The Economics of Happiness – Strengthening the Localisation Movement

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conference flyer with headshots of speakers

I recently had the marvellous privilege of attending The Economics of Happiness Conference in Byron Bay, Australia (15-17 March 2013).

This event was convened by Helena Norberg-Hodge, director (along with Steven Gorelick, and John Page) of the 2011 documentary film of the same name, produced by the International Society for Ecology and Culture.

The intent of these gatherings, the first of which was held in Berkeley, California in 2012, is to develop and strengthen the localisation movement internationally.

Key thinkers and activists from around the world, Australian activists and change agents and Byron locals convened to learn from each other, share stories and build connections between their work.

Highlights were many, but included a live Skype presentation and Q&A with Bill McKibben, climate campaigner and 350.org founder, and keynote presentations by:

adebayo akomolafe delivering keynote speech

Bayo delivering his keynote speech – image by The Economics of Happiness

One of the memorable experiences for me was the talk and workshop delivered by Charles Eisenstein, someone whose thinking and speaking style has resonated with me for a long time. Charles has the ability to touch and move people on an emotional level. Here is a short clip (12 mins) in which he speaks about the ideas that underpin his book, Sacred Economics:

There were also a plethora of workshops on a range of topics, all with a localisation theme, including food and farming, place-making, education, energy, and money systems.

My Post Growth Institute colleague Donnie Maclurcan was a workshop facilitator as well as a plenary speaker.

donnie and part of the workshop group

Donnie facilitating his workshop, which was attended by several dozen people

His workshop ‘Strengthening the Localisation Movement: Making the Most of our Abilities’ was participatory and offered attendees practical approaches they could take back into their communities – how to use an assets-based approach (starting with what is working, instead of diagnosing problems that need to be ‘fixed’), and how to quickly resource a movement by tapping into people’s passions, skills and knowledge. This can unlock energy in groups expressing the all-too-common lament of ‘we don’t have money and resources’:

Harnessed fully, there are more talents and resources within any small group of passionate citizens than are actually needed to manifest deep social change. It is just a matter of how willing we are to step back and see things through a lens of strengths and possibilities, and how creatively we can bring our multitude of capabilities to light.

– Donnie Maclurcan

The plenary talks were recorded, and will gradually be made available over the coming weeks, at The Economics of Happiness Vimeo channel. The first, a three part vid on the plenary ‘Localisation – The Solution Multiplier?’ is already available:

One of the recurring issues raised at this event was ‘how do we talk to people who don’t ‘get this’? How do we talk to our family, friends and colleagues?’

The reason I initiated this blog is to respond to that exact concern and to make a contribution to that plea for help – I believe we need to be paying a LOT more attention to how we frame messages and how we communicate, and equipping changemakers with the communication, leadership and personal skills they need to be able to do this effectively.

Here is a short overview of the event (9 mins) created by Echonetdaily, the NSW North Coast’s independent news service:

I particularly enjoyed some very rare in-person time with people I work with virtually, and the joy of meeting those I had not yet encountered in person.

Sometimes, it can feel like the challenges we are working on seem so insurmountable, and it is easy to become overwhelmed by things that aren’t going right in the world.

It is a tonic for the soul and spirit of change agents to spend some time with others who are engaged in creating these shifts, and be reminded of what is already happening, and what is possible.

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