We did it!


*****Thank you***** to everyone that took part in our conversation cafe! Over fifty people kick-started Be the change – Cambridge. Now the really hard work starts.

See http://bethechangecambridge.org.uk/?p=283 for an early write up with videos. See Lucinda Price’s excellent photographs of the day at http://lucindapricephotography.wordpress.com/2014/09/13/be-the-change-cambridge/

It still hasn’t quite sunk in that we were able to get that many people at such short notice together to crunch through issues and ideas on making Cambridge greater than the sum of its parts. (Remember our definition of Cambridge is its people – including those that commute in to work/study and/or visit regularly).

Civic leaders listen and engage

Even now I have to pinch myself to think how we managed to assemble a gathering that overall included participation from:

  • The prospective parliamentary candidates from the three main parties represented on Cambridge City Council
  • Representation from local, national and European levels of government
  • A visit from the Mayor of Cambridge
Vicky Ford MEP (Con), Julian Huppert MP (Lib Dem) & Cllr Lewis Herbert (Lab) discussing some of the issues with participants.
Vicky Ford MEP (Con),  Cllr Lewis Herbert (Lab) & Dr Julian Huppert MP discussing some of the issues raised by participants.

My personal thanks to Vicky Ford MEP, Dr Julian Huppert MP, Cllr Lewis Herbert, Daniel Zeichner and Chamali Fernando. Thank you to newly elected Cambridge City Councillors, Cllrs Dave Baigent and Tim Moore too.

What was really nice to see was how party politics was put to one side by elected representatives and activists taking part. Everyone focused on collective problem-solving, bringing different perspectives to shared problems.

Learning to let go

As an organiser of a large event, it’s always tempting to stamp your mark on things – showcasing your ideas rather than taking a step back. The big test for me was letting go of it all, and allowing things to proceed at their own pace. Although the only mini-crisis of the day took me out of the room for part of the ‘throw everything onto post-it-notes session’, I’m glad to say I had no input in what people came up with that they wanted to discuss. My view is that I had my say during the local elections. Now was everyone else’s turn.

As David Cleevely and Anne Bailey, our co-chairs for the day said, it turned out to be quite fortunate having a smaller event before a larger one. For a start, we identified many of the teething problems associated with organising and running events. This was the first event of this type where I was a co-organiser & responsible for much of the ground work. Previously as a volunteer for other events, I simply signed up and waited to be told what to do on the day. It’s very different when you’re giving the orders to when you are willingly taking them.

I cannot multi-task

In my case, I tried to do too much on the day. Organising, speaking, live-tweeting and filming – not a good combination. At the larger event we have planned for early 2015, my focus will be on organising. I won’t need to say much – hopefully. We had a critical mass of people live-tweeting – Ceri Jones running our @BethechangeCam twitter account, along with Richard Taylor and Kate Atkin providing regular updates. Also, forgetting to pause and restart during the main presentations meant my laptop crashed and burned the stupendously large file that had some of the most important digital video footage on!

So…what next?

35 people and counting have already joined our Meetup group (see http://www.meetup.com/Be-the-change-Cambridge/). We’re going to have a wash-up session in the next week or so and follow this up with ideas and actions that emerged from the conversation cafe event. Watch this space.



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