I met a lot of inspiring and motivated people last week. All were working to try and make the world a more equal and healthy place, both locally here in Lancaster and Morecambe and around the world. It was interesting to reflect on the different approaches being taken globally and to learn from the underlying patterns that appear to strengthen groups; supporting them in tackling social and environmental justice issues.
For example on Wednesday LESS hosted an open meeting on food poverty at Lancaster and Morecambe College. The event was well attended with representatives from Public Health, the city and county council, local food banks, food clubs, community centres, food growing projects, Lancaster University, the Hospital Trusts, Lancaster Peoples’ Café, Citizens Advice and other grassroots community initiatives. It became clear that there was a lot of excellent work going on locally which was driven by passionate and skilled people. However there appeared to lack a strategic, joined-up approach and some ‘roles’ were missing e.g. local political campaigning around the issue of food poverty. Many groups faced barriers that could potentially be better tackled if a joined-up collaborative approach were taken. Wednesday’s meeting hopefully marks the start of a process for more collaborative work locally, with plans for follow up meetings focusing on common needs: project logistics (accessing food), empowering beneficiaries and political pressure and campaigning.
Following this meeting, I headed for a snowy London on Thursday for the judging day of the 2018 LUSH Spring Prize- an annual prize fund for projects and organisations working towards environmental and social regeneration. 52 inspirational shortlisted projects were reviewed, all of which can be viewed at springprize.org
Shortlisted projects were taking holistic approaches to healing damaged environments whilst empowering and bringing together fractured communities, often in very difficult circumstances. Those that had withstood the test of time and had made huge strides in their efforts had similar traits. They worked collaboratively at multiple levels: from practical grass-roots work through to applying political pressure and directly resisting challenges such as mining companies. Project beneficiaries were placed at the heart of organisations’ work – having a platform from which to feed into the strategic planning of work. Models of working were also adapted to reflect the local culture and context.
All these common traits were identified as a need for food poverty work happening locally.
If we are to live in a world free from hunger, the following appear to be important ingredients for making this happen: trust, active listening, collaboration, respect, beneficiary empowerment, transparent democratic processes, embracing diverse voices and approaches.