WHAT is community and what makes some communities more resilient than others?
This was the conversation about 70 people had recently when Transition Bellingen hosted its first World Cafe for 2012.
Transition Bellingen began in 2008, making it one of the first towns in Australia to join what has become a global network of communities from Australia to Africa.
Other transition towns in Australia include Armidale and Newcastle.
All are committed to the idea of local communities using their strengths to build their futures in spite of the shocks of climate change, peak oil and the global financial system.
In Bellingen, events like the 'World Cafe' offer opportunities for people to openly exchange ideas without getting bogged down in problem-solving.
Sub-groups that have emerged include a vibrant seed-savers network, a regular free market for the bartering of goods, the Bello Foodbox offering locally grown fresh produce weekly, a sustainable-building forum and workshops for people to re-learn old skills such as preserving local foods.
"The seed of the idea which became last year's highly successful River Festival was planted at a World Cafe more than two years ago," Transition Bellingen hub member Jen St Clair said.
After the event, long-time Coffs Harbour resident Jaben Golledge said he hoped all the local communities in the region could one day offer each other something of real value to exchange and barter.
"I sincerely feel there is a need to spiral out this great energy as much as possible into the whole region and not just Bellingen - I would like to see Coffs Harbour wholeheartedly embrace this movement," Mr Golledge said.
By the end of the evening groups had come up with a host of ideas about how the town might look in 2020 if it had transitioned well.
They included having edible landscapes along many streets, a well-established barter system, a car-free CBD, light rail to Coffs Harbour, people having more time and being happier, a greater respect between the community and its council, no cows in the river, an eco-aged care facility and safe accommodation for all.
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