Towards carfree cities

York’s a lovely city any day of the year, but on Friday it was in full sunshine. Perhaps not ideal when you know you’re going to be indoors all day. The World Carfree Network was holding its annual conference: Towards Carfree Cities IX . Friday, day 5 of a 7 day programme, was the day of the annual general meeting. It’s rare for us to facilitate such a widely international event. There were representatives of member organisations from across the globe – as far afield as Mexico and Austria down to the rarefied atmospheres of Leeds and York itself.

It’s also rare for us to facilitate an event with such a blend of formal governance structures and genuine grassroots democracy. I’m not used to facilitating discussions towards consensus one moment and in the next facilitating a formal vote for the election of Steering Committee members. WCN statutes require they attempt to reach consensus, but with an 80% majority vote fallback, which I’m glad to say that we didn’t require.

We heard updates on the organisation’s work and finances, and borrowed elements from Open Space for the main topic of discussion – running the Network effectively in a time of financial hardship. If you’ve got a bob or two to spare, I’m sure WCN would very much appreciate all donations, big or small. At this point I should say that this was one of Rhizome’s pro bono pieces of work. We’re committed to using the surplus we create from paying clients to support grassroots organisations who could benefit from external facilitation, training or mediation but don’t have the resources to pay for it.

For me it was very positive – watching the group work hard to find co-operative and creative solutions to their problems. In an ideal world we would have got further with the detailed planning of next steps, but on day 5 of a packed programme energy levels were understandably low and finishing on time seemed more appropriate.

I’m told that we set an all time record for finishing on time. I was regaled with anecdotes of previous AGMs going on so long that they spilled over into the planned evening entertainment – heated discussions going on until 1am on a riverboat ride in Budapest whilst the sights drifted past unseen…

These evaluation comments give you a representative sample…

What worked well
What worked well 2
What worked less well