What a conference! Four members of the Change Agents team were lucky enough to travel to Bath for this years EAUC conference. With the theme for this year of interaction and networking we’ve returned with croaky throats and masses of collaborative energy.
The conference kicked off on Tuesday with a panel discussion on justice and inclusion within the sector. Led by Manu Maunganidze from SOS, the group covered topics on the barriers to entry into sustainable roles, how to engage with minority groups and the effect of diversity on sustainable practices. We left with a deeper understanding of the work that needs to be done and the challenges we face as a sector.
After a coffee break and catch up with contacts we each went our separate ways to various incredible sessions. Eleanor from our education team co-lead a session on Empowering educators with ESD teaching tools, while the rest of the team went to……Green Skills, Sustainable Procurement and Costing Net Zero Plans. Just from those first session titles you can see the diversity in topics throughout the conference, and the overarching theme meant that the sessions were full of discussion and collaboration. In the sustainable procurement session, we were treated to a demonstration of a new piece of software being developed to help institutions continue working with small local businesses by enabling them to bring their own practices forward in terms of carbon reduction and setting net zero plans. In perfect harmony with the conference theme everyone in the room agreed that collaboration is key to sustainable procurement, and teams from sustainability and procurement need to support each other in understanding drivers, metrics and solutions.
One of the biggest changes we can make to our personal carbon footprint is within our diet. If the entire population reduced their meat and dairy consumption we could save millions of tons of CO2e every year. With this in mind the conference was fully plant based, throughout the tea and coffee breaks, during lunch and for the delicious evening meal we were indulged with treats all made from plants. Not only did the organisers go plant based but they ensured the University of Bath was also purchasing products with minimal single use plastics and sourced locally where possible.
At lunch we reconvened in the main hall at our stand and enjoyed options, including onion bhajis, quinoa salad and beetroot falafels. Sandwiched between Future We Want and Taylor and Townsend our stand was a buzz of activity throughout all the breaks, with delegates interested in all our activities, particularly our newly upgraded Sustainability Leadership Skills wheel, and gleefully leaving with Change Agents branded wildflower seeds to remind them of meeting us.
The afternoon saw the team yet again disband and spread between the sessions. Lexie went to Leadership for our Profession, Megan headed to Science Based Targets, Eleanor to Partnership Approaches to ESD and Elspeth to Engaging Participation in Climate Change through Communication. We won’t break down all the sessions but some highlights were:
A look at the Inner Development Goals
Discussions around what leadership means
For successful communication we need to ‘speak’ to the individual and how things affect them personally
Collaboration was a key topic across all four subject areas. The delegates all recognising that progress and development will be almost impossible without teams working together, helping each other and building a broader understanding of the challenges that face each of us and the planet
Day 1 ended with some free time to explore the beautiful city of Bath before we reconvened for a delicious vegan dinner and a chance for more networking.
A Day 2 Remember
Wednesday launched with a lively discussion on Biodiversity with a panel from the RSPB, Kew, Alliance for Nature Positive Universities and Make My Money Matter, lead by the energetic Michael Howroyd of the University of Leeds. A key message from Rachel Pardon of Kew was “you can’t fight the climate crisis without fighting the biodiversity crisis too, we need to work hand in hand to secure our future.” At the end of the discussion and questions the panel were asked to give a short sentence to describe the most important action we can take to protect our biodiversity. Their responses were:
“Engage with your community on education and learning” – Nigel Symes, RSPB
“Reimagine your spaces, create a mosaic of biodiversity across your campuses” – Emily Stott, Alliance for Nature Positive Universities
“Think about ecosystems not individual species” – Rachel Purdon, Kew Botanical Gardens
“Think about what your money is doing and can do and is doing” – Kenneth Green, Make My Money Matter
On the second day the CAUK team focussed little more on networking, ensuring that everyone that wanted to ask questions had their opportunity. We were joined at the stand by over 100 delegates over the event and we're looking forward to developing more communication and collaboration in the next few weeks as we all settle back into our realities and further understand how we can help each other.
The team enjoyed sessions on Offsetting, Holistic Thinking and the Power of Partnerships. The final session of the day before we dashed for trains was one which intrigued three of the team so we all escaped the lecture halls and headed outside. As we gathered under the trees and waited with bare feet being tickled by the grass, there were mixed emotions in the circle of 40 participants. We'd signed up for a session on positivity, passion and purpose. It was an eye opening workshop with time travel, active listening and small group work and by the end of the session we found ourselves running across the grass shouting out a commitment to action while the rest of the group cheered. It was an invigorating and thought provoking way to end an excellent two days.