Charter Cafés: meet ups for check ups on the Commons Charter

Keeping the spirit of community alive across the Great Lakes has its challenges. But it's always rejuvenating to talk with Charter Supporters on why they are a commoner.

On July 16th, August 20th and again on September 17th, folks from several shores met through on-line video and talked about how the Great Lakes Commons Charter is alive in their lives, projects, and passions.

While we post both a map of our Charter Supporters and some of their statements on how they choose to be a commoner (small sample below), nothing replaces group gatherings like the two we've had so far (watch the August 20th and September 17th video recordings). 

In July...

we showcased a few examples of how others had taken the Charter out into the world (such as Ben Weaver's bike tour around Lake Superior) and then talked about how each of us interpreted the Charter's importance. Some use the commons to talk about transboundary water governance, while others stress the values of gratitude and collective care. We agreed there's a need to reflect on how we talk about water and how we frame the issues to be both more creative, curious, and invitational.

We wanted to hear how the Charter could spawn more stream restoration, create new roles of governments, and defend the legal and moral right to clean water.  GLC wants to hear from all Charter supporters on how we can bring this new agreement into our relationships with water and each other. We recently made a pocket-sized version of the Charter that you can download and fold into a booklet. Great for give-aways and shared readings by your home waters.

In August...

we did a shared reading of the Charter and reflected on how this simple practice transformed the text into a deeper relationship. Participants agreed that this collective reading was more empowering as we spoke with a more unified voice and we shifted from a cognitive engagement to an emotional one -- coming from the heart.

Our conversation also blended the diversity of ways we each think about the Charter and take action. One member was active cleaning up the waterfront, while others had reading resources to offer. Another member had crowdfunded almost $6,000 for her video project on loving Lake Ontario back to health. 

The intent of the conversation was to open an exchange. GLC wants to hear how to better support GL commoners, while inviting all members of our Charter community to support one another in more ways. Many educational and event links were offered as well as a flurry of positive feedback and new contacts minutes after we said goodbye.

One participant (Richard Childs) put it this way:

"This morning I was a concerned individual, this afternoon I joined a community."

In September...

we learned about the Blue Communities campaign in Thunder Bay and how 'civic pride' was effectively used to pursued local politicians to protect water as a public service and limit commodified water (bottled water). We discussed water's special ability to connect us to our home and each other and how a 'water commons' values decisions that look deeper than utilitarian data about impacts, volumes, and prices. 

We learned about local inspiration to protect Mimico Creek (on Toronto's west side) and the various partners it takes to counter lucrative condo development and the cumulative impacts of intense urbanization. The group naturally started to offer ideas and connections to support the Mimico effort -- signalling the kind of cooperation that's often undervalued in water protection. 

We learned about how large 'townhall' style gatherings regularly don't use the latent capacity of the participants. While hearing from experts about the problems is necessary for informed decision-making, more time and focus needs to be given to helping people help each other to get things done. How many times have you been to an energizing meeting, but then left ill-equipped to advance the cause in meaningful ways? 

We celebrated this spirt of cooperation and how much we all had something to offer each other. It feels good to help others and this helps us feel more alive. A great place to be as a Charter Supporter. 

More on this feeling of belonging in related blog post and we are excited to announce 3 more Charter conversations -- a series called: Charter Campfires. Join us on the third Thursday of the month at three-o'clock (eastern time - 2pm central time). 

RSVP to be sent the connect information.

October 15, November 19th, and December 17th.