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Fresh thinking and insight at the Spark Forum


Paul Kelson, Water Efficiency Manager at Bristol Water, wants to make the act of wasting water akin to not recycling. He is building local partnerships as part of Bristol Water’s Resource West initiative and  he is also part of an academic research project focused on the Food-Energy-Water nexus. In his blog post below, he gives an overview of the Spark Forum, which took place on 26th September at Triodos.

I like breakfasts events, not least ones with tomato and mushroom baps available, but mostly because it’s a new day and my mind has yet to be cluttered by the needs and challenges of daily activities, and so find myself particularly receptive to fresh thinking and novel ideas. Unquestionably, the Spark Forum delivers this.

I knew the format outline but as this was a first time for me, I was not really sure where to set my expectations. Seven speakers describing their projects, five done as pitches, was certainly a lot of content.

First up, Ben Moss gave an inspiring speech about The Bristol Wood Recycling Project. Today a highly successful and hugely beneficial social enterprise, he spoke of his journey that started with a grand vision and mission to help the planet. He also recognised that at a fundamental level, his journey started with a simple willingness to get involved. This, as he found, gives access to networks and through these interactions opportunities can arise. Through a combination of hard work, help and commitment from many and some more bits of luck, the enterprise distilled into today’s marvellously inspiring service. I had not expected to be roused so early in the day but his thoughtful, compelling and light-hearted words did that. If I had to reflect a one-line summary it would be: Don’t wait in the wings for the perfect opportunity to present itself before doing something you think is meaningful, just get involved and start the journey.

This was followed by an update on progress from The Children’s Scrapstore following its pitch six months previously. Again more valuable insights were relayed, in particular that steady growth is preferable to a runway success and that the need to be flexible is key. I found this report on what happened since a Spark pitch really interesting. Having then seen five new pitches, I similarly will be interested to hear back from them in six months.

The five pitches themselves were as diverse as they were idealistically compatible. Each had 3 minutes. This seems like a miniscule timeframe, but if used skilfully is more than enough, with the added benefit you are unlikely to lose audience attention in only 180 seconds!  And none did. All pitchers delivered theirs with invigorating panache as I reflected on just how much I had taken in in such a short space of time.

Planet parties from Sustainabubbles – I love this idea, why not have fun in the process of reducing pollution; empowering young people to be the growers and innovators of the future through grOWN IT particularly struck a chord with me;  expanding the concept of City to Sea’s refill campaign to a broader reach including coffee cups, lunch containers etc; Going for Gold, a bid to transform the food system in Bristol and become a Gold Sustainable Food City and GreenPad Enterprises; software innovation that helps to reduce energy wastage to improve energy efficiency in buildings.

Through each pitch we gleaned the conceptual ideas with some requests for help and support to make the projects a success. Pitches complete, the speakers distributed to their tables where they were immediately surrounded by inquisitive attendees, now armed with questions and, no doubt offers of help. I too immediately sallied forth to wait my turn to chat.

There was also time for attendees to meet each other, so that we could all go away with new connections. Overall it was a hugely enjoyable and inspiring morning. To paraphrase Ben once more: get involved, speak to people and see where it takes you…quite a long way today I’d say!

  • Learn more about The Spark Forum;
  • If your organisation is not yet a Partnership member and would like to get involved, join us to ensure that you hear news and updates, including about the Spark Forum. If your organisation is already a member, you can register as a member contact here to hear from us directly.
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