Virtual Café – How to present ideas to your municipality?

The last Municipalities in Transition community of practice virtual cafe of 2020 looked at a question that we have heard asked a lot – in different webinars and virtual cafes, in different projects.  You’ve got some good ideas for your community.  But how DO you present ideas to your municipality?  What approaches might help build interest and  commitment from a municipality?

Lara Freitas of Ecobairro, Sao Paulo, Brazil, a Municipalities in Transition pioneer community, brought some inspiration to start us off, with a short presentation about their experiences of presenting ideas to their municipality – see video of her presentation below.

There were participants from Brazil, France, Canada, Argentina, Portugal, Italy and the Netherlands.
We heard an inventive idea from Argentina, where the Transition group divided the presentation topics among their team, and to every question from the municipality made sure to bring another of the team in on the answer. This showed the strength of the group and as a result gave the municipality confidence in working with them.
Lara and others recommended demonstrating that there is demand from the community for new ideas – to show that many people are interested.
She recommended building dialogue based on respect. From Portugal, facilitator Luís Keel Pereira recommended finding an ally among the staff of the municipality – without the context of needing re-election, municipality staff can be more focused on the long-term and see the benefit of working with community groups.
What about budget requests? In Argentina, in the context of the Covid-19 crisis, the group framed their requests for the municipality to reallocate existing budgets; for example for existing council staff to be redeployed to delivering food and increasing the production of local food. They also looked at non-money resources that the council could provide.
Brazilian participants noted that even when working together, the municipal budget rarely includes the cost of their personal work as the community partner. In Portugal a tipping point moment was described where the municipality realised these people are serious and started contributing financially to the partnership.
Lara recommended creating a positive space for the dialogue – in both Brazil and Portugal these included public spaces and community celebrations – invite municipal representatives and discuss the issues at a successful community event. Many participants recommended using or bringing food!
One idea that came out more than once was: engage your municipality by first offering to help (with ideas, volunteers, knowledge, methodologies, time….) and not by going  straight to asking for things.

The word cloud image below shows the parting thoughts from people who took part in this virtual café conversation.