This piece ‘from the archive’ was first published in ICA:UK Network News #5, January 1998. It was one of my first client contracts as a freelancer and ICA:UK Associate (the first time, before I was an ICA:UK employee).
It was early days also for Emerge,then just newly registered as a company and with an all-volunteer team. EMERGE now provides a full range of waste, recycling and confidential shredding services to businesses and schools, and promotes sustainable resource management by offering advice, information and educational services within the wider community.
Emerge (East Manchester Environment and Resources Group) is a local community-based initiative operating in Manchester since early 1996 and involving a pilot door-to-door recycling scheme and a complementary arts and education programme. Through a referral from Manchester LETS, I was invited to help facilitate a team-building and planning weekend for around 20 Emerge volunteers and associates, November 21-23. The fee was negotiated in sterling and Bobbins (local currency).
In a couple of preparatory meetings in Manchester we agreed a schedule for the weekend that included a number of sessions to be facilitated by me using ToP methods, and sessions led by other guest speakers and facilitators, with me co-ordinating the overall event. When the weekend came, we all descended by minibus on the venue, Stanford Hall Co-operative College near Loughborough – a beautiful stately home with woods and a lake, kindly donated by the Co-operative Bank and well worth returning to for future ICA events!
The weekend opened with introductions, a review of the group’s anticipations and the schedule for the weekend, and then a Wall of Wonder looking at key events of the period 1982-2007 at the levels of the world, the community recycling movement and the individual. The “Evolution of Consciousness’, as the group titled this journey, progressed through periods of Consumerism, Realisation and Action to culminate in Sustainability by 2007 – an optimistic start to the weekend!
Saturday morning’s presentations from Urban Mines and the Community Recycling Network were followed in the afternoon by an outdoor team-building exercise. Modifying the indoor Tower Game I learned in ICA Egypt’s annual International Development Practitioner’s Exchange Programme, I had three teams gather organic matter from the nearby woods and each build a tower to be judged on the basis of height, strength and beauty. The teams took their tasks quite seriously and produced some fantastic structures, and seemed to have lots of fun in the process.
Although participants were all involved in some way or another in the daily work of Emerge, many had not met or worked much together, so this was an important part of the weekend. This was followed by a presentation from Emerge’s Arts & Education team and, after dinner, by a pub quiz.
Sunday was given over entirely to a six-month planning session using the ToP Action Planning method, the project being defined as – “a demonstration community recycling project, including education and awareness raising, to impact Greater Manchester’s waste disposal policy toward ‘Reduce Reuse Recycle’”. Although the session took half as long again as I had anticipated, finally finishing around 4pm, the group’s energy was sustained throughout and they came away committed to a six month calendar of tasks assigned to new work teams and including regular follow-up sessions – and a long-term Participatory Strategic Planning to look at the next 3-5 years.
Matthew Adams of Emerge writes:
“Our first excursion as a group was a resounding success. All in all we came away feeling more positive, more organised, with a better idea of where we are heading, and with realistic targets that can be achieved. Oh, and it was a good laugh as well! Thanks to all those who helped out, including Martin from ICA – lets hope we can keep the momentum up, and see a cleaner brighter future around the corner”
Four members of Emerge subsequently attended the January Group Facilitation Methods course in Manchester.