Making you feel welcome at IPCUK

My name is Celia and I am the 'spoke' for Welcome & Wellbeing, one of the working groups putting together the IPCUK. Our role is to make sure IPCUK embodies good people care throughout all the events. To help achieve our goal to make IPCUK as inclusive, accessible and enjoyable as possible, we will write regular updates on what we are doing on this blog. We're approaching our work as a design process, so these posts will not only be about keeping the process transparent, but also about encouraging it to be a two-way conversation between you and us; an ongoing cycle of mini feedback loops that will enrich our designs and support the IPCUK to be the best event it can possibly be.

Apply self-regulation and accept feedback

So what have we been up to so far? As with all classic permaculture designs, we have started with surveying where we are and what we know, specifically by considering the lessons we can learn from past events. From attendees and crew, IPC11 and this year's UK Convergence we have feedback from all over. It has been fascinating, sometimes heart-warming and occasionally slightly painful reading through it all. It is so useful to have such a wealth of observations to kick start our design process, so to anyone who has ever filled in a questionnaire or shared their thoughts and ideas, we say a huge THANK YOU. Amongst the enormous diversity of responses, we observed a few recurring themes that we particularly hope to consider in our work.

What makes an excellent event?

Firstly, logistical issues can be very stressful for those affected. Although this sometimes resulted in unexpected yields, such as enjoying “chatting in the food queue,” we hope that the organisation of IPCUK will be so smooth you don't even notice it happening. I am sure that when you go to an event, you accept that sometimes, inevitably, things can go wrong through no-one's fault. But we learned that when this happens, communicating about it honestly and widely is the best response – not only to help generate compassion and understanding, but also to allow collective solutions to flourish. We also learned that pre-event information is better released early so plans can be made, which is why we're writing this today!

Another big theme was around meeting basic needs. Permaculture events are not about indulging in luxuries, but we agree that it's not too much to ask to be warm, dry, clean, never far from the nearest toilet and so on. Time and space to rest should be built into the programmes and venue designs, and adequate support for a diversity of needs should be available – especially important when you're in such an intense space of networking and learning. We were saddened to read a couple of comments that felt a fair shares issue around the serving of food had occurred. Hopefully it was accidental, not by design. We certainly intend to try hard to make sure everyone is cared for during this event, equally and to the best of our ability.

The final key theme was the importance of making the most of the event. For those of you who will be travelling across the world, possibly for the first and only time in your lives, getting the most out of the International Permaculture Convergence is not just really important, it's fundamental. Many past attendees simply said that it was, “meeting all of the amazing people” that made it a great event, but there's no doubt that with a bit of design effort we can help this along further. Ultimately, the real changes we make in the world will be in the place we call home, which is why this is something all the other working groups will be thinking about how to maximise.

A diversity of choices

I'll finish on an interesting observation that we invite you to consider with us. Sometimes when going through the feedback, following one comment would be another stating the complete opposite. Some folks found workshops and breaks to be too long, others too short. Some wanted food served by crew, others preferred self-service. Size of the venues, the presence of meat... the list goes on. We're not sure what the lesson is with these cases, offering a diversity of choices where possible seems the natural response but perhaps it is a universal truth that you simply can't please everyone? This feels a bit like giving up to us, so we will continue thinking about these dilemmas. If you have any light-bulb moments as to how “the problem is the solution” on this one, we'd love to hear from you!

Warm wishes from W&W

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