The Convergence Sustainable Living Festival – a fruitful space for sharing stories and conversations imagining a more sustainable Ireland
From 25th May to the 9th June 2018, Cultivate, the Sustainable Ireland Cooperative, celebrated its 18th Convergence festival focusing on community-led approaches for a more sustainable Ireland.
Since its beginning in 2000, the Convergence Festival has brought people and ideas together and featured some of the most inspiring sustainability thinkers and doers both from Ireland and abroad.
This series of fourteen varied events sought to raise public awareness, facilitate dialogue and engage citizens in a just transition to a resilient, low carbon and healthy society.
Ireland’s rich storytelling tradition can be traced back to the time of the seanchai, the custodians of local folklore and the ancient art of spoken word. Convergence harnesses the transformative power of storytelling, using stories as a way of sharing and inspiring community-led action which works towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
So how can these stories act as the seeds to transform Ireland into a country which is as green and sustainable as our global reputation promises?
Conversations for Change
All events at the festival this year followed a structured form of dialogue initiated by the United Nations ahead of COP24 in Poland this November.
These dialogues originate from the traditional word ‘Talanoa’, which is used in Fiji and across the Pacific to reflect a process of inclusive, participatory and transparent dialogue.
The purpose of ‘Talanoa’ is to share stories, build empathy and to make wise decisions for the collective good. The process of ‘Talanoa’ involves the sharing of ideas, skills and experience through storytelling and discussion. The Talanoa Dialogues strive to give everyone a voice in the climate conversation.
The participants at the event Stories and Conversations for a Sustainable Ireland, that took place in the Eco Village in Cloughjordan, asked each other three Talanoa questions to capture local and bottom-up action related to the SDGs, which led to rich, transformative conversations over the course of the afternoon. These three questions were:
‘Where are we?
Where do we want to go?
How do we want to get there?
Local Stories towards the Global Goals
The afternoon’s event began with a range of participants outlining their own local stories addressing the global goals.
Devyn Olson-Sawyer introduced how WeCreate FabLab integrates the SDGs into their work with young people throughout their Discover Primary Science and Maths programme.
Peadar Kirby of the Sustainable Ireland Co-operative introduced the work that Cloughjordan Ecovillage is engaged in at present, all framed in the SDGs.
Tony Daly of 8020 told his story of how a local project in Bray, Co. Wicklow engaged students and young people with the SDGs using the computer game, Minecraft.
Participants then reflected on the three Talanoa questions to deepen their understanding and engagement with the challenges and opportunities facing their local communities.
The first question, “where are we?” made clear that all participants experience a lack of awareness among the general population and even in local authorities of the SDGs.
The answers to the second question “where do we want to go?” highlighted that despite the variety of problems we are facing as a country, participants held an optimistic vision of the future in which people consume more consciously, organisations package goods more responsibly, society becomes more equal and the quality of education increases.
As an answer to “how do we get there?” the participants emphasised the importance of community-led action in achieving the global goals, for example by establishing and supporting local projects based on the ‘cooperative’ style model.
Overall, this Convergence event underlined how bottom-up pressure can lead to top-down change and, most importantly, to a ‘values-change’ from materialistic societies towards those that are more sustainable and inclusive.
The conversations facilitated throughout the Convergence festival remind us that stories can be a powerful way to change hearts and minds regarding some of the most pressing challenges facing us as a country. Sharing these stories of community-led action, in spaces like these, create pathways for others to follow in, and collectively help us to envision a future where the global goals become a reality for all.
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