Due to a great number of concerns expressed about the level of human impact upon the planet, an Earth Summit was held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and from it, a blueprint for sustainable development into the 21st Century called Agenda 21 was created. This blueprint centred on 4 issues:
- Social and economic dimensions, e.g. combating poverty, sustainable settlements and sustainable population.
- Conservation and management of resources, e.g. combating deforestation, atmospheric protection, biodiversity, management of biotechnology, and radio active waste.
- Strengthening the role of major groups, e.g. children, women, NGOs etc
- Means of implementation, e.g. education, technology.
A total of 179 Heads of State signed up to Agenda 21, but the blueprint was not just for governments to abide to, it was all encompassing and, it meant responsibility could be passed down to local authorities, NGOs, community organisations and even individuals wanting to make the world a more sustainable place.
In 1993, Gloucestershire County Council called for a Local Agenda 21 (LA21) action plan to be drawn up for the county and the Rendezvous Society (now known as Global Footsteps) was invited to co-ordinate the process.
The Rendezvous Society is a British non-profit organisation that aims to promote care for the environment and the development of inter-cultural ties through linking of schools and communities.
The net result being the formation of Vision 21, which was launched under the auspices of the Rendezvous Society in April 1994 with the goals of creating:
- A vision for what people in Gloucestershire wanted the county to be like
- Forming a grassroots network of community organisations working towards sustainable development in the county
- Help the vision become a reality
Over the next few years a number of specialised topic groups were established and information gathered, the culmination of which was the publication of Gloucestershire – The Biggest Issue, in October 1996, which became a national example of good practice for LA21 publications.
Between 1996-98 the topic working groups continued to be active, but public participation began to diminish as the emphasis shifted from consultation, research and supporting its network of voluntary groups to delivering projects. In all, over 60 projects were involved with Vision 21, ranging from small recycling projects to larger energy conservation initiatives.
However, as the projects/initiatives developed some took on identities of their own and they became more disparate and fragmented. Funding was becoming more of an issue, as grants, particularly those from local authorities were beginning to dry up, even though Local Agenda 21 was still high on the political agenda at that point.
Ultimately, Vision 21 separated from the Rendezvous Society in 1998 with the establishment of an autonomous organisation called Vision 21 Ltd.
As part of its ongoing work, over the next few years, Vision 21 Ltd. continued to deliver LA21 type activities to compliment the UK Government’s “Best Value” performance criterion for every local authority throughout the United Kingdom to produce a LA21 Action Plan by March 31st 2001. Unfortunately, the impetus for local authorities to enact their LA21 action plans dissipated over time as implementation was left as a discretionary duty rather than a mandatory one.
Over the next few years, Vision 21 Ltd. became involved in a range of partnerships and strategies, including: Gloucestershire Strategic Partnership (GSP); Cheltenham Strategic Partnership (CSP); Cheltenham Environment Forum; Cheltenham Climate Change Board; Sustainability Liaison Group; Gloucestershire Environmental Business Forum; Resource Efficiency Clubs; Stroud Night Bus; Gloucestershire Energy Strategy. It also produced the Green Guide to Gloucestershire and it started the Reclaim second hand furniture re-use project in 2004.
Vision 21 (Gloucestershire) was formed in April 2008 from the merger of Vision 21 Ltd and the Cheltenham Centre for Change.
The Cheltenham Centre for Change was established in 1999 and its aim was to promote positive, sustainable change for the benefit of local people and generations to come. In essence, it was another environmental charity with a similar mission to Vision 21 Ltd.
Merging the two charities led to the Former Horse and Groom public house becoming the head office for Vision 21 (Gloucestershire) and to the ultimate restructuring the organisation.