13 Dec 2012
Transition recognised in the European Parliament
It didn’t start too auspiciously. My Eurostar train’s engine broke down at St. Pancras and sat there for 2 hours while engineers tried in vain to reattach the flange to the sprocket (or something). After several aborted attempts where we were told all was now well, only to grind to a halt again after moving forwards a few metres, we finally all bailed off onto another train and set off. I was travelling to Brussels to collect, on behalf of Transition Network, the 2012 EESC Civil Society Prize at a rather grand award ceremony in the European Parliament building. Would I make it in time?
In the end I got to Brussels 2 hours late, hopped in a cab, edged through the rush hour traffic in the city, knowing that it was touch and go whether I would actually make it to the ceremony in time. I texted a few finely crafted words that Filipa Pimentel, Transition Network’s national hubs co-ordinator and person in Brussels, could read if I didn’t make it on time, which in the event didn’t get to her. This wasn’t going to plan.
I arrived, dashed through security, through long corridors, only to find that I was 5 minutes late, and that Filipa had accepted the award in my place. A film about Transition Network had been shown (the one at the start of this post), and then she had made my apologies and accepted the award. Ah well. The other two awards were then given out, and then there were lots of people offering their congratulations and handshakes and pats on the back. So what is the European Economic and Social Committee Civil Society Prize?
The EESC themselves describe it thus:
“every year, the EESC’s Civil Society Prize turns the spotlight on organisations around Europe that are carrying out remarkable and innovative projects to promote society’s well-being and strengthen the voice of citizens in democratic decision-making”.
Transition Network came first, winning €15,000 and a rather fetching (and, as I had home on the train I must point out, rather heavy) trophy. EESC President Steffan Nillson, one of the judges, said:
“The strong European dimension of Transition Network projects does justice to the overall objective of the prize, and the 2012 theme: ‘Innovate for a Sustainable Europe!”
Transition Network’s Funding Manager Nicola Hillary said:
“This prize is great recognition for the work of so many people in hundreds of European communities who are engaging their local civil society in developing low-carbon futures and livelihoods which promote well-being for all in the community”.
The award also explicitly recognised Transition Network’s REconomy Project and its work in supporting Transition initiatives in developing social enterprises. 14 people from initiatives in Belgium, Germany, Italy and Portugal came along to help celebrate, and after the ceremony was completed, we went for a drink and some rather fine Belgian dark beer.
In the evening there was a reception for the winners. This time I got to say a few words, my stepping onto the stage being greeted by an Oscars-style fanfare which was rather disconcerting.
I talked about the opening scene of Woody Allen’s ‘Stardust Memories’ where he is stuck on the miserable train looking across at the party where the beautiful people are partying, and how trying to make change happen on these issues can feel like being stuck on the miserable train, but Transition shows what it can be like when modelled more on the happy carriage model (or something like that – you had to be there). Thanks to Cristiano Bottone, here is a film of my talk:
Then there was lots of photo-taking, handshaking and chatting to people. There was good time to catch up with the Transition folks who had come, and the work they are up to, the opportunities opening up for them and the challenges they are facing. And that was that really.
The award is a great honour for Transition Network, and definitely raises the profile of the Transition idea, of the REconomy Project, and of the work of Transition groups across the continent. I’d like to thank the judges for their recognition and for everyone else who voted for us and put us forward, and for my good Transition friends to came along to raise a glass and toast this amazing recognition of the work of so many people in so many places.