Stoke-on-Trent hosts second CtrlShift Emergency Summit for Change in May

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Last year on the 29th March, a gathering of systems change actors, including The Alternative UK, stood in a hall in Wigan under the banner of CtrlShift.  In our final plenary, Andy Goldring of the Permaculture Association noted that exactly a year on we would be leaving the European Union. Given the social, political and environmental implications of that, we vowed to make the most of that year before we gathered again.

Maybe we were prophetic when we changed the date of our next CtrlShift gathering to 8-10th May as the 29th has now turned into a soft Brexit deadline and is likely to be dropped. At the same time, the very dynamics of power are changing before our eyes. Westminster party politics have become a spectacle of dysfunction: the headlines tell us that not only has the PM lost control of her party, but of the House too. When politics itself is so broken, who’s in charge?

Yesterday (see our editorial) one million people took to the streets to challenge the government’s constant claim to be acting on the will of the people and call for a second vote. At the same time, over five million (at time of writing) have signed a petition to change the committed course of action and revoke Article 50.

Only two weeks before, thousands of school children went on a school strike for the climate, part of a global movement started by Greta Thunberg (ref) now spreading to 105 countries. Her actions are the tip of an arrow, followed through by Extinction Rebellion, who are currently planning an international protest against climate inaction beginning April 15th.

From a political point of view, a “CtrlShift” is occurring. However it is not yet clear enough, from what to what? After all, there are not yet any clear alternatives to a top-down management of power. The notion that a different political party, operating within exactly the same system might be that answer, is not proving popular yet. Neither Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour nor the newly formed, historical hybrid of Left and Right that is The Independent Group has been able to capture the narrative for the change that is being called for.

Instead many different claims on alternatives are being made at different levels of the system – something we try to capture in our Daily Alternative. And a growing sense of how all that comes together, is, in our sense of things, beginning to happen. Our own move to initiate Citizen Action Networks wherever we can, is one manifestation of that.

At the last CtrlShift in Wigan (report here, our editorial here), 90 organisations were represented by 149 people. In our conversations, we experienced a common sense of the values and behaviours that will underpin a new system. And some of the forms and structures that can hold this alternative model.

This year, our sense of the stakes are higher. Not simply because of the IPCC report on climate emergency that gave us a clear window of action last time. But because in the intervening year, that new focus has galvanised us to ‘get real’ on the ground. Systems change no longer indicates theories of change. It has to mean how people are connected to that ecosystem of possibilities and what they practically do to get results, where they live.

For that reason, this year CtrlShift will be more than a gathering to align our diverse projects. It will also be an exercise of collaboration on the spot. We will be in active dialogue with the local actors and organisations in and around Stoke-on-Trent to be sure that we are responding to the needs of people, as they are experienced by the people. That everything we discuss, from a systemic point of view, has an application on the ground.

While we have in mind the 12 years that the IPCC identifies as the window of change, we also know the dangers of wasting ten years deciding on what to do. Within the next three years we need to be in full swing if we are to make an impact within 12. Which leaves this year as the one in which we build effective prototypes for change. Before we leave Stoke-on-Trent we will have found a new form of action that we believe will accelerate the changes we are seeking, to get the results our planet demands. Whether this takes the form of a manifesto, a pledge, or a schedule, we will commit to  bringing it about together.

For more information on how to join the gathering, how to become a partner, or how to get a bursary, visit our website