Our anniversary networking event on January 11th was a cracker!  Just like our inaugural meeting a year ago, it was buzzing with energy and gave us all a much-needed New Year’s shot in the arm. This was especially welcome given the urgency we all feel to get moving on climate action.

A year ago, founder members Nicola Peel and Carrie Cort promised the inaugural SECA meeting that we would get together after a year to see where we had got to. So it was wonderful to see around 70 SECA members, old and new, gathered in Horsham on January 11th to celebrate a year of remarkable achievements. Brighton Road Baptist Church lent us their beautiful auditorium and facilities for the day and we shared a ‘pot luck’ lunch.

Outline of the day

Nicola welcomed us all, and sketched out the challenges ahead using the recent Zero Carbon Britain report for can-do inspiration. People had travelled from far and wide – representing groups from Kent, Surrey, Hampshire, Brighton & Hove, and East & West Sussex.

Geoff and Sally Barnard then gave a presentation on ‘The Story So Far‘, summarising the origins of SECA, it’s rapid growth as a network, and the remarkable success of its member groups across the region in encouraging local councils to declare a climate emergency.  At the latest count, 93% of primary and secondary councils have either declared and emergency or passed a meaningful climate motion. The challenge now is to keep up the pressure on our councils to take action.

We then heard snapshots from half a dozen different SECA member organisations, giving an impressive glimpse of what member groups are up to across the South East, and what they are learning.

Most of the rest of the day was taken up by parallel group discussions on selected topics. Tony Whitbread set out the aims of the groups which was to discuss whether joining together in some way on these topics under a SECA umbrella would be worthwhile and add value, without duplicating what others are doing. Feedback to plenary was chaired by Neil Scotton from Enabling Catalysts.

A lively set of conversations then ensued!  Tons of ideas were generated, and some fledgling plans developed to take these forward (see below). The emphasis was on keeping any plans ‘light touch’, self-organising and flexible so that SECA does not get bogged down in administration.

The day ended with appreciations for all the work by the Steering Group that had gone into SECAs first year and a special thank you to Nicola and Carrie for providing the initial spark that led to SECAs formation.

We’ve loaded a selections of photos and short video clips from the day onto the SECA Facebook page.

Nicola Peel wrapping up the day

Summary of feedback from groups

Circular economy

This group looked at how to shift the focus out from recycling to the broader concept of a ‘circular economy’ (designing out waste and pollution and keeping products and materials in use. There is a lot of information out there on this, but it needs to be promoted to individuals, councils and businesses. The group will meet again and aims to produce some simple information about the circular economy for the SECA website, together with some useful links. They will share ideas with us all through the SECA newsletter.  Here’s a report back on the discussions.

Natural Capital 

There is already a lot of work on nature and biodiversity in the region, so it is important not to duplicate effort.  So this group thought that their best contribution would be to provide ‘natural capital’ stories for the SECA newsletter. This would help to keep the ecological emergency fresh in our minds alongside the climate emergency, and provide the tools for us all to take action. A few people have volunteered to take this forward.  Here’s a report back on the discussions.


The Education group brainstormed ways in which SECA could produce a ‘tool box’ for climate education that could be used in many different situations.  They aim to produce material that would inspire a hopeful positive narrative and encourage people to create solutions. Favourite educational tools will be pooled for the tool box and go towards creating a presentation. Here’s a report back on the discussions.

Local action in Communities and Parishes

This group looked at ways of connecting up the work of different SECA member groups working at the community level.  The group was enthusiastic about networking and sharing learning together under the SECA umbrella as many are looking for ideas on how to be most effective. They hope to provide a resource and tool ‘library’ on the SECA website, and possibly a register of speakers on different topics. Veronica Simpson, a freelance journalist, has offered to write up case studies of particularly successful or interesting initiatives from different SECA member groups, for wider sharing.  A small group have taken on the coordination. Here’s a report back on the discussions.

Lobbying MPs and Councils

There was enthusiasm to take a new tack and join up/share ideas on how to lobby our MPs and national government. So a new SECA group has formed on this topic . To start with, the aim is to pool resources and advice on how to lobby our MP’s. It sounds as though SECA would have to be formally constituted in order to lobby at a ministerial level, so this might be a future aspiration.

The group also mulled over some issues around the lobbying of Councils, and these will be taken forward by the SECA Councils Working Group, which is already coordinating this.  Here’s a report back on the discussions.


There is already an experienced community energy network in the region – Community Energy South (CES). So, to avoid duplication, the Energy group discussed whether there were any roles for SECA that might complement CES.

They agreed that SECA might boost networking, help with sharing information and guides and with sharing examples of energy saving. It was also suggested that SECA might lobby local, regional and national bodies. The economics of renewable energy  are rapidly changing, with lots of new potential and SECA could have a role in alerting councils to these trends and to the availability of low cost loans from the Public Works Loan Board for renewable projects.  Here’s a report back on the discussions.


Amended note:   In the case of Transport, SCATE (South Coast Alliance for Transport and the Environment) is already a well established network in the region.  There is also the South East Transport Network, which is a loose affiliation of groups interested in transport and planning issues and covers the whole of the South East.  Groups in the network are particularly focussed on influencing transport policy and spending at the regional level (in addition to their local concerns) and engaging with Transport for the South East (TfSE).  The Network has a number of seats on TfSE’s Transport Forum which contains a broad range of regional stakeholders feeding into the work of TfSE.  The Network has a dedicated Google group for exchanging information which interested organisations are free to join. Contact Chris Todd for more information.’ chris@transportactionnetwork.org.uk

So it was decided that SECA was not likely to add value by forming another group, but should keep up its close links with SCATE and SETN.

Follow up

The plan is for the groups to report back to the SECA Steering Group in March. By then they will have a feel for how they are getting on, and whether and in what form they may continue.

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