How can we in the South East help drive the “Step Change” needed to tackle the climate and biodiversity crisis?  That was the ambitious focus for this year’s Annual Networking Event, held on June 19th.  With the COP26 Climate Summit in November as our prompt, we wanted to seek inspiration from each other on how we can raise our game, both as individual groups and collectively as the SECA coalition.  

Over 60 people tuned in via Zoom to an energising Saturday morning of quick-fire talks followed by break-out groups, spiced up with a guided thoughtfulness session and some interactive polls, and with the main ideas captured visually on an online Miro board.  The format worked a treat – the positive energy was palpable!  For those who missed it, Viviane Doussy has created this detailed synopsis – with video clips of each of the main speakers plus a range of carefully collated supporting resources.  You can dip into the highlights of what turned out to be a memorable morning.  

Session 1:  Presentations

Plenary presentations were all recorded, and have been edited into a series of short clips.  Just click on the thumbnail to access each talk.  

Introduction:  Nicola Peel took the chair for the first session, with Carrie Cort giving a personal insight into the humble beginnings of SECA.  It started with a chat in a nature reserve, which led to the inaugural networking meeting at Horsham Unitarian Church in February 2019 where SECA was born.

The Story So Far:   Geoff Barnard took up the story, tracking SECA’s progress since then.  Membership has grown from 14 groups to over 100 organisations across five counties in the South East.  The initial goal of getting councils to acknowledge the climate emergency was met within a year, so the focus shifted to tracking council progress and encouraging them to implement ambitious climate plans.  What have we learned and where do we go from here?

The Scale of the Challenge:  Tony Whitbread set the scene by reminding us of the dire situation that we’re in. We weren’t spared the details and it was clear that we’re still living in a world of make-belief and fairy-tales. It is time to knuckle down to some urgent and major work in changing things for the better – a ‘Step Change’ in every respect.

Public Opinion:  Drawing on results of the UNDP People’s Climate Vote, Jay Mercer focused on where we are in terms of public opinion worldwide.  He went on to highlight the recommendations emerging from the Climate Assembly UK.  Both provide encouraging signals that the world is finally waking up to the scale of the climate crisis.

What are Local Councils doing?  SECA Coordinator, Sally Barnard, presented latest findings from the For the last year has been tracking the progress of councils across the South East in implementing Climate Action Plans. She pointed out the big differences in scope and ambition, and in how effectively councils are communicating climate messages.

Local Authorities – Step Change towards Net Zero:  Francisca Iliffe from Adur & Worthing Borough Councils, one of the climate front runners in our area, then shared her experience.  She highlighted the Climate Change Committee Report that emphasises the leadership role councils can play in making the transition to net zero, but also the big gaps that need to be plugged in joining up national and local action.

A Friends of the Earth Perspective:  Alasdair Roxburgh, Director of Communities and Networks at FOE, spoke of the encouraging progress over the last decade, and in recent legal battles won over Shell and Heathrow. Much more needs to be done in this important year leading up to COP26 both in holding governments to account, and in pressing for action locally.

Local Climate Hubs – the Lewes Experience:  Bringing the focus back down to the local level, Dinah Morgan talked about the hands-on difference we can all make in our own communities, using the new Lewes Climate Hub as an example.  It’s one of a number of climate hubs being set up in towns across the country to focus and galvanise local action.

The Youth Perspective:  Natasha Barnes gave us a powerful insight into how younger people are engaging with the climate crisis. She referred to the knowledge-response gap in our societies; the big divide between what we know and how we act, and the innovative approaches young people are using to maximise their impact through social media and other channels.

Q&A:  Nicola Peel then chaired a quick Q&A session to pick up on questions and comments on the morning’s presentations.


Session 2:  Break Out Groups

Interactive polls:  After a short pause to put the kettle on, Tony Whitbread and Viviane Doussy signalled a change in gear – from listening to participating – by running three quick polls, asking: Is your group looking for opportunities to step up impact? How much will COP enhance the impact of your work? How do you see Step Change being affected by your group?

Break Out group preamble:   Tony Whitbread explained how participants would be divided into eight groups of 6-8 people, each with a nominated facilitator.  The challenge was, in 30 minutes, to share their best ideas on how community groups can help catalyse a step change in climate action, both at a community level and as a network.

Feedback from Break Out Groups

We expected chaos, never having done a SECA zoom break-out session before.  But it all ran like clockwork!  Back in plenary, each group gave a summary of the key points emerging.  Key points were jotted down by Sherry Clark as Post-it notes on the online Miro Board, though it proved a lot to capture given the rich discussions.

Room 1 – Facilitator:  Danny Lee


Room 2 – Facilitator:  Rod Thick


Room 3 – Facilitator: Chris Lee


Room 4 – Facilitator:  Peter Desmond


Room 5 – Facilitator:  Mark Francis


Room 6 – Facilitator: Tom Broughton


Room 7 – Facilitator:  Emily Mott


Room 8 – Facilitator: Karen Park


Wrap Up – Where next?  Tony Whitbread and Sherry Clark then had the tricky job of trying to bring it all together and to make sense of the feedback. It was, of course, an impossible task in the time available – there was so much to cover. So we were all left with rich tasting menu of ideas, inspirations, and links to follow up – food for thought in every sense.

A vision for the Future:  To close off, organisational psychologist, Paul Hannam, shared some thoughts on how change happens, and the challenges involved.  He ended with a rallying call, proposing a possible vision for SECA where members work together and support each other, so we can become a collaborative network of change champions.

Thank you and Goodbye:  All there was left to do was for Nicola Peel and Carrie Cort to thank all the behind-the-scenes organisers, and close what everyone agreed had been a rewarding and very worthwhile networking meeting.


Supporting Resources

Final Agenda for the day


Geoff Barnard –  SECA: The Story So Far

Tony Whitbread – The Scale of the Challenge

Sally Barnard – What are Local Councils Doing?

Dinah Morgan – Local Climate Hubs:  The Lewes Experience

– where all the video clips from the day can be browsed.

  this is the online pin board we created for the event.  There’s several sections to this:

  • The SECA Member Area where Viviane Doussy has laid out a selection of leaflets, posters and video clips showcasing the work of SECA member groups across the region.
  • The Event Feedback Area is where Sherry Clark has captured ideas from the presentations and break out group feedback on virtual Post-it notes, and clustered them under a series of heading.

You can zoom in and out and scroll around to find the different sections. If you lose your way, just type ‘SECA’ into the magnifying glass (top right) or the ‘frames’ icon (bottom left).

Comments and resources mentioned in the Chat  – There was a steady stream of comments and suggestions in the chat box throughout the event, with many useful links and references provided.  Viviane Doussy has collated these so you can scan through to pick up on topics of interest.  There are also some helpful introductions from participants, with details of their organisations and some of the resources available on their websites.





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