Post 2016 Event Wrap Up

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Conversations for Change 2016

On 2nd and 3rd April, St Anton am Arlberg hosted the Conversations for Change 2016 conference. 60 participants from Austria, UK, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Canada joined the successful event with the ambitious aim of making a difference and changing the world for the better.

Conference organiser, Dr Heidi Kharbhih, comments, “If we do not challenge the current paradigm we will continue to destroy our planet and those less fortunate will continue to suffer. We must each look at ourselves and change our everyday behaviours to become responsible for the global change that is necessary. Bringing like minded people together, who can collaborate to make a difference and change the world is critical, which is what we aim to achieve through Conversations for Change. The 2016 Conversations for Change conference in St Anton am Arlberg has been a huge success with commitment from participants and organisers to move projects forward that really will make a difference.”

Attendees from previous Conversations for Change conferences had high expectations for this conference, and it still managed to exceed their expectations: there was so much substance to the material covered, offering fascinating perspectives on new ideas, new perspectives on old ideas, and introducing people already dealing with, managing or looking for solutions to real problems.

Inspiring change leaders spoke about sustainability, new environmental perspectives, social politics, health and an alternative economic model with afternoon breakout sessions to solve real world problems of today. Participants worked together to find solutions to the problems set by the breakout leaders and have agreed to take forward the tangible steps they have proposed to make a difference, such as personal development, political lobbying and setting up strategic groups on sustainability.

Participants particularly enjoyed hearing about the refugee crisis from Ahmet Demir, spokesman for the Green Party in Tirol, both in his talk and in the breakout group they attended.  Hearing that 50% of the refugees entering Europe are children, some of them unaccompanied, is a figure that stood out, and should help humanise the “migrants” in public opinion.  Ahmet argued for a simplified asylum system, as the current system is not only complicated but also compounds many of the problems experienced by and with refugees.  The breakout group discussed how one of the aspects of negative opinion is driven by people already experiencing problems with welfare – and they questioned why there is any distinction – every human being has the right to have their basic needs taken care of, so why cannot all failings of this nature be addressed with any solutions put forward, thus eradicating any sense of “them” and “us”.

Christian Felber’s talk on the Economy for the Common Good was an eye-opening introduction to a more ethical way to do business – presented in a very practical way, and enabling us to envisage how easily it’s principles could be implemented if the will is there.  A great conversation starter – on reducing the inequality gap what should the higher salaries be capped at?  Hearing from Oliver of the positive energy company highlighted some real challenges faced by companies seeking to utilise renewable sources of energy, and the imbalance of power – including, unbelievably, the way positive energy companies have to literally give their work away once it is complete.

The group heard a touching story from a young girl faced with serious health issues related to her diet, and the way, through her blog, she is positively helping others navigate their way through interesting and delicious foods that are safe for them to eat – gluten free, dairy free and so on.  And a lovely guided meditation from a psychotherapist, helping us look inward, and touch on the more spiritual aspects of the desire for a positive change in this world.

Sarah Jupp Santos: commented, “This is the third conference I have intended, and I continue to feel motivated and sustained by the content and the conversations that are stimulated.  I particularly enjoyed the substance of the talks and workshops of this one – hearing from people already with years of experience behind them working in areas for positive change.  And again for me, the point driven home that the real meat of these conferences is the opportunities to have great conversations – to listen to others and be changed by what you hear, and to explain your views to others and in so doing, finding out what you really think, often surprising yourself along the way.

Sabine Kertess has been particularly invaluable in drumming up local support for the event, which has been second to none with Peter Mall offering the excellent Vallugasaal conference facilities, Helmut Mall and the local council providing sponsorship for the future projects and Pepis Ski hotel and Lux Alpinae sponsoring the event.

On Saturday evening, Hotel Schwarzer Adler hosted an organic, vegan conference dinner with an entertaining acrobatic fire show by Gundega (Voodoo Flame) Liepina and Jonas Ericsson. On Sunday the conference participants spent the day connecting with the environment, including enjoying many of the local outdoor activities such as: alpine skiing; e-biking in Verwall with Shane Pearce; contemporary dance workshop with Christian Felber; snow shoe walking with Annalisa Falch; green smoothie workshop with Imke Pearce and an alpine herb trail with Marlies Ehart.

Given the positive feedback during and after the event, Conversations for Change have agreed to make this a regular event and have committed to hosting another conference in St Anton am Arlberg next year. If you would like to find out more about Conversations for Change and future conferences, check out their website www.conversationsforchange.info and follow them on Twitter @Conv4Chng

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