the room. This was clearly one of those eureka moments when people begin to see exactly what difference can be made by a small committed group of individuals. The power of information sharing and collective action was at the heart of the discussions. Deborah Keyser from the Welsh venue network Creu Cymru and Lori Frater from BRASS (Centre for Business Relationships, Accountability, Sustainability and Society) were also in the room and were the inspiration behind what was to become one of successful early project outcomes of this first phase of the Emergence project – Emergence Creu Cymru.