UPDATE 7th January: The plot thickens! We have just stumbled upon a blog post, dated 17th December, on the official Steering Group website that states unequivocally that some of these questions below have been debated and agreed already at the Steering Group’s December meeting! See foot of this email for that info.
Manchester Climate Monthly spoke to Steve Connor, Chair of the Steering Group charged with overseeing Manchester’s Climate Change Action Plan. We were primarily interested in the upcoming Stakeholder conference (1), due to take place during “Climate Week” this March.
MCFly: Who exactly is organising the stakeholder conference?
Connor: The Steering Group and Groundwork along with staff support from Manchester City Council and also volunteers. (2)
MCFly: Is it a whole day/half day event?
Connor: We’re not sure yet. There are some clashes that we need to avoid during Climate Week so it’s most likely to be at the beginning of the week but we haven’t decided anything yet. [The official manchesterclimate.com website has been saying – since before Christmas – the conference would happen on Friday 8th March. The screengrab below is from Thurs 3rd January.]
What is the venue?
No venue yet.
How will people sign up for it? Is it first come first served?
That hasn’t been decided yet.
When will these details be announced?
We’re working to make sure that people get 8 week’s notice which is what’s usually given for big events. (3)
Are any any fringe events being planned?
Yes, a call out for fringe events to organisations has been sent out and hoping to organise them along the five main themes of MACF- Buildings, Energy, Transport, Green & Blue Infrastructure, Sustainable Consumption & Production.
What is the total budget?
We haven’t finalised that yet.
Is there a “sponsoring organisation”? What efforts have been made to get sponsorship?
Not yet although a sub group of the Steering Group met in December to discuss details.
Who from the steering group has “oversight” of this?
There is no lead for the conference yet although a sub-group met before Xmas meet to discuss and I haven’t caught up with what was decided yet.
What is *different* this year than last year’s conference. I.e. if someone found it not worth their time last year, what is different about this year’s conference?
Again, the sub-group is looking at these issues.
We have been here before. This time last year (January 13th 2012) Manchester Climate Monthly broke the news of the date of the second (delayed-without-announcement-or-apology) “Stakeholder Climate Change Conference” for the Manchester Climate Action Plan. At that time there was also no venue, no theme, no “how-to-sign-up.” (4)
In the event, the conference was widely regarded as an omnishambles. Significant numbers of people left before the end, and the feedback – what little there was of it – was lukewarm to negative.
How did the Steering Group react? Did they start planning for the next year’s conference immediately, with a determination to help the city gain momentum, and to claw back squandered credibility? Did they choose a date? A venue? Establish a budget? Set up a working group to learn lessons and do outreach to ensure a wider range of attendees than 2012’s pale, male and stale turn out?
The questions may be rhetorical, but the answers – and their consequences – are deadly serious. The answers: No. No. No. No. No. And no.
The 2013 is happening in nine weeks – either on a date to be decided or on Friday 8th, depending on whether you go with Mr Connor’s answers to us or what has been on the official website since before Christmas. Many public sector employees who want to attend will have very little annual leave left by then. The bulk of the attendees will environment-sector people, with a smattering of retirees and students. Wage slaves from outside the “green” sector will be very thin on the ground. Pale, male, stale, as the phrase taught us by someone goes.
Three and a half years after the Action Plan was agreed, a third of the way to the 2020 target, does ANYONE think this is acceptable, excusable?
Some questions arise from this farrago.
What has the Steering Group been DOING all this time? (Maybe they could publish the minutes of their meetings in 2012? After all, they promised to, and they managed this difficult feat in 2011 and 2010).
Do they give a damn about the group’s low (and steadily decreasing) reputation and profile?
Do members of this group – as individuals – ever wonder if continued membership of such an obviously non-functional group (dysfunctional would imply they were actually doing something) is a reputational risk?
Could they organise a piss-up in a brewery?
Those answers: Nowt? Seems not. Seems not. No.
(1) Interview conducted by telephone on Thursday 3rd January by MCFly co-editor Arwa Aburawa.
(2) Originally we thought this story was going to be about the Steering Group handing over responsibility for organising the “Stakeholder Conference” 2013 conference to the City Council. Why? Because we read it in an official council document. Given the catastrophe that was the last one, this was plausible. However turns out that the minute-taker of the Environmental Strategy Programme Board meeting in May 2012 got his or her facts wrong (though it should be noted that the minutes were approved at the next meeting, attended by the Council’s Head of Environmental Strategy, who sits on the Steering Group).
(3) Please note – “we’re working towards” does not mean “there will definitely be …”
(4) In true Steering Group style, the how-to-sign-up conundrum was “solved” with a mistaken ‘first come first served’ announcement. This mistake was honoured (face needs to be saved, after all), leading to some people missing out while others signed up and then didn’t even show up.
According to Nicola Percival, a member of the Steering Group, writing several weeks before we contacted the Chair of the Group:
“A small sub-group has been created from Steering Group members to put together the conference, taking lessons learnt from last year and tailoring it to meet the needs of the City in 2013. They reported back their thoughts after their first meeting earlier this month, and after a healthy debate we agreed on a few key aspects – numbers of delegates, whether it should be a half or a full day, who it should be aimed at, and what the focus should be. The focus of our 2013 conference will be “to inspire and stimulate to action”, and we are now tasked with identifying organisations to invite along – both organisations who are well along the road in this agenda, as well as those who are thinking about it but haven’t started yet and would benefit from a few pointers. ” (emphasis added)