30 September 2011

JUST DO IT - The Do Lectures 2011

I have just returned from a remarkable event held in deepest Wales; The Do Lectures 2011. Conceived by David and Clare Hieatt, the Do lectures are a five day gathering to share, discuss and spread ideas; the underlying philosophy is that “Ideas + Energy = Change”. Each day a wide range of speakers are invited to share their ideas and identify the actions or “Do’s” that they intend to take next. The key is in the “doings”; this is not a theoretical or academic conference, it is about people telling their stories, sharing the things that they have done and the lessons that they have learned along the way.

Do Lectures founder
David Hieatt deep in discussion
This all takes place in the beautiful setting of fforest Farm, near Cilgerran in Pembrokeshire, where attendees are accommodated in a range of canvas shelters ranging from simple four person tents, to more permanent tipi’s and geodesic domes. The location and the camping all help to promote discussion and debate which is nurtured by a range of workshops, including anything from bread making to cartooning along with activities including free swimming and canoeing on the River Teifi that runs through the site. Evenings are filled with great local food and drink, followed by live comedy and music from artists including Josie Long and Gruff Rhys. Talk goes on long into the night in the bar, an old crofter’s cottage complete with inglenook fireplace, around the fire-pit and even in the cedar barrel, a wood fired sauna.

Less camping than glamping
What makes the event so interesting and relevant to making change happen is the diversity of speakers who are invited to present. They range from business consultants, entrepreneurs and activists, each of which is asked to identify their own big and little do’s; the actions that they will take to make change. Each session features two or three speakers who are carefully selected to provide contrasting perspectives. My own personal favorite contrasted a talk by Zach Smith of MakerBot Industries, who make low cost, open source 3D printers that put hi tec fabrication in the hands of normal people, with the story from Nick Hand of Slowcoast who spent a year cycling around Britain recording and photographing crafts people and their own unique hand made products. The juxtaposition of these extremes conjured up in my mind a range of opportunities where craft and technology could be synthesized to create new and unique products that draw on the best of both.

Some of the most powerful talks were by passionate and committed individuals who are striving to make a real difference. Chido Govera told of how she overcame poverty in her native Zimbabwe by learning to cultivate edible mushrooms and now trains orphans to do the same. Caroline Flint, a midwife and birth activist, has dedicated her life to improving the birth experience, making it gentle, humane and peaceful. In 1989 she founded The Birth Centre which achieved dramatic reductions in the need for medical interventions, increased levels of breast feeding and offered a radical alternative for the women who experienced it. Michael Kelly founded Grow it Yourself (GIY) a not for profit organisation dedicated to inspiring people to grow their own food and provide support and training to encourage a revolution in food production.

Y Bwthyn is an old crofters cottage that
now serves local beer, cider and spirits
What is so inspiring about the Do Lectures is that you are bombarded by tales from people who have made change happen. After the event all of the presentations are made available on line for free, so that by attending the event each delegate is actually helping to fund the dissemination of ideas and change. If we are to address the many and varied challenges that our age requires then it is essential that we find ways of increasing the rate of change and this event is a great way to engage with a diverse range of change makers in a beautiful setting. For me the “Do” that I have taken away is to be much braver, to reject the status quo and seek out people to work with who share my commitment to sustainability. The next Do Lectures take place in the USA from the 22nd September with the next UK event in the spring; I would encourage anyone who wants to make a difference to check it out.

Do Lectures: http://www.thedolectures.co.uk/

fforest Campsites: http://www.coldatnight.co.uk/

1 comment:

  1. T-roy.7.10.11

    It's hard to begin such a change as it seems practical modern life demands (and is ever more built around) instantaneous solutions to our wants - unless people feel immediate gratification it's far too easy to ignore the problems at hand.

    It also seems to me that those who are beginning to embrace sustainability are doing so do so for the associated financial gains and because of ever increasing price for food and energy. Surely with this mindset its already a losing battle? Those who really make a difference do it for each other, the future and because they actually care!

    Architecture will obviously play its part, but on a macro scale and in masterplanning because in my opinion the biggest challenges lie in food production, resources and the associated logistics. It will take an incredible change to every part of our lives and goes totally against the consumerist society to which we belong and for which we are nurtured.

    Maybe we should begin with a statement by lobbying for the abolition of factory farming which radically outdoes the carbon footprint of the global transport industry which we are made to believe is the devil?

    Then again...why would I do that when I love a quick and fairly priced steak?