Schumacher Institute – our Converge project has delivered its final recommendations to the European Commission

Jay Owen Sustainability News

It’s been a busy few months at the Schumacher Institute – our Converge project has delivered its final recommendations to the European Commission. So there has been lots of reporting for our research team!

Elsewhere in the Institute, we also have lots going on. Below you will find details of our upcoming economics conference, which is featuring a range of speakers including Molly Scott Cato (University of Roehampton), Nafeez Ahmed (The Guardian) and Richard Heinberg (Post-Carbon Institute). Unfortunately this event is now sold out, but you can join our waiting list in case of cancellations.

Please also check out our Prepare for Change workshop on Supply Chains and Consumption on 12th December – there are more details below.

We have also shared updates on our Consultancy Programme and our new learning programme, Spiritual Activist Leadership Training. Any questions, please contact Emmelie Brownlee ([email protected]


Alternatives to Austerity? Schumacher’s Economics in the Great Recession
21st November 2013, 9am – 5pm
Room 1.8, Queens Building, University of Bristol

What is the connection between debt, growth and the price of oil and other commodities?

Are we subsidising the next recession by focusing on a return to growth?

This one-day event will explore austerity, debt, growth and human development in 2013 – particularly in light of environmental and resource stress.

Speakers include Richard Heinberg (Post Carbon Institute), Molly Scott Cato (University of Roehampton), Nafeez Ahmed (The Guardian), Tim Sunderland (Natural England), David Fell (Brook and Lyndhurst) and Jean Boulton (Claremont Management Consultants).

We will be compiling a report about the event, as well as live-tweeting the day. Follow us on @schumacherinst.

Unfortunately this event is now sold out but you can join the waiting list by emailing Emmelie Brownlee ([email protected]

Prepare for Change
12th December 2013, 1pm-4.30pm
DAS House, Quay Side, Temple Back

When we look around the room or the building we rarely see anything that was made locally. Our livelihoods depend on extensive and elaborate networks called supply chains that deliver goods and services for our consumption. Trade is a vital source of creativity and innovation.


This workshop will examine our dependencies and consider what might threaten them and what new opportunities are arising as we shift towards circular economies and zero waste material regimes. Other impacts such as relocalisation of manufacture, virtualisation and digital advances, are all shaping the next stages in how communities obtain what is needed to thrive.

We will also consider the ethical questions that arise when goods pass along chains of supply or services at a distance, who is responsible for what at each point? How does awareness of abuses and malign consequences alter patterns of supply, how might sensitised consumption affect production practices?

Find out more here.

Big Green Week 2014

We are planning a Schumacher Futures Conference on Saturday the 14th of June. The theme is around Schumacher’s famous expression “As if people mattered”. We will be looking at topics that impact everyone on a daily basis, from employment, care, access to services and the built environment and inclusivity and economics in its original meaning as home management. Further details will be announced as the programme develops.

Prepare for Change

Where are we? 

We have now run eight workshops in the Prepare for Change series. The last one was on ‘Energy – global, long term perspectives’. Using projections from the World Energy Outlook report of the International Energy Authority we considered possible shifts in supply, prices, technology and geo-political influence. The next workshop, in December, will look at supply chains and consumption; in particular we will explore how dependent the city region is on other communities across the world. We have a schedule of workshops planned for 2014 and there is no shortage of themes.

The next stage is to define a service or product of real value to people in strategic planning or risk management roles. In order to continue the project we need resources to fund a core team. The model we are using is a subscription service for individuals and the rationale is that we are providing benefits to the whole system (everyone) into the long term. There is no immediate value to a single party so a small fee from many people is the only way to fund the activities of a project like P4C.

P4C Wiki

The P4C wiki is taking shape, this is designed as an ‘archive of the future’ to hold opinions, predictions and forecasts about a range of interconnected themes that will impact our future – from energy, resources and planetary limits to health and wellbeing. A number of dedicated volunteers are filling out the structure and learning how we can develop a process to capture and filter contributions. The wiki is central to how the project will develop.

Resilience and social justice

We were fortunate to host a resilience workshop by Jose Roberto ‘Robbie’ Guevara, who is president of the Asia South Pacific Association for Basic and Adult Education. Robbie cautioned that educating for resilience may not question, reframe and challenge the very roots that have led us to situations of crises. They may merely help those who have been made more vulnerable cope and survive the impacts of climate change or any other environmental catastrophes. Disaster prevention and management has a tendency to result in narrow and reactive responses because it does not challenge the causes of vulnerability.

100 Resilient Cities Network

We have also assisted the Sustainable City Team in Bristol City Council in producing a bid for the Rockefeller 100 Resilient Cities Network. This effort is part of the way towards convergent resilience as it clearly demonstrates how co-operation and shared learning among communities is essential for whole system resilience. A full convergent resilience approach would embed the concept of directly helping other communities as an essential element  along with measures to improve direct resilience to threats and crises.


Developing Opportunities

Our most exciting news is that we are aiming to run a scenarios planning workshop with Somerset County Council in early November. We are currently working with the council team on detail planning for the workshop.

The good thing about beginning with a scenarios workshop is that we join an organisation at the beginning of the business planning cycle and thus the process can segue into enabling us to offer further support.

We also have several other clients emerging with similar interests so watch this space! Our internal development continues, with a workshop scheduled to explore our mission and offerings and monitor the needs of potential clients.

Inclusive Sustainability

One area that we are exploring is a greater focus on inclusion and the built environment, especially the challenges faced by those with physical and psychological disabilities. Poor access to services because of the built environment can lead to dependency and greater vulnerability. It is notable, additionally, that those most affected by the built environment often get to have least say about changes to it.

Michael Clinton, Schumacher Research Director, says: “Is this a campaigning, research or business opportunity? Or a combination of all three? For me as a disabled person, I believe it needs to be all three – after all, I want security, a chance to contribute and independence like everyone else.

I believe it is fair to have a debate that includes business in the mix – if for no other reason than many businesses are thinking in terms of their social responsibility ad looking for ways to engage differently with communities in which they operate. We are exploring and debating this under the banner of Inclusive Sustainability.”

Bits and Bobs

Dare to be Great: Hawkwood College course

We are very pleased to have developed a relationship with Hawkwood College through our Systems Thinking for Effective Action course. We would also like to share one of their other courses;Dare to be Great, run by Polly Higgins. It is described as:

In this weekend we are invited to step into our unique capacity for greatness. This may take the form of speaking out and changing the world or it may operate in a more personal arena. Either way, we will be working with setting intentions, letting go of our fears and participating as ‘Voices for the Earth’. Just imagine the world we will be in when many of us dare to be great.”

Find out more about this course here.

European Green Capital 2015

We have continued our support of the Bristol Green Capital Partnership as a member of the steering group and by running the Prepare for Change sub-group. As European Green Capital 2015 is now fast approaching, attention is shifting towards what contribution we might make in the year. Prepare for Change offers the possibility of looking at where Bristol’s future fortunes might lie – new technologies, materials, processes or social innovations. We would like to develop these ideas towards an event – if this is an attractive idea we would be pleased to hear from you.

Project Dirt

We had a really great meeting last month with Project Dirt, who have recently launched in Bristol. They have already done some fantastic work in London. Please see below to find out more about them – in their own words!

“Project Dirt is ‘The Green Social Network’, we connect projects & people doing amazing green activities. We have recently launched the Bristol Cluster, a free hub anyone can follow to find out about upcoming events, promote your projects, connect with like minded people, blog, discover jobs and volunteering opportunities, share good practice and access resources. Whether you are already involved in a project or looking for a new adventure, share your knowledge, learn and experience something new through connecting on Project Dirt.

We love to celebrate our community so much that we have created a campaign to show the world all the great things they do when they’re not on Project Dirt.  We invite you to join us & our#GetOffGetDirty campaign today”


Ian Roderick, our Director, was recently asked to give his opinion on the proposed high speed rail link (HS2) for a feature article in the Yorkshire Post. Read below for his take on the debate.

The author wanted a ‘Schumacher’ perspective. Now I hadn’t given the proposal much thought up till then, so I did some searching around for facts and opinions. These ranged from the possible great economic value to be gained by connecting different parts of the country by fast trains to the possible consequence that the only gains will happen in London at the expense of the ‘north’, which will see business migrate away. It is a confusing, complex picture – full of history, politics, and vested interests. All in conflict and all just possibilities.

The Schumacher perspective that I gave was around slowness and appropriate technologies, how we should step back from this feedback system that leads to the need for increased speed in the name of economic efficiency that in all likelihood will lead to fewer people employed and those that are will be locked into a cycle of intensification of work.

I also suggested that £50 billion or so was a lot of money to spend and that many small scale projects might improve the quality of life for many more people. I extended this thought to the whole system of transport and indeed to the whole built infrastructure. What shape is that in? As the decades unfold we will enter a period of resource constraints and the need to restructure and maintain what we have already will become pressing. Wouldn’t we be wiser to prepare the existing system for change rather than grow and extend it further?

We would love to know what you think!


Converge – The End

For the past four years the Institute has been the lead partner in the EU funded FP7 project CONVERGE: Rethinking Globalisation in Light of Contraction and Convergence. The project officially finished at the end of August but this is only the start of what is to follow.

The research began with the idea of Contraction & Convergence™ applied to greenhouse gas emissions – the idea that a global cap could be negotiated and each country in the world would follow different trajectories of change to arrive at equal per capita allocation of a right to emit for all people in all countries. The research ended with recommendations for processes that would see a convergence of equity (quality of life, provision of needs and freedoms) but within planetary limits. These processes are all summarised in the word ‘convergence’.

The project had the objective to ‘rethink globalisation’ and we believe we have reframed this as ‘convergent globalisation’. This is a recognition that globalisation can only work for all if long-term objectives of resource management and environmental protection are realised through a framework of equity. This framework attempts to reconcile the desire to conserve resources, protect the environment and stay within planetary boundaries with the desire to see economic and social development happen – narrowing inequalities across and within nations.

What follows CONVERGE is the Convergence Alliance and the Convergence Observatory. The first is an association of organisations that commit to campaign and advocate for convergence ideas, and the second is a network of people who will continue to research into convergence and will measure and monitor what is happening in the world – including a ‘convergence index’ to compare progress across borders.

The ideas and frameworks that have emerged from the project also complement our work on resilience (see below for Prepare for Change item). Simple resilience, sometimes called status quo resilience, means that a complex system would recover from a disruption to roughly where it was before.  Second order resilience (transformative resilience), is where the system recovers to a new state that is better able to cope with disruptions than before. However, once you consider that no system is isolated and is actually totally dependent on all other systems then the concept of convergent resilience appears; the significance of making sure that other people, communities and countries are resilient and the social, environmental and economic importance of assisting others to recover from disruption.

If you are interested in getting involved in our Convergence Alliance, please email Alastair Roderick ([email protected]

Launch of the UK Chapter of the the African Technology Policy Studies Network

Ros Wade (Professor, Education for Sustainability (EFS), Chair London RCE, Research Fellow Schumacher Institute, UK Commonwealth Scholarship Commissioner) reports on the launch of the UK Chapter of the  African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS) at the House of Commons Friday 13th September.

The ATPS is a multi-disciplinary network of researchers, practitioners and policy makers which focuses on 4 key areas for research:

– Knowledge Generation (Research & Research Capacity Building/Training);
– Knowledge Brokerage (Stakeholder Dialogue, Knowledge Circulation and Networking);
– Knowledge Dissemination & Outreach – (Publications, STI Journalism, Policy Advocacy);
– Knowledge Valorization – (Innovation Incubation and Challenge Programs, etc).
– Professor Tim Unwin (UNESCO Chair in ICT for Development –ICT4D) gave the keynote address and highlighted 5 themes.

  • The role of universities and higher education
  • Universities generally failing societies
  • ICTS and University networks
  • ICT4D research: in theory and in practice
  • Ways forward in ICT4D research

He concluded with the following important recommendations:
·         We need to focus on the needs of the poor and marginalized, not the needs of researchers.  We should be their servants!
·         Collaborative interdisciplinary research teams bringing expertise from sciences, social sciences and humanities are essential – but all too often this does not happen.
·         We must focus on low-cost high-value solutions – how to deliver real solutions for the poor, rather than expect them to upgrade to expensive smart-phones!
·         The critical importance of electricity for all digital technologies – need for some really high quality research here.
·         Tough decisions for academics to make – serving the interests of the poor is very different from getting high value research grants and papers published in top ranked international journals.  


Systems Thinking for Effective Action

This Schumacher Learning Programme will start again in November. Through the four two-day workshops of this course, spread over 6 months, you will learn what ‘systems thinking’ means. You will be introduced to different methods of applying systems thinking, testing these through practical action. Supported by your fellow learners, you will experiment with ways to act more effectively in the world, discovering more systemic routes to achieve your aspirations.

The course takes place at Hawkwood College, near Stroud, GL6 9EB. The first workshop will be on 18th and 19th November 2013, with subsequent workshops in January, March and May 2014. The fee is £680 for the course itself, while the charge for accommodation and food at Hawkwood College for all four workshops is just £300.

The course is led by Martin Sandbrook, MA, MBA, MSc, Director of Learning at the Schumacher Institute for Sustainable Systems in Bristol.

Influenced by EF Schumacher’s statement that ‘our task is to look at the world and see it whole’, Martin draws on his experience in the management of organisations and of university teaching, to understand and apply systems thinking.

For further information or to apply, please contact [email protected]

Spiritual Activist Leadership Training

“Nourishment for Change Agents”

We are very excited to welcome another course to our set of learning programmes. Spiritual Activist Leadership Training (aSALT) is a year-long course designed to support leaders of change:

Are you working for justice, peace and co-existence with the more-than-human world? Are you making a transition from working in institutions or firms towards self-supported activity, useful unemployment or active retirement? 

The collaborative inquiry aSALT course (Spiritual Activist Leadership Training) may help you sustain your efforts. It’s a practical response to the experience of activists and change agents who sometimes burn out, lose hope and connection with mainstream society. How do we keep going with joy?

aSALT ran four cohorts from 2007 to 2010 and is being revived because the course founder David Mowat joined thePale Blue Dot course (led by our Learning Director Martin Sandbrook) and noticed a fit.

David started to think about the course while on a walking pilgrimage from Bristol to Jerusalem. He sees the course as an outworking of systems thinking and says: “In the great turmoil of shifts humanity faces, we need lots of small cells of self-supporting, reflective and compassionate change agents.”

Previous cohorts have attracted environmentalists, two Somali Elders, an anarchist, urban geographers, a sports coach turned stone mason, a GP anti-war peace walker, a budding astrologer, Palestine campaigner and many others. One participant, Marian Connolly, who co-led the last cohort writes: “aSALT helped me take a leading role in Palestine Solidarity Committee and East Side Roots as I’d learned to create an environment which engaged constructively with conflict”

The course will run from January 2014 – December 2014. The sessions will be held one evening and one day a month with 10 gatherings (about 100 hours contact time).

The agenda will be initially created from the particular needs, engagement and skills of participants. Activities are based on head, heart and hands learning and will include working on an allotment, group dialogue, creative approaches (we’ve done collage and mural painting in the past) and sharing spiritual practices that work for us, meditation or yoga for instance. The first evening is a shared meal and uninterrupted sharing time for deep listening.

The Cost for the year is £600 payable in instalments. To see if this course is for you, email David on[email protected]uk or ring/text 07804363170, or message on facebook (david.mowat.752)

David has been a human rights worker in the West Bank and trains people in international development and conflict transformation. He’s a jazz musician. He runs the Saint Stephens Reconciliation Laboratory to address Bristol’s deep seated social divisions and currently supports ‘Abolish Empty Office Blocks, House People.’ He was first trained in community development work in 1987 and has an MSc in Human Ecology, obtained at CHE in Scotland where Alastair McIntosh was one of his tutors.

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