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QUESTION: Acceptance for 'champions for sustainability' focus group workshop from 9am to 12.30pm on Tuesday 24th July - 09 Jul 2007 NSW, Australia

To Elizabeth O'Brien or colleague

Dear Elizabeth,

How should grassroot 'champions for sustainability' best be supported? Would you be interested to spend half a day to join a small group of cutting edge thinkers and change agents to discuss this. Or if you cannot make it we welcome suggestions as to who else could be invited. We are inviting the following types of people and groups:

* organisers who have a particular interest in working with young people and new technologies - for example, 

  • Miriam Lyons (newMatilda),
  • Donnie MacLurcan (Project Australia)
  • and Brett Solomon (GetUp)

  * organisers with a particular interest in environmental sustainability, for example:

  • Kate Walsh, Mittagong Forum
  • Elizabeth O’Brien Lead Education and Abatement Design (LEAD) Group
  • Lyn Goldsworthy, experienced environmental campaigner and trainer
  • an organiser with ACF
  • two or three organisers with member groups of NCCNSW
  • an organiser with TEC
  • an organiser with Greenpeace

* community organisers, for example:

  • Tim Vollmer, CFMEU and Western Sydney
  • Christine Laurence, Western Sydney Community Forum
  • Kate Lee, Australian Services Union
  • other people and groups to be identified

* researchers and writers about social movements, for example:

  • Kathleen McPhillips, UWS and editor of Local Heroes: Australian crusades from the environmental frontline (2002)
  • Sarah Maddison, UNSW and joint author of Activist Wisdom (2006)
  • James Arvanitakis, UWS and Centre for Policy Development
  • James Goodman, UTS Centre for Cosmopolitan Civil Societies and author of Protest and Globalisation: prospects for transnational solidarity (2002)

The focus group workshop will take place from 9am to 12.30pm on Tuesday 24th July at the University of Technology, Sydney in Broadway - level 4, room 460, Building 10 in Jones St, Broadway (next to the UTS Tower).

The plan for the morning is as follows.

30 minute discussion

Who are champions for sustainability? Are there different types of champions? Is the notion of champion for sustainability, as opposed to activist, leader, environmentalist, change-agent or other label, useful? How are 'champions for sustainability' perceived by members of the public?

We will briefly describe research in the 2006 Who Cares About the Environment report undertaken every three years by the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change. This research suggested that it is useful to classify people involved in change-for-sustainability along a continuum from low to high interest and knowledge. Furthermore, this research suggested that 'champions' are no only active in the public or citizenship domain.

A popular image of an environmentalist is that of someone who lobbies, protests and seeks to influence government and corporation policies and they are likely to identify as activists or leaders. But people can also be active in the private and household domain where they are less likely to identify as activists or leaders. And there are also those who seek to bring about change in consumption behaviours, business and work practices.

We are interested in your views about this typology and responses to the following questions. Who are champions for sustainability? Are there different types of champions? Is the notion of champion for sustainability, as opposed to activist, leader, environmentalist, change-agent or other label useful? How are 'champions for sustainability' perceived by members of the public, We will briefly describe case studies of champions drawn from the work of the Total Environment Centre, Nature Conservation Council of NSW, and the Australian Conservation Foundation. We will invite you to comment and critique.

We will briefly describe themes in the literature about changing forms of environmentalism and seek your comment.

And finally we will ask what conditions you think may move people from being active in the private or household domain to being active in the workplace and public policy domains.

30 minutes

How should champions be recognised and judged?

We will present a survey of various award schemes for champions with a

focus on:

  • . how they are defined

  • . ways they are categorised

  • . criteria for judging who are impressive champions.

We will value your critique of these award schemes and ideas for future award schemes.

1 hour

What else can be done to identify, engage and support champions?

We are interested in your views about:

  • . things that drive and constrain champions

  • . whether different types of champions want distinctive types of support

  • . the most supportive ways environment groups communicate with prospective champions

  • . ways in which new forms of technology - be it the internet, mobile phones, digital recorders as just some examples - are and should be shaping support for champions

  • . types of networks that are supportive.

We are convening these workshops for a research project commissioned by the NSW Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC), in partnership with the Total Environment Centre (TEC), Nature Conservation Council of NSW (NCC) and the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF). They have asked us to research how environmental education organisations might identify the needs of and develop support mechanisms for individual grass roots champions for sustainability who provide information and encouragement to people in their local area or network.

We know how busy and committed you are. And so will be grateful if you are able to make the time. As a small gesture we can offer a book voucher to the value of $50, and, of course, coffee, tea and lunch.

If you have questions please don't hesitate to ask either of us. Please let us know if you are interested and available to participate in the focus group workshop. Or if you cannot make it we welcome suggestions as to who else should be invited.

regards

[email protected]

Andrew [email protected]

tel. 9514 3042

ANSWER: 07 Sep 2007

Dear Rick and Andrew,

thanks for the invitation - it sounds very interesting so, yes, I would like to attend. I have an intern working here at this time - from the School of Behavioural and Community Health Sciences, Sydney University - so I have asked her if she would also like to come along, if that's okay with you. She is going to forward your email to someone in her school - Ian Hughes - who may also be interested and therefore may contact you directly.

I notice that you are inviting Kathleen McPhillips so I wonder if it is okay with you if I were to bring to the workshop, copies for sale, of the book that Kathleen has edited and for which I have written the first chapter:

"Local Heroes: Australian crusades from the environmental frontline" (2002). I imagine that it is possible that some of the attendees may wish to purchase a copy ($10 each) and they are no longer available in bookshops but The LEAD Group has the remaining copies.

Please let me know and if you could give me an idea of how many copies to bring, that would be very useful.

Cheers

Yours Sincerely

Elizabeth O’Brien

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