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Reflections on being part of the Urban Community at ICLEI

The time has come to pause and reflect on this last year’s journey with ICLEI as part of their Urban Community project. To sit with it, and hold up the experience, turn it around in the light. The overall feeling I have right now is of gratitude.. And wonder at the shift in world-states that the work straddled, covid and post-covid.


I wrote the application while in a state of isolated delirium in bed with covid. The idea that the application was based on was developed in the quiet, collective breath-holding space of lockdown. This huge, enforced pause on our lives, for all its death, trauma, un-knowing and isolation, still held a gift of time and spaciousness (for the privileged) to reflect, imagine and ask ‘what if?’. I was one of the fortunate ones, with the space, resources and time to dig raised beds into our back garden, tending plants, tending each other, tending ideas.


Thinking of hubRen, my climate outreach bike project, as a plant; the funding from ICLIE was the water, the generous creation of space to share ideas was the compost, the support of new, beautiful peers with shared ideals became the sturdy trellis of support for the unruly tendrils of my project to hold on to and climb. And just having another group of people, awesome people who work on making the world a thriving, fair and regenerative space, look at my project and say ‘YES’, that was the life giving sunlight to my project. I still can’t quite believe it when I look back on it, to be honest!


Going out to Berlin in May to meet everyone, to share our stories, delve into the possibilities and responsibilities of systemic change was a huge, beautiful, mind and heart expanding honour. I so loved the variety in the projects, but all linked together in the visioning of connected and thriving communities. I was deeply inspired by Alice Priori of Citizens Lab, to ‘be fearless, we are in time of hospicing, we need to help the old institutions die’. Berlin itself, with her surviving pockets of radical, DIY spaces reminded me of the power and necessity of out-of-the-ordinary, anti-commercial spaces to nourish imagination and the possibility of other ways of being with each other.


Our monthly COCO’s and the online space in LinkedIn was an invaluable exchange of ideas and support, both from my fellow cohort and the amazing ICLIE team; with Sophia, Lucia and Duncan always there, always curious, kind and open with creative ways of problem solving and encouragement.


The funding itself was a lifeline, allowing me to pay the artists for the beautiful artwork, to stock the hub with resources, to expand my own learning and connect with local community groups in meaningful and supportive ways. The emotional and intellectual support gave me the courage to pursue the goal. The creation of the hub has been a springboard into an actual job in my community, which once felt like an unattainable dream when first stepping away from photography. It is exciting to fold in the bike hub with The Hornbeam’s community work. We are developing resources and a program that uses food and mutual aid as a way to think and talk about the reality of our changing climate and the ways that we can respond in community.


The reality of this project straddling two distinct time frames is the difference in availability of time! It was planted in an open space, of expansiveness and possibility, and is now fruiting in an overgrown garden, with so many competing plants demanding attention and tending! My job manages to both support hubRen yet also push it to the side sometimes, alongside what has turned into a 9 month home renovation spreading its dusty and noisy mess across the raised beds, both figuratively and literally.


The beautiful plant is still there, it just needs a little weeding and pruning! I’m incredibly grateful to ICLIE for providing the ecosystem of nourishment to allow it to grow into its living, thriving shape

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