EATING for community

by Wendy Sarkissian etc.
(quoted in the book Kitchen Table Sustainability)

Sustainability is the goal,
Community is the means,
and Community Engagement is the strategy.

Community-based initiatives are essential for sustainability. They are not just helpful, they are essential. Sustainability is about tapping innovation for a future in our settlement that is much more resource-constrained, far lower in ecological footprint, yer resulting in much better places in which to live and work and play-all at the same time. So why don’t we just call in the experts and get in with it?

That is the problem. There are no experts in the simultaneous achievement of these sustainability goals. Too many experts and professionals are trained to do the opposite: to create settlements that use more resources, have a bigger footprints and, in the days of expensive oil, are not much fun to live in.

Time and time again, communities demonstrates that they understand sustainability; they can see what they want and often they have good ideas about how it can be done in an integrated way. Sustainability comes from community values-it doesn’t come from the professions or business or from government strategies that are big on rhetoric bot small on implementation. It only comes when the glue of community values makes it clear that this is what they want. Then the community, professions, government and business have a chance to come up with solutions as a team.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development calls this ‘playing jazz’. They know that business alone or government alone does not work on sustainability issues. Only when community is engaged does the music begin to be played. Then you can get all kinds of renditions, with many different soloists playing their parts, but the total effect of them playing together is when the magic starts. Jazz is not easy but the synergies and partnerships that are created are providing the creativity we need.

We see sustainability as the overall goal, communities as the means to achieving that goal and community engagement as the ongoing, underlying process that enables the journey to continue. Kitchen Table Sustainability is our approach to community engagement with sustainability, referred to as EATING. Eating is nourishing, nurturing and sustaining. It transforms the bounty of our Earth into energy we can use. It is one of the most basic human activities and is often done together.

The EATING approach consists of six components-food groups if you like-Education, Action, Trust, Inclusion, Nourishment and Governance.  

Education asks what information and knowledge do we need to impart and share for community engagement with sustainability.
Action explores two key questions: ‘How can the frustration of inaction be overcome in community engagement process?’ and ‘What actions are required to achieve transformative change for sustainability’?
Trust examines the persistent problems of trust in community engagement: what happens when trust is broken and how trust can be nourished in hard times with difficult problems to address.
Inclusion highlights the diversity of our communities and the need for ‘listening across difference’, emphasizing the valuable roles that children and young people can play as engaged citizens and not ‘citizens-in-the-making’.
Nourishment provides some solace for the worried community members and embattled sustainability practitioner by drawing attention to some ancient and basic principles, including that we cannot nourish the Earth and our communities if we cannot nourish ourselves.
Governance argues that very specific governance approaches should underpin community engagement with sustainability-notably participatory governance and transformative management.



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