XII Summer University and Community Self-help Fesztival for citizens' participation (KÖRfeszt).
The rather awkward official title of the 4 day programme is testimony to its roots, as it brought together in one event the summer activities of 4 organisations committed to community-led development. Small Communities in Transition contributed with the KÖRfeszt programmes, ranging from the practival to the theoretical, from mud to massage, from harvesting to facilitating. Issues delved into included how we work with councils; how we create local food systems; how we mentor young people; how we create innovative community enterprise; how to use technology appropriately... Over the 4 days smaller and larger circles of people shared thoughts and experience in the open air, in 33 degree celcius. 10 of the communities cooperating in this transition experiment contributed in some way to the shared events, adding our experience on local food systems, appropriate technology and energy, and community cooperation.
With retrospect, a key aspect of the 4 day program was most definately sustainable community innovation: imagine the Rocket Kitchen, the compost toilets, the communually cooked vegetarian food, the greater number of facilitated and interactive programmes, the larger presence of self-organising communities, wider ethnic and cultural diversity, the deeper 'green' experience...
Each participating organisation brought its own culture and practice, but the very fact that we took the initiative toshare our space and planned activities was an innovative step in itself. Summer in Hungary is full of interesting summer universities, each with their own audience or participants, with crucially distinctive nuances that means cooperation is always demanding even if on the surface the issues look similar: co-operating takes a leap of faith and this one proved well worth taking.
Apart from the atmosphere, from the experience of meeting fellow travellers along the unmarked road of Transition, the sense of a shared mission and an ever-deepening sense of identification with each other, the images collected as snapshots of the 4 days hold a potent message: small is powerful. Small provides space for experiment, for meaningful personal relationships to form, for quick feedback on how things are going, for appropriate responses to community challenges. Size, the appropriate size for the task at hand is an issue in every movement, especially in one characterised by its informal and decentralised structure, reliant on personal relationships rather than formal coalitions, voluntary rather than financed, in constant flux rather than stable and formalised. One question raised in discussion was just how best to support and amplify the work of the rapidly increasing number of progressive and creative local initiatives looking for the possibility to recreate themselves through, for example, shared community space, social enterprise, food and energy initiatives. How much can we manage alone? How long can we manage alone? In the present extremely negative and vindictive, ever more centralised national political context small+small+small may prove to be the core of the critical mass needed to keep life in this country, Hungary, sane. Thriving would be nice, but presently simple everyday sanity would be enough.
Our hope is that the recently formed Transition Communities Support Group will provide some coherence to take these questions further.
The reflections on the Transition in Action Camp can be found here.
Photo album: Hajnal Fekete