The good, the bad and the ugly – CEM looks back at 2020 and forward to 2021

good bad ugly poster

In our final post of what has been a year like no other for many of us, the core group have all reflected on 2020 and thought a little about what 2021 might bring and what we want to do as a group.

We’d also like to thank all our supporters for their help over the year and wish everyone all the best for the winter holiday break known to many as Christmas.

Adam

What are you proud of CEM doing in 2020? / What has gone well?

I’m proud that CEM has kept together, supported each other to develop new skills / get things done and grown by a few new members. All of this was on top of scrutinising the council, running a petition for a 7th scrutiny committee that managed to get over 1500 signatures, releasing reports / guides and making new connections – all during a once-in-a-century pandemic. I think CEM comes out of 2020 a more resilient and functional group that can set its mind to a range of tasks and get things done – whether it can enact change is secondary as it’s mainly out of our control.

What are you frustrated by? / What do we need to get better at?

I’m most frustrated by the ignorance and contempt shown by certain elected members of the council their lack of leadership and close-mindedness when it comes to having difficult conversations and listening to ideas. It’s far easier – intellectually, physically and emotionally to ignore issues or outsource them than to deal with them head on. I think more resilient leadership is sorely needed to tackle the multiple converging crises that we face as a species, nation and city – I think the pandemic has forced more people out of their ignorance than for some time, but whether their attention is used in a positive manner is another thing.

I think we need to get better at not letting the council get away with poor decision making that tries to play one group or issue off another as nothing positive will be produced with that. But this is a much wider issue and CEM can’t do it on its own.

This coming year in CEM I am planning to…

In the first half of the year focus on building our volunteer capacity to scrutinise the council, help with planning for our speaking slot at the Resources and Governance Scrutiny Committee triggered by our petition, and help develop our plans for the local elections including outreach to local Labour Party Branches / CLPs as the token party member.

This coming year we as CEM need to…

Continue to stick together, maybe grow a little bit in terms of core group, but think we need a much larger group of volunteers we can count on helping out on specific tasks for a limited period of time. If we want to get anywhere near the sort of ambitions we discussed in our most recent non-away day, we need a lot more resources that we know, with the right support, help us achieve them.

Calum

What are you proud of CEM doing in 2020? / What has gone well?

We kept our heads above water, and even in the teeth of the pandemic we adapted our ways of working to allow us to stay functional – and in fact we managed to set up a Petition Taskforce, recruit a number of supporters to it and run one of the most effective citizen led petitions that the City’s petition scheme has ever seen.

What are you frustrated by? / What do we need to get better at?

We are somewhat stuck in an echo-chamber – lots of people support what we’re trying to do, but trying to get a wider reach is enormously challenging. A key problem to work on in 2021

This coming year in CEM I am planning to… 

Develop what video / audio production and editing skills I have (minimal!) to try to make things we are doing more accessible and more likely to get seen outside of the usual circles

This coming year we as CEM need to…

Really challenge all the local election candidates on what they would look to DO about the climate and ecological crises, not just some warm words about how it’s critical and we all need to “pull together”

Chloe

What are you proud of CEM doing in 2020? / What has gone well?

The first thing to note is how much we have done in 2020. Looking back, I couldn’t quite believe that so much activity had happened in the same year. We’ve launched twelve reports / guides. There have been five workshops, three podcasts, two market stalls… and I am sure we could stick a partridge in one of the trees the council is planting.

But I am probably most proud of things that can’t readily be quantified. Working with others is more fun, and more rewarding. Our best publications reflect the efforts our supporters put in. The petition campaign drew in more people than any of our previous initiatives, and saw them stick at it over a longer period of time.

The things I am most proud of CEM doing are probably not the things you’ll read in a blog or press article. Even over the past few weeks, we have helped a few individuals with various things. They’ve shown their appreciation, but what they maybe don’t know is it helps me too.

What are you frustrated by? / What do we need to get better at?

Where to begin?! I actually don’t want to dwell on the obvious frustrations of the council. We need to channel this frustration, and stop others getting frustrated – particularly if they are coming to this fresh(er). There’s lots we can get better at anyway. We need to work with a broader cross-section of civil society. We need to work right across the city. When embarking on an initiative or piece of work, we need to involve more people at the outset and in the production… and get it in front of more people before moving onto the next thing.

This coming year in CEM I am planning to…

Upskill more people in the scrutiny of local authorities. I am also planning to get a bit better at making infographics. I hope – too soon to make a plan – to say hello in person to some of the brilliant people I’ve worked with this year, but just chat over a brew rather than Zoom.

This coming year we as CEM need to…

Keep going.

Marc

What are you proud of CEM doing in 2020? / What has gone well?

We started the year with a realistic expectation of getting 4000 signatures on a petition for a seventh scrutiny committee.  COVID hit, we survived, regrouped and pressed on, bringing in new folks.  For me, it’s all about building and sustaining our capacity to act, to engage, to be responsible citizens. We have made moves, stayed in the game.  That is something to be proud of.

What are you frustrated by? / What do we need to get better at?

We aren’t yet very good at three inter-related things

  1. communicating in formats besides blog posts (Tiktok, videos, info graphics)
  2. explaining why and how people can do legitimate peripheral participation (though we talk about it a lot); and
  3. making sure that some of the nitty gritty stuff gets routinised.  [But again on the whole, we are functional, resilient, mutually-supportive, reflective. Those traits are hard to get/keep.]

This coming year in CEM I am planning to…

Co-lead on “operation strawberry” – an effort to increase the core skills, knowledge and relationships of CEM’s core group and selected allies.

This coming year we as CEM need to…

Support each other as the abyss gains strength, and continue to improve so that we have different weaknesses/points of frustration at the end of 2021

Marion

What are you proud of CEM doing in 2020? / What has gone well?

I’m really proud of the way we’ve expanded out so much of the work we’re doing. We’ve achieved so much with the functionality of the petition taskforce, and with the handbook, and it really feels like we’re making a proper name for ourselves in terms of climate activism in Manchester (whether that’s because the pond’s getting ever smaller as more groups die off, it’s difficult to say – but weathering that with everything that’s going on is a fucking brilliant acheivement).

What are you frustrated by? / What do we need to get better at?

I think we ended up taking a much longer break after the petition than we meant to, and that along with Christmas could have led to us substantially dropping momentum (which is clearly a big fear for lots of people in the group) but we seem to be getting it back..

This coming year in CEM I am planning to…

Work on a new edition of the handbook, and continue my own personal development in other areas (i.e. public speaking, video editing)

This coming year we as CEM need to…

Stay afloat amongst all the local and national shitfuckery and maintain our momentum/morale as best we can

Pooja

What are you proud of CEM doing in 2020? / What has gone well?

I’m proud that we have supported each other through this year without burning out. It’s been a difficult year for everyone, but despite everything, we’ve still managed to enjoy working on projects that are meaningful to us. Looking back at the work we’ve done in 2020 – whether it’s collecting signatures for the petition, writing an accessible climate handbook for students, or scrutinising the city council – none of it would be possible if we didn’t look after each other and ourselves. Not only have we sustained our individual and group morale this year, but we’ve also managed to build relationships with people who support our work.

What are you frustrated by? / What do we need to get better at?

The petition was certainly the most frustrating and exhausting project that we’ve worked on. I don’t mean to dismiss our accomplishments or the meaningful relationships we’ve built through setting up our Taskforce. But I do think that we need to get better at assessing how much time and energy we should be devoting to a project, especially when things begin to look a little bleak… Additionally, we also should have brainstormed ideas to keep our supporters engaged with our work even after the petition ended.

This coming year in CEM I am planning to…

Work on the second edition of the student climate handbook, meet our supporters (hopefully in-person!), build new relationships, and most importantly, ignore Marc’s agonising dad jokes…

This coming year we as CEM need to…

Continue to support each other, work on new and exciting projects (but not commit to too many things), make mistakes and learn from them, sustain the relationships we’ve built this year, and reflect on our progress more often

Robbie

What are you proud of CEM doing in 2020? / What has gone well?

The petition campaign was epic

Kept going in a pandemic year

Lots of good Web content went up

Handbook was great

Emotions pieces were good

Expanded core group

Growing network of supporters

Increasing emphasis on skills sharing and acquisition

Routines around council scrutiny more established

Building up scrutiny of GMCA

Linking with other cities and city regions

What are you frustrated by? / What do we need to get better at?

Frustrations

Lack of revolutionary potential

The uphill struggle

This coming year in CEM I am planning to… 

Learn more about how to contribute to CEM, though doing

This coming year we as CEM need to…

Keep up morale

Use limited capacity strategically

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