At the end of April, myself and Britt were in Germany for the InTransit conference.
Located in Erfurt, a town a train’s ride away from Berlin, the conference was set up for local initiatives like ourselves to come and meet together with similar projects and share our knowledge and experience.
There were organisations from all across Europe attending, and it was a real privilege to be part of the event.
Getting there was a bit of a challenge, albeit a fun one. After touching down in Berlin, there was a two-hour train ride to Erfurt, then a tram ride from there to our scheduled starting place – the Frau Korte building. This is a renovated meeting space right near the train station. Here, we met with all the other organisations for the first time and got to know each other a little bit, before everyone reviewed the previous InTransit conferences (which took place in various parts of Europe).
Though I was not at any of the previous events, it was an insight to hear about them, and to see firsthand how, it doesn’t matter where you’re from or what exactly your organisation does, social enterprises and co-operatives generally share the same mindsets, have similar ideas and outcomes in mind and go through the same hurdles while trying to get started on various projects. It was wonderful to be in the company of so many like-minded people.
The next day, we collected at the Stadtgarten for the first of our Open Space sessions.
This was something very new to me, but basically, open space is a unique way of hosting conversations and talking about projects in a way that is interesting, and not typical of your usual conference.
Instead of one person standing talking, then stopping for questions, we were encouraged to each go away with our own topics and questions in mind, inviting others to come along and join the dialogue.
I found it much more engaging than the norm, and enjoyed the freedom of being able to dip in and out of different talks.
To set this up, we each stepped up to the microphone in turn, introduced ourselves and our proposed topic, then pinned it up underneath a number on the board. These numbers were different locations in the building where these informal talks would be hosted, so people had the choice to come and go freely to whichever ones interested them.
The idea of open space is that if you are not contributing, or do not feel you are getting anything out of a topic, you are within your right to stand up and move on elsewhere.
I set my own talk up in the dining area – “What is the secret ingredient to getting people involved?”
The method to my madness here being hosting the talk in the dining area, where the buffet, tea and coffee was at easy access, and a bit of a sneaky segue into my discussion, and indeed what we do at Homebaked in general.
I gathered quite a good crowd, and it was both inspiring and a little humbling being able to host such a great conversation about the work I do and enjoy.
We came to the conclusion that, with a project such as Homebaked, getting involved is something that happens quite organically. To quote an old classic film, “if you build it, they will come”. I think this applies, though perhaps not always in a literal sense. I know many people who have stepped into Homebaked out of curiosity or to buy a buy or cup of coffee, and are now following us on social media and our work with the ‘Build Your Own High Street’ project, involved on a voluntary basis, or regular faces during the week for their loaves or lunch.
After the open space sessions, which ran roughly from 9.00 until 17.00 we each got the chance to have a bit of food, entertainment, and visit some of the social projects around Erfurt.
I chose to go to the Klangerust, a non-profit venue which encourages the growth of young performers, artists, bands and so on. A really inspiring place.
They had recently had a retro night on, which inspired me even more, so the place was decked out with old 8-bit characters and Mario memorabilia.
This sort of project always gets me excited – it’s the sort of thing I’d personally love to embark upon with Homebaked somewhere down the line. A writing evening, a swap meet, more markets and events like our upcoming ‘Return of the Thing on The Rec’… so many possibilities!
And at an event like InTransit, those possiblities become even more apparent and doable.
While the event, and my journey in Erfurt, continued, the last day of the open space was another busy one to wrap everything up and to collect our thoughts and research. When I say “collect it”, I really mean it!
The notes, photographs and indeed even illustrations, from the open space day had been meticulously collated in a selection of booklets which we each took home to keep as research and a great reminder of the three days. These booklets are available to look at in the bakery, on our bookshelf. Come along and have a look!