Consensors’ Report Cork 2011
The event steering committee agreed to appoint three ‘consensors’ for the event, drawn from the different sectors and perspectives participating. The three were: Mike Allen, Charles Stanley-Smith, George Cummins.
The role of the consensors was to:
- oversee the feedback process arising from the deliberation
- to review the feedback from each session and report this back to the participants, through an agreed presenter
- report back patterns or trends in these which would be helpful to the participants
- to prepare a final report on the outcomes of the days deliberations.
The day was divided into 4 sessions.
- The first asked the question ‘What do we mean by prosperity?’
- The second asked ‘is growth necessary?’
- The third was a voting exercise establishing what support existed for a number of the proposed elements for an alternative
- The final session involved a discussion of what actions should follow the event.
What do we mean by Prosperity?
There was a very strong message from the discussions that we should seek to understand the idea of ‘prosperity’ as having enough rather than having an excess.
There was also a strong sense that we need to think of prosperity in more than financial, consumerist or monetary terms.
The discussion could be divided into two broad themes which can be described as ‘individual prosperity’ and ‘communal prosperity’.
Discussion of individual prosperity recognised that different people would have different ideas of the ‘good life’ for them. Individual prosperity itself was divided into an inner and and outer realm. Inner prosperity brought forward ideas such as spiritual, personal and inner wellbeing. Outer prosperity (still at the individual level) led to ideas of personal security, accommodation, meaningful work and adequate income.
These ideas lead on to the concept of ‘community prosperity’ which also encompassed communal aspirations such as active citizenship, inclusion, empowerment and participation.
Many of the discussions emphasised that the idea of sustainability is central to the idea of prosperity that we wish to promote. If it is not sustainable it is not prosperity.
There were different views about the relationship between prosperity and equality. However behind these apparent disagreements it was clear that those tables that discussed prosperity in the sense of ‘surplus’ saw a conflict between the two concepts, while those table which discussed prosperity in the sense of ‘enough’ felt that the two concepts reinforced each other.
Is Growth Necessary?
A number of the tables concluded that growth was necessary, but in all cases this was expressed within constraints and conditions. The most commonly expressed condition related to what we consider and measure as ‘growth.’ Growth should be seen as a tool not a target in itself: growth is necessary if we consider growth of the right things. Participants identified an extensive list of the areas where growth was positive, these could be summed up as a social, environmental and well-being.
It was recognised that this was not simply a matter of new indices, but rather the need for an alternative model of economic and social development which would generate positive movement on those indices.
Some table responded that economic growth was not necessary, generally referring to current concepts of growth such as GDP. Some groups felt that short term GDP growth was necessary to bring us out of the current crisis, others felt that such growth would, in reality, make matters worse.
There was widespread recognition that the adoption of alternative measures and models would only come about if there was political reform to drive it. Values such as deliberation, democracy and participation would have to inform the new political system.
There were a number of specific proposal put forward by a few tables which referred to the importance of Fair Trade, a progressive role of the State and the need for Global action.
Voting on innovative ideas.
This session involved participants reading a range of innovative ideas which could form an element of a new economic and social model. Each idea was set out on large colourful posters in the foyer, and participants were asked to read them and select which ideas they felt offered the greatest opportunity for Claiming our Future to develop. Each participant was given 10 stickers and was invited to place all or some of these on the posters they favoured, depending upon their preferences.
The posters can be accessed at http://bit.ly/rW5Zve
The resulting ranking of popular support is set out below:
9th Collapse Scenario 158
8th Job Guarantee 175
7th Technology & Innovation 182
6th Basic Income 247
5th Bail Out The Public 271
4th Radical Regulation 279
3rd Steady State Economy 299
2nd Empowering Local Communities 452
1st Establish New Value Base 540
What should happen next?
The tables addressed this question in a number of ways, so that the types of responses are very varied. However the strongest common thread across the discussion was the need for Claiming our Future to grow and develop, and have greater influence on the national debate.
The two strongest sets of proposals related to enhancing the local presence of Claiming our Future and improving our communications capacity.
Ideas for local progress included proposals for local meeting, panels of speakers to be made available and development of ideas on local economies and currencies. The individual responsibility of participants to educate and inform themselves and to initiate and support activities was also a common thread.
Improved communications (particularly using ‘new’ technologies) was a strong theme, both to enhance communication between existing participants and to better explain and promote our ideas and values. A number of specific proposals were advanced under that heading.
There was comment that Claiming our Future must remain committed to its own values and improve in its transparency on its decision making and outcomes of events.
A number of specific ideas which Claiming our Future should be working to progress also emerged. Among those that were mentioned by more than one table were: a wealth tax campaign, campaign for political reform, campaign for environmental protection legislation, and a campaign for basic income. There were also proposals for a ‘new ideas’ exhibition (in which ideas such as those presented in the third session could be invited and presented to a wider audience in a touring exhibition) and the development of scenarios for different futures (in which the realities of different potential future worlds could be described, as well as the choices which need to be made to achieve them).