A small group of residents in my home village are talking about forming a group and working towards a more clean energy future for our community. Everyone is excited about the possibilities, but it’s occurred to me that we may be suffering a collective bout of solutionitis.

Much of our talk is around building something shiny like a ‘community battery’; a visible, tangible solution to our collective climate change anxieties. It’s an exciting thing to imagine and the enthusiasm is growing.

But having done some more research and talked to like-minded groups from other communities, it seems that we may have fallen into the collaborators trap of leaping to a solution before understanding what the problem is. A classic case of solutionitis! While a big battery is a nice idea it may not be the ‘solution’ for what is a complex set of interrelated technical and behavioural dilemmas. Single answers rarely are.

It seems much more likely that the journey to a renewable community is less certain, comprising multiple ideas and actions. Walking this journey together is going to require a whole lot of collaboration through complexity. This means:

  1. Co-defining our clean energy dilemma together – what’s the problem we are trying to solve here?
  2. Co-defining our collective light on the hill – what does success look like for this set of dilemmas?
  3. Co-designing our processes – who are we as a group, what’s our governance, how do we do our work together and where do we get started?
  4. Co-creating potential ideas, projects, things to try.
  5. Testing the way forward, trying things, taking small steps together as we build clarity and confidence and find ways to move towards our light on the hill.
  6. Iterate, learn, fail, learn some more and do it all again.

Creating a more sustainable village is a complex problem and there is no single solution. Instead we are going to need to do the difficult work of working together over a period of years. We are going to need our collaborative mindsets and our commitment to working together. Do this and we can declare our current bout of solutionitis cured.

Wish us luck!

(The photo is a shot of our garden on a clear autumn morning this year)