Climate Change Social Change conference assessment

Climate Change Social Change conference assessment

The second Climate Change Social Change conference, despite numerous obstacles, was a huge success. This is because of the numbers of people who attended and the fact we managed to pull on a broad, open, inclusive conference that addressed both the Marxist/socialist educational content and also reached out to an extremely wide range of campaigns and groups.

It was a boost — educationally and politically — for everyone who attended. Given where Socialist Alliance is at nationally, the second Climate Change Social Change conference was a massive achievement.

It was hard to get a totally accurate picture of numbers for the Friday night opening public meeting, but the Carrillo Gantner theatre at the Sidney Myer Asia centre has 480 seats. My best guess was that this was ¾ full: between 360 -400. 90 people had pre-registered for the Friday night meeting exclusively and the majority of people came to other parts of the conference.

There were 385 registrations from the Saturday to the Monday, including the international guests and speakers. So the total attendance would be closer to 550.

The previous CCSC conference attracted between 300-400 people.

Lessons

  1. The Friday night registration process was chaotic. We should use TryBooking wherever possible — it costs us very little (30 cents per booking) and makes bookings things very easy. I plan to write up a “how to use” TryBooking guide.
  2. At big public meetings we need more space for the registration tables and more comrades than we did. Even with 3 to 4 at different times, we got swamped and things got choked up.
  3. Computerising the registration process is a must. Without a computer on the Friday night we were slowed us down. On Saturday I set up my laptop and this made the registration process a lot smoother.

All up 127 members of SA and Resistance attended the conference — 94 SA only; 16 Resistance only and 17 were both SA and Res members. There were probably another 15 — 20 comrades that aren’t included in that — and some of those Resistance members who may also be members of SA.

Building lessons

Rachael Evans, Stewart Woolley and Duncan Roden did a phenomenal job in building the conference on various Melbourne campuses. From the lecture bashing, we had some great responses from the Environmental Sciences, Environmental Engineering and Gender Studies lectures. Rachael estimates that we would have reached around 3000 students through this process and we should do this again in the future — even if we didn’t get massive numbers of students we did get a good hearing for our ideas and applause from more than a few lectures.

Also building links with community media is very important: 3CR helped us build the conference in exchange for being a sponsor. We should definitely try and do this with other media in the future.

Rostering

We left the organisation of this a little too late — which didn’t leave enough time to adequately fill the roster. We need to call on comrades who have set these up before, rather than attempting to reinvent the wheel — at the last minute.

Venues

In general, it would be better to have the conference at a single venue. However it wouldn’t have been practical in this case having the Friday public meeting at VTH — we wouldn’t have been able to fit the 380 people in the NCC.

While VTH it has its problems, it is also a good venue. But we needed better maps for the different workshop rooms and maps showing how to get to the conference venues.

I had assumed that if people had made it to the venue they would be fine. But feedback from the international guests revealed that this was not the case. This wouldn’t have to be in the conference guide but it should be in the emails prior to the conference.

Media

Radio 3CR covered most of the conference. ABC Radio came for the Friday meeting and the Age did an interview with Sonia Qadir from Pakistan after the conference.

International guests

The big number of international guest speakers was a challenge: we were probably just on the cusp of having too many for us to adequately cope with.

We need to be more conscious about looking after our international guests. Peter Boyle did a huge amount of work corresponding with and organising the international guests’ schedules, but we really needed a group to organise this.

We also had ambitious plans for our international guests before and after the conference. Ian Angus commented that in the 15 days he was in Australia, we only managed to organised 14 different speaking appearances for him!

Similarly, Angelene Loh did a phenomenal number of meetings before and after the conference.

Technical issues

Dick Nichol’s Skype-in from Spain worked well — including the Q&A — and proved to be a lot clearer than the phone call from Derek Wall from the Britain. In the future, we should aim to use Skype.

Outreach/recruiting

We missed a few opportunities to promote SA and GLW. While there was a big Resistance banner behind the stall, the profile of SA was fairly minimal.

We also could have better promoted SA and GLW by projecting ads and logos onto the background screens.

The Green Left Weekly roll-up subscribe banner was good. I don’t have an accurate picture of the number of papers sold during the conference, but the GLW subscription offer for non-subscribers that registered for the entire conference meant that 120 people will be getting a complimentary 4-week subscription — compared with 70 from the previous CCSC conference.

Feedback

The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Ken Cosgrove, an academic from Monash University who spoke at the participatory democracy workshop, said: “Congratulations to all organisers — it was one of the best conferences I have been to in a long time”.

Bob McMahon, from Tasmanians against the Pulp Mill, said: “Thank you for putting on a stunning conference. John Bellamy Foster and Ian Angus provided inspiration beyond imagining.”

Joel Cosgrove , from the Workers Party in NZ, and who also attended the previous CCSC conference, said he thought it was a lot more focused than the previous one.

Leisha Jack, a new member from WA, was tremendously inspired and thanked me numerous times.

Suzie Wright, a Greens member from Western Sydney and who is involved in ParraCAN, loved the conference so much she’s suggesting some of the same speakers address the Climate Summit in 2012.