In February this year I visited the Reconomy Centre in Totnes for the first time. Welcomed warmly into a beautiful space with inspiring quotes on the walls and delicious coffee; I was there representing Plymouth Social Enterprise Network to meet with an inspiring group of economic catalysts: Jay Tompt and Chris Gunson from Local Spark Torbay (Torbay Social Enterprise Network) along with Daphne van Run from ESSENCE of Exeter (Exeter Social Enterprise Network). Our goal: to design the sketch of a Devon-wide event that would provide inspiration, connection and action toward the next economy. With 2019 ‘the year the world woke up to climate change’ looming in our minds, we worked on the design of a day that would bring people together across sectors to work on the economic transition that we know needs to take place. Towards a more socially and ecologically resilient economy.

We outlined the following objectives:
  • Showcase the innovation happening within the social economy to adequately respond to the vulnerability of our society being highlighted in the face of climate emergency
  • Helping individuals and businesses to see the practical pathways that they can take
  • Weave together different threads of work across the county/region
  • Build our capacity as networks of the social economy to provide expertise to other sectors around preparing for the climate emergency

The foundations felt solid and we began to prepare the details. We were ready to meet again in March to start filling out all the blanks. Of course, what we didn’t know was that a public health pandemic, an economic crisis and social uprising was looming around the corner.

Adapting to Covid-19

Among the deep sadness and grief of now over 40,000 deaths in the UK alone related to COVID-19 since that time, the COVID-19 pandemic has – in so many ways – shifted so much of the way that we perceive our societies, our homelives and our work. As we get face to face with the deep inequalities at the core of our social fabric and face the possibility of the largest recession in 300 years, it is also forcing a shift in how we envisage the role of business in our economy.

COVID-19 has highlighted the huge role played by care workers in our societies. That people can find strength from the deepest places. The power of a work-life balance. The importance of being able to rely on our local circles. The importance of connection. That we can rise together in the face of challenge – that we are willing to help each other. That we can live with less. That the environment thrives when we give it the space. That the global economy is fragile. That there is a huge difference between businesses that aim to create value and those that aim to extract it. And so much more.

Among the tragedy there is much hope, including a hope that we can #BuildBackBetter, regenerating our economy in a way that puts the limits of the planet and the needs of people across society at the heart of its design. A socially and ecologically resilient economy.

By the end of April, Daphne, myself, Chris and Jay met back up, this time over a Zoom call that we’d all become familiar with. What of our planned event? We reflected on the original objectives and they felt even more pressing, even more possible and even more necessary. So we agreed: keep the date planned for July, make it even bigger, and throw our energy into making this Devon-wide summit as bold and practical and real as we could.

And Now…

After weekly meetings and many hours, we are delighted to bring to you the REGENERATE DEVON Virtual Summit, 7-9 July. Three days of visionaries, panels, networking and co-creation sessions to build a socially and ecologically resilient economy. 15 session, 25 speakers and 10+ hours of discussion, co-creation and Open Space.

Day 1 is about becoming acquainted and Dreaming Big, where participants open their minds, share visions and ideas and set the scene for what’s possible. Day 2 is all about ‘the practice’. We’ll be hearing from enterprises and entrepreneurs about inspiring and cutting-edge practice that they have been developing and learning from each other about what we have done and what is possible. Day 3 brings the process around to joint action and co-creation and involves everyone in the question ‘So, how do we Regenerate Devon together?’.

We’re very excited to be bringing inspirational people from across Devon and beyond into this conversation. From our opening panel with the visionaries of our region Manda Brookman, Tony Greenham and Amanda Kilroy, to a speech and Q&A by Rob Shorter and Kate Raworth from the Doughnut Economics Action Lab, to case studies from across Devon showcasing inspirational practice, including the Reconomy Centre, Riverford Organic, Plymouth CityBus, Co-Lab, South West Mutual, Plymouth Energy Community, Nudge Community Builders  and many many more.

We invite you to help to join us and help to shape the conversation – network with ‘Regenerators’ across Devon, share your practice, share your ideas, co-create with peers, host or join a session during the Open Space, and take part in our ‘After Hours’ events to socialise and connect.

Because if not now –when it is so obviously necessary – then when will we collectively start to make the bold shifts that are needed to build our economy in Devon in service to the planet and society? We cannot influence everybody’s actions, but we can at least influence our own.

Find out more here

Written by Annette Dhami – PSEN Events Manager and Board member

Plymouth Social Enterprise Network