Reflections from DoFest Dudley

DoFestLast Monday-Wednesday I took part in DoFest Dudley, an inspiring festival of doing and creating.

The festival was packed with activities to get people thinking about the skills, resources and passions that they can share to bring vibrancy and real wealth to their communities; from learning labs, lightning talks, bartering skills and knowledge to making things together. It was infectious! In fact, I’d only booked for Monday’s activities and ended up joining in for parts of Tuesday and Wednesday, such was the contagion!

I saw lots of smiling and sharing, people supporting each other and having a go. A bunch of us put together a wiki wendy house, a fun, exhilarating (and noisy!) activity that demonstrated how open source design can help provide solutions to housing (visit DemoDev for more). We quickly organised ourselves and shared hammering duties to create a cosy little space in Gather Dudley.

It was lovely to join the Coseley Crafternoon session, where we made cards. I’ve never been particularly crafty, so it was good to be gently helped with ideas and suggestions from someone who’s an expert. In fact, I found that dynamic to be analogous across the whole three days – one moment someone was learning a skill, the next, they were sharing it with others.

For me, all of this culminated in Pam Warhurst’s wonderful and provoking talk at the DoFest Dudley Summit about the power of small actions, of getting on and doing things without waiting for money, without complaining about the status quo or waiting for someone else to do something (incredibleediblenetwork.org.uk). This was really powerful stuff, demonstrating a clear link between growing free food for all and resilient communities and wider system change; and I’m sure many of us in the room were inspired to do more in our neighbourhoods. Thanks to Anneka Deva and Andrew Lightheart for getting me along to this!

Since DoFest (and at times during it), I’ve been thinking increasingly about how I can relate this to my work supporting groups, and I’d love to have more conversations about how we can encourage and nurture this kind of activity. In some ways, perhaps I have already started: I often say to groups ‘Let’s imagine there is no funding’ because traditional funding can encourage deficit thinking (needs, gaps, insufficiency of something), competition. Funding can create dependency in some cases, and what happens when the grant comes to an end? It also creates bureaucracies and red tape that could be avoided when all sorts of people come together to make something happen – whether it’s someone with a bit of space going spare, skills, knowledge or equipment. The Incredible Edible movement didn’t begin with a need for funding. Instead it began with people and their willingness.

Of course, some things do need to be paid for. But through starting something lean that’s free to do, making the most of what’s already there, perhaps you could start to make a demonstrable difference and create an impact that will resonate with people, maybe even people with money!

DoFest Dudley has certainly given me lots to think about! Please feel free to share your thoughts with me too.

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