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August 2, 2011 / Alex Robertson

FED – Sustainable ideas shared well!

Well it’s been almost a month since FED – Ideas worth sustaining – and I have been terrible by not posting a blog about it.

The main reason for this is work with a side of a very busy social schedule but either way it’s no excuse!

The who with the what now?

The event for those that do not know is outlined here but was essentially an accessible set of talks by interesting people at the accessible price of free (or £5 donation!) at the Inspace in Edinburgh  – It was designed to be fairly short, engaging and interesting with some legacy and specificity to Scotland.

Organised by Peter Geoghegan and advertised in a very short time we were not sure how many people might actually turn up! however on the day we got 50+ people through the door which was absolutely fantastic.

Hashtagged #Fed11

Peter asked people to join the discussion over twitter if possible – mainly because we had both seen the all too often running commentry on speakers – quotes and subject lines – the really engaging thing about twitter is watching the tweets discussing the content flow!

Two projectors showed the most common keywords and recent tweets.

What was said?

Now I would at this point discuss the speakers however Kirsty Joan has written a fantastic blog about them all. She even drew some fantastic cloud illustrations during the talks which was great.

The talks covered electoral and civil service overhaul, Scotlands Economy and bringing ethical and real life issues into the classroom. The main takaways for me were :

  • Sometimes the civil service are the ones holding back great new ideas
  • Why can we not vote on-line yet (seriously why?)
  • Not just oil – why is Scotland not capitalising on the services to the oil industry
  • Why don’t we teach kids about the NHS in primary school?
  • Elspeth Murray writes awesome poems and can do great accents!
I suppose the highlight for me in some ways was Kevan Shaw who is a lighting designer. He spoke about the issues with “long life bulbs” which are less environmentally friendly than they at first appear, about Greenpeace cover-ups, lighting huge buildings, the myth of the saviour LED, archaic road lighting measures, mad EU round table discussions and of course any clean energy enthusiasts favourite subject – the Negawatt. “the cheapest KW of energy you can find is the one you don’t use”
He was very engaging, speaking about a subject that was probably comparatively new to most of those watching. Kevan and all the other speakers were happy to hang around during the breaks and chat away to whoever happened to be passing which gave FED a great atmosphere of openness and interaction.

Engaging with sustainable ideas

Finally came the chance for people to pitch their own ideas. There were quite a few that were put forward and it was great to see things coming up that would probably be otherwise well away from the spectrum of this sort of meetup.
  • I spouted incoherently about how pension funds could be used to invest in social business in the developing world using the model of Impact Investment and about how in this way anyone who has some savings can be involved in growing the developing world.
  • Someone had an interesting idea about a mass reclamation of fees charged by many letting agencies, “admin fees” as they are called, which are technically illegal.
  • Kirsty spoke about the excellent Global Sustainability Jam – a sort of sustainable themed hack day
  • many many more
A round up by Kate Higgins and Peter opened up even more discussion to the floor. Poems and beers followed with discussions carrying on for about an hour after we should by all rights have been kicked out the venue.
Blind poet and more beer followed for the more hardcore of the Edinburgh based group.


All in all the day went really well, in fact since I have had some really positive feedback – although I certainly think there were certain things we could have done a little better.
  • Robert McAlpine opened and was extremely interesting but also very intense. Perhaps we could have entered with something a little lighter before moving onto the “serious” stuff!
  • No central theme
  • Not advertising it very well or particularly in advance (my fault!)
  • Plenty of other stuff
So what did we get right
  • A selection of speakers and subjects
  • Great atmospheric space
  • Relevance and legacy to Scotland
  • Engaging our audience as clear equals and relevant members
  • Not charging £3800

Get Involved

Peter and myself are keen to keep this alive and kicking with a few events each year. Perhaps with a specific theme for each. To make that dream a reality it would be great if you could all join our facebook group! We need another 11 Likes to reserve our unique facebook URL and would much appreciate it.
We hope to start feeding you delicious content soon – as well as encouraging people to post their very own sustainable ideas right onto the page for appraisal.
So watch THIS SPACE for more information and of course if you want to you’ll follow me on twitter – @AlexDRobertson

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