Co-operatives UK have just announced some really useful-looking funding to enable mentoring and peer-to-peer support for community energy initiatives. It can be used either by Transition groups seeking mentoring support for their emergent community energy companies, or for…See More
This month we can read about our new three year strategy and the possibility of creating a UK hub; the website theme on the relationship between politics and Transition is explored; REconomy has some inspiring reports and our Social Reporters explore the…See More
Nafeez Ahmed: Natural and social scientists develop new model of how 'perfect storm' of crises could unravel global system
A handbook "THE ENTERPRISING ECOVILLAGER. ACHIEVING COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT THROUGH INNOVATIVE GREEN ENTREPRENEURSHIP" focus on green business and entrepreneurship, offering a practical guide on how ecovillages can create business opportunities that adhere to the principles of truly green thinking. It gives an overview of the different aspects that should be considered by the aspiring ecovillage entrepreneur, and presents examples of successful business stories from various ecovillages around Europe. The book also strives to remedy the reluctance that many ecovillagers feel toward business. Furthermore, it demonstrates the ways in which ecovillages are ideally suited to run businesses that are compatible with the well-being of both people and planet, the businesses of the future.
Kalu Yala, a sustainable settlement for innovators, may be the alternative real estate model the world needs.
Last year when I visited the US, Peter Lipman (Chair of Transition Network) and myself had supper with representatives from 3 large philanthropic organisations there. At one point, Peter asked “so do you invest in coal?” There was some discomfort around the table, and the reply was “no, coal is a terrible investment!” – the clear implication being that if it had been a good investment the answer would have been a different one.
It was, for me, a low point in an immersion into how some parts of the world of philanthropy work. A massive endowment is invested in such a way as to generate the maximum returns. Fund managers are told to invest so as to get at least a 10% return a year. A 10% return is very difficult to do ethically. So money is invested in all sorts of things, including fossil fuels, housing developments etc etc, whatever generates the best return, so that the interest raised can then be invested into projects that try to clear up some of the mess that the endowment may well have played a part in creating. So, put crudely and at it’s worst, for the damage generated by every £1 million invested, £10,000 is put up to try and clean up that mess. What a conflicted model, but one that, to a degree, makes possible the work we do here at Transition Network.
Yet within the funding community, the conversation is starting to change. Philanthropist Peter Buffet (right) wrote in an article last year called The Charitable Industrial Complex about meetings with heads of state, corporate leaders and investment managers. He wrote “all are searching for answers with their right hand to problems that others in the room have created with their left”. He referred to philanthropy as increasingly becoming “conscience laundering” and suggested that given the scale and severity of the climate crisis, foundations need to practice what they preach more, arguing “foundation dollars should be the best ‘risk capital’ out there”. He also added “money should be spent trying out concepts that shatter current structures and systems that have turned much of the world into one vast market”.
Divestment is one of the great campaigns of our times. Last week saw the announcement that The World Council of Churches will be pulling its investments out of fossil fuels, joining a rapidly growing list of organisations in what Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls an “anti-apartheid style boycott of the fossil fuel industry”. Even President Obama alluded to his support for the concept, recently stating “you need to invest in what helps, and divest from what harms”. But the question then arises, “then what?” If the World Council of Churches, a university, or a pension company decide it’s time to divest from fossil fuels, then what might they do next?
The first thing is to recognise that the severity of the climate crisis is such that an endowment will be of little use in 30-40 years. This, here, now, is the time when the window of opportunity exists to avoid the more catastrophic lines (usually in red) on the climate models. I’m not suggesting that now is the time to blow the lot, but some fresh thinking is called for. That thinking is starting to emerge. Confluence Philanthropy is one organisation focused on “guiding foundations towards mission-related investing”. Another, which makes an explicit link between divestment and taking a new approach is DivestInvest, who I only came across while researching this piece. Here’s how they offer to help foundations rethink what they do:
But what do they propose foundations invest in instead? This is from their FAQs:
“Investment means allocating endowment assets to sustainable, fossil-free investments in climate solutions and the new energy economy. Fossil-free investment opportunities exist across all sectors of the economy and across all asset classes of a diversified investment portfolio, from conventional asset classes such as cash, fixed-income, and public equities (stocks) to alternative asset classes such as hedge funds, private equity, real estate, farmland and timberland, and other commodities and real assets. Investors can invest in clean technology and renewable energy sources such as wind and solar and incorporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into fossil-free investments in other industries, and move their money to more resilient community investing institutions. All portfolios can be readily structured around themes of climate-related strategic asset allocation, carbon risk mitigation, sustainability solutions, and positive environmental impact”.
What else could foundations do? The first point is they will most likely need to lower their expectations in terms of returns. Some more enlightened foundations have already lowered their expected return to closer to 5%, which enables them to invest far more ethically and in a way consistent with their values.
Secondly, get behind the quiet revolution unfolding around the world, through Transition and many other bottom-up community-led processes. There is a new economy out there, being created through community farms, community energy companies, new food business models, new models for care for the elderly. All founded on principles of being rooted in local communities, being low carbon, operating with a wider social purpose, building community resilience. Some of them are captured in last year’s REconomy/Transition Network report The New Economy in 20 Enterprises.
They are doing amazing work mobilising people, innovating and creating new opportunities. But they need support, and as Peter Buffett put it, “foundation dollars should be the best ‘risk capital’ out there”. I’m part of a project in my town called Atmos Totnes, which will be a community-led development, a model of Transition in action. It is just weeks away from signing a historic agreement with the site’s owners. But to get to that stage we had some grants to cover the initial work, without which we wouldn’t have got this far. And it’s a project that over time will need ‘patient capital’ which will be able to unlock the community developing an asset that can then be a real driver for an ambitious relocalisation programme.
Bath & West Community Energy were able to use £1 million invested in them at an early stage to create a share option that then raised £750,000 from local people and inspired further investment from other local organisations. They are now working to support neighbouring communities to do the same thing (see right). Enlightened support can unlock much more, including investment opportunities for foundations’ endowments. But foundations need to take some of the risk to bring those things into being.
If other institutions, such as universities, decide to divest, then it can be a great opportunity for fresh thinking. Why not take those funds and invest them instead in reimagining how your organisation operates? The Oberlin Project is a great example of what it might look like if a university divested and put the money instead into a crash course of renewable energy, community engagement, new business opportunities and much more, a kind of town-wide Transition. If a hospital trust decides to divest, that could be the incentive for bold thinking in terms of how a hospital that models what a low carbon hospital could look, something we explored here recently.
Divestment is something that we shouldn't only be pressuring large institutions to do. Many of us also have pensions and investments, and we need to be more mindful about choosing investments that are true to our own values and sense of urgency around the climate issue. Where community share/investment opportunities arise, get behind them and support them. Also, as individuals, of course, we choose to invest or to divest every day when we go shopping. Which economy is it that we want to create where we live? Do we support local independent businesses or supermarkets? Do we reuse and repair or buy new? We have a lot more power than we might think. Divestment is not just an issue for large organisations.
While the campaign for divestment rightly gains pace, we need, alongside it, a bringing together of foundations, larger institutions and Transition/New Economy organisations, to design models whereby divestment is just the first step. Models which rather than just focusing on renewable energy, seek also to accelerate the new food systems, local economic models, new models for housing and development, new social enterprises, the multi-layered tapestry of new, diverse, resilient economy.
It's the first step to an urgently-needed model wherein foundations work alongside the communities working at the local scale to build the resilient local economies and infrastructures so essential to a low carbon world. Divestment needs to be the catalyst for the conversations that could lead to so much more.
One of the things I love most about working for the Transition Network is the cheerful disclaimer…
“Just in case you were under the impression that Transition is a process defined by people who have all the answers, you need to be aware of a key fact. We truly don't know if this will work. Transition is a social experiment on a massive scale…”
There have already been some posts from Transition groups about when an experiment fails, like this great article by Charlotte du Cann. Within the Transition Network organisation, the board and staff team are incredibly supportive of this experimental attitude within our own organisation. If things don’t work out as expected despite our best attempts, there is a collective shrug, a gathering of learning and openness to a new direction instead.
Sometimes we just don’t know why something doesn’t work, and we put it down to ‘it just wasn’t meant to be’. This is not to say we use this as an excuse for half-assed attempts or covering up our own deficiencies, these are also inspected as part of the process.
In our work, we’re very good at focusing on positive outcomes. So given this month’s theme is celebration, and to show you how deeply we have taken this permission to experiment to our heart, I’d like to celebrate my biggest ABLO with you. What’s an ABLO? It’s “another bloody learning opportunity”. Here’s how I spent £10,000 of the Transition Network’s hard won money trying to start a consulting practice that went nowhere.
I come from a consulting background so I’m used to working with businesses in this capacity, and it seemed to me that Transition had much to offer these kinds of companies - and it would help create an income stream to reduce our reliance on funding. Based on my business plan, the board agreed that this would be a useful area to explore and in 2009 funded some of my time to develop the ideas further.
In a nutshell, this consulting practice would help organisations of all shapes and sizes to understand their risks in relation to peak oil (i.e. rising energy prices) and climate change, and see the flaws in their operating models so they could take appropriate action. Partly informed by some work I had done with Simon Snowden of the University of Liverpool, I developed a process which could be used to estimate the risk exposure of manufacturing and distributing a company’s key products or services.
This would, for example, pinpoint the cost of oil-based materials like plastics used in the supply chain, and allow modelling of what would happen to the costs – and end pricing to the customer – if the oil price doubled, tripled etc. The company could then take action to reduce its exposure through substitute materials, closer suppliers, reduced reliance on export markets and so on.
I piloted this Energy Resilience Assessment (ERA) service with 2 organisations with good results and feedback (see the case studies here). So I then developed a practitioner training course and recruited 2 groups of Transition business practitioners who were trained, and then unleashed to sell the service to their local public and private organisations. We were well organised and ready for the rush of work. And then… nothing!
Despite the best attempts of a small number of the practitioners in particular, no one managed to sell a single service. While we all believed this was a useful service, clearly the market did not agree. We did a review as a group, and concluded there were likely 2 main issues – that the market just wasn’t ready for this service and at that time, and possibly still today, they are still just getting to the basics of energy efficiency and some ‘greening’ actions. We were probably positioning something a step too far from where they were at - a classic lack of understanding of our customers?
We also didn’t have any sort of marketing budget or profile and were relying on our personal contacts which greatly limited our reach. A number of practitioners put in a lot of unpaid time, and also paid to do the ERA course. While we made clear there were no guarantees of income, I wish it could have been otherwise. While we generated a little bit of revenue, by mid-2010 I had spent about £10,000 of the TN’s precious funding and failed to deliver the business plan.
Interestingly, there was a similar lack of interest in a course for local authorities that had been developed by Transition Training. They did 3 pilots and had good feedback, but it never took off after that. Naresh Giangrande who led the work says “partly I think this was due to the coalition coming to power at that time, and local government budgets were being cut to pieces, but also we never got hold of what the training was supposed to do. ‘What could local authorities do about Transition?’ was the question we could never really answer. We created some interesting exercises which we have 'composted' and used for other trainings. But as with all 'good' ideas, I think timing plays a part and also how the landscape is shifting must be considered. But also it lacked the spark that set it alight and made sense of things”.
What have I learned from this? I know that I have a strong attachment to ‘being a success’ (and that some part of me is very clear on what this should look like), and that failure for me is a place I really don’t like to go - I can be very hard on myself. But I’m understanding more that words like success and failure are just judgements, and actually what matters are my good intentions and doing my best, and I’m not in control of the outcome anyway. A Rumi quote sums this up nicely for me… “You know how it is – sometimes we plan a trip to one place, but something takes us to another”.
The place that this ABLO took me was the REconomy Project. It was becoming clear to me that working with existing businesses was a limiting approach, and I have never been convinced that the majority will be willing or able to make the fundamental shifts that are required for Transition – though I hope to be proved wrong.
And so, the ideas for the REconomy Project began to emerge, with an understanding that growing a new kind of economic system needs to include the creation of new types of enterprises, projects that put infrastructure in place to support a local economy, and a leadership approach that works with local councils and other key partners – as well as helping existing business to transform, if they so desire.
It became clear that our role is to help build the capacity of Transition groups to bring about their own economic transformation. You can read more about the REconomy Project on our website. In 2011 we found a few funders who were very interested in these ideas, and the project is still going from strength to strength.
The learning from the consulting practice that never was, was one of being willing to stop heading in a direction that required too much efforting to make it work (and was perhaps too entrenched in traditional thinking), and to admit it wasn’t working. Then lift up my head, take time to reflect and then tap into a direction that felt/feels much more effortless, where energy and results naturally seem to flow. It’s a learning I’m taking into many other areas of my life.
When I was about 12 a friend of my sister came on holiday with my family. We were quite a typical family of three irritable siblings – when someone started singing or playing an instrument another child was guaranteed to tell them to “Shut up, that sounds horrible”. We were continually fighting over whatever shifting thing was deemed to be the desirable whatever – sitting in the middle, sitting by the window, going first, going last. My sister’s friend who joined us was an only child and I was stunned to find that she only ever said nice things – to everyone.
When one of us started singing she’d say “hey that’s nice”, pick up a guitar and play along. Anything creative, funny, she’d be interested in and complementary about. Somehow in just a week we all got a taste for how peaceful and lovely it was when someone was nice to you, and the habit stuck. We all turned into nice teenagers, who had our fights, but generally were kind and supportive to each other.
I’ve been fascinated by group cultures – from time spent in women’s groups and football teams to psychotherapy groups and workplaces. Most recently within Transition Network, we’ve been paying attention to our culture of celebration and appreciation, and experimenting with ways of warming up our meetings.
My favourite statistic at the moment is that healthy, happy, resilient workplaces, teams, friendships and relationships have a ratio of at least 3:1 positive to negative statements. For every criticism, put-down, negative remark, there are at least 3 positive complements, appreciations, supportive statements. Five to one is a better ratio. Happy couples in normal conversations have a ratio around 20:1 – the conversation is a steady stream of interest, positive response, support and appreciation. Having more positives means not only more happiness generally, but also that when negatives come along people can hear and respond to them more, because they’re not defending against what feels like a bombardment of complaint.
Why do we need such a high ratio? Brain scientists have found that our brains are wired to be like Velcro to criticism – it goes in really quickly, and sticks – but like Teflon to praise – it slips past and is slow to go in.
If you imagine that belonging to your social group was the absolute determinant of survival for early humans, over millennia of evolution, responding and learning quickly in order to avoid negative or shaming social signals was absolutely vital. It makes me imagine that we also evolved to give each other a lot of positive reinforcement – so receiving affirmation for what we’re doing feels like a normal state to be in.
I personally believe that when we don’t have this ongoing positive feedback we feel a sense of lack – and if we’re really short of affirmation it can create the kind of inner emptiness that our consumer society just loves us to feel so we will attempt to fill up that craving with food or shopping or some other marketable product or experience.
So creating a culture of appreciation is a radical, political and profound choice. Seeing and appreciating what each member of a team is contributing is like a kind of sweet honey that people will keep coming back for. If you have meetings which are all about actions, doing, agenda, what we could improve, and have a low positive statement ration people are likely to leave feeling unconnected and exhausted. Meetings with lots of shared appreciation, as well as celebrating what has been achieved together, usually mean people leave feeling more energised than when they started.
How to create a culture of appreciation and celebration?
If you think this is something that would be good for your group you could put it down as an agenda item and have a group discussion. See if your group will agree to try out some of the ideas below – or come up with your own suggestions for how to keep up the ratio of celebrations and appreciations.
Know that shifting the group culture is likely to feel uncomfortable. Some people may really find this difficult – often those who have a strong inner critic and are used to a constant stream of inner criticism (and sometimes outer as well). This kind of criticism may be masking fear or a need to stay in control. Some may feel that it’s “unprofessional” to be something other than critical – I believe especially here in the UKbeing critical can gain you a lot of status. Know that the research shows it’s destructive and unhealthy – of all kinds of relationships – in the long term.
Some things we’ve done within Transition Network meetings:
Like many Transition groups we have spawned different subgroups at different times to meet particular interests and concerns. The Energy group has been going for quite a while and what picked it up was putting in a bid for government Local Energy Assessment Funding. This brought out some new talented people, who have run businesses and charities, a Nobel prize winner on climate change, Cheshire Groundwork as fund holders, and got us a successful bid. In turn that brought in staff time to get out publicity, recruit a lot of new volunteers to use thermal cameras, and advise householders.
We discovered that neighbours are far more approachable as they trust us. The sorts of faulty insulation, dodgy double glazing and poor advice we saw showed why salespeople don’t have a good reputation. It was really frustrating when people had turned down free cavity wall insulation too though, and exciting when we came across a 1900 house with really effective cavity wall insulation (there are a few around Wilmslow with this).
Once that job was over we have done stalls in the local market, promoting our top tips for energy saving – and now we have teamed up with the local area partnership to form a separate LAP energy group to try and help the council also deliver effective energy reduction. It has brought in a major local social housing provider, local town and parish councils, and the fire brigade too. This has got us funding for electricity monitors to be borrowed in the local libraries – though I wish we’d done more talking to others who have done this to get a better package for people to use… And a bid for Awards for All to try and bring in more people to survey houses and get another thermal camera. What next on this front will depend on funding and time.
And whilst a few of us have done a lot of the direct stuff to deliver improvements, we have had some fun being creative too. Our next fun initiative is to have a pot luck low carbon supper – with people bringing in an item of food with a card to show how it was made to keep energy use low, whether raw food, thermal cooker, hay box, microwave, or something else clever. Any excuse for a party!
Saturday 12th July saw the first pilot Transition Roadshow take place, the Transition Northwest Conference. And if the four subsequent Roadshows are to prove anywhere near as good, then it represents a great new evolution in how to celebrate and support Transition at the local level. The conference was held at the University of Cumbria in Lancaster, hosted by the Institute for Leadership and Sustainability. Transition City Lancaster had done wonders in pulling together the event, and their care and attention to detail was clear throughout.
While in the main the 120 or so participants came from Lancaster or from Transition initiatives local to the area, there were people there from as far afield as the US and Edinburgh. The day started with Samagita welcoming everyone and outlining the day to come.
Sarah McAdam from Transition Network then introduced the day in the context of the other forthcoming Roadshows and recognised the amount of work that Transition City Lancaster had put in to making it happen. We then did some mapping, getting people up and moving, looking at questions such as:
Then after a short coffee break, we broke up for the first session of workshops. People could choose between:
I went to the one on community energy, facilitated by Kevin Frea, which was an excellent exploration of the issues around community energy schemes, the support available for them, and at which a North West Community Energy Network was formed (these Transition folks don’t hang around).
Then after lunch there was a second session of workshops. The choices were:
I went to the workshop on cohousing entitled Tearing Down the Fences - Retroftting Any Street to Co-Housing. What Would it Take?, led by Cliodhna Mulhern of the Lancaster Co-housing project. They recently built an amazing co-housing project, containing 41 units, to Passivhaus standard. Here is a short film about it:
The workshop then focused on what it might take for any street to reinvent itself using elements of the cohousing model. A very interesting discussion followed, starting with ideas like lowering fences and moving on to more ambitious ideas: buying clubs, car clubs and so on.
I only made these two workshops, but if you have a look at the conference's own self-generated blog you will find some reports on other workshops too. For example, there are write-ups on the Local Urban Agriculture workshop, the Transition approaches to Death and Dying workshop and the Sustainable Communities Act.
The last session, after a coffee break began with a talk I gave called Transition as a many splendored thing (see right), which gave an overview of what is happening in Transition and why what we are all collectively creating is so important.
After some discussion and questions, we had a closing session, facilitated by Sarah McAdam, reflecting on how the day was for everyone, before the day was then brought to a close by Kathy from TCL.
But that wasn't the end! That evening, in the View Bar at the University was food, followed by music and dancing from Howard Haigh and the Men of the Hour, getting everyone up and moving around, powered by a pedal-powered generator. A great end to a fantastic day. Here's a couple of bits of feedback from the conference blog:
The next day there was the opportunity for people to immerse themselves more in some of the interesting stuff happening in Lancaster. The day began with a Universe Walk led by Samagita, and then included a cycling trip to visit Lancaster Co-housing and the community hydro scheme, and also the Claver Hill no-dig community food growing project, or a walk to the Fairfield Flora and Fauna project.
The great thing about this Roadshow approach is that it is infused with the experience and enthusiasm of the host initiative. While on reflection there are some learnings for the subsequent Roadshows, especially in relation to the running order and content of the day, it felt me like there is something very dynamic about this way of doing things. It was certainly an event that left me renergised in the way that only spending a day with other active Transitioners can. Our deepest thanks to the folks at TCL for all their hard work in pulling it together, and to IFLS and the University of Cumbria for hosting us.
Co-operatives UK have just announced some really useful-looking funding to enable mentoring and peer-to-peer support for community energy initiatives. It can be used either by Transition groups seeking mentoring support for their emergent community energy companies, or for established initiatives who would like to be able to offer that support. We heard recently the impact such an approach is already having in Sussex. You can read more about it, and how to apply, here. It's a fast turnaround, the deadline for first round applications is August 8th. See Frequently Asked Questions here.
Below is a taster, its guidance for community groups seeking support:
What types of groups will be eligible for support?
You will be one of a growing number of community energy groups and enterprises across the UK working to generate energy and to reduce demand through energy efficient products sharing all or most of the following characteristics:
You should be at a stage early enough in your journey and just setting up where you will benefit most from mentoring support. The only criteria is that you are not a well-established group already delivering a range of renewable energy projects.
Why Get Involved?
We can help you to develop and deliver projects in your community through a programme of mentoring support.
This month we can read about our new three year strategy and the possibility of creating a UK hub; the website theme on the relationship between politics and Transition is explored; REconomy has some inspiring reports and our Social Reporters explore the stories we tell ourselves. Plus the monthly world roundup, a new book a video and more to designed to inspire.
NEWS OF THE NETWORK
Transition Network Strategy
We’re delighted to be able to publish the final version of Transition Network’s new three year strategy. It’s been a fascinating process working together as a team, TN staff and trustees, to develop this document in consultation with people in the wider Transition movement. We are now making it publicly available so everyone can see what we plan to focus on over the next three years and why. We’ll be reviewing how we’ve done and whether everything is still relevant each year and, as always, your feedback and ideas will be very welcome.
TN’s role as UK National Hub
What we heard: A number of people questioned whether the Transition Network (TN) is playing this role effectively and, indeed, whether it is an appropriate role for TN to undertake. Some people expressed a desire for a stand-alone UK Hub, designed by and accountable to UK Transition Initiatives. A couple of people also talked about the more direct, practical support that a UK National Hub might be able to offer to UK Transition initiatives.
What we will do: We would very much like to explore this idea further with UK Transitioners. We certainly want to share and seek feedback on TN’s plans for UK-focused work and we are keen to support UK Transition Initiatives (TI) to develop stronger connections between each other and with TN. We’re also making an effort to be more explicit about which aspects of TN’s work and resources are internationally-focused and which are UK-specific. We’re not sure at this stage whether there’s a need for the UK National Hub to be a completely separate organisation from TN - there would be advantages and disadvantages to this - but we would love to see much clearer representation from the UK within the National Hubs Group network. We’re also very conscious that Transition Scotland and Transition Ireland already exist and there are strong networks developing in Wales. So we’re not assuming that a UK-wide structure is the right one to go for.
The UK roadshow events that we are planning for the autumn of 2014 and the spring of 2015 will give us an opportunity to take this conversation forward with Transitioners generally, but it would be great to hear before then from any individuals in the UK who are willing and able to put time into discussing the issue (we’ve already had a couple of volunteers). If a small group of people come forward, TN would be delighted to support them to meet and start to develop their own vision of what a National Hub might look like and what it might do. If you’re interested or would like to hear more about this proposal, please contact email@example.com
Announcing the 4 Transition Roadshow hosts!
We are delighted to announce the four initiatives selected to host our four 2014-15 Transition Roadshows. We had 9 applications from Transition initiatives across the UK, and after much deliberation can reveal that the hosts chosen are Transition University St. Andrews, in Fife, Scotland, Transition Penwith in Cornwall, Transition Bristol in Somerset and Transition Town Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire. The exact dates and details have yet to be arranged but will be announced shortly. They offer a great opportunity to try a different approach to our usual annual conference (which looks set to be back for 2015).
Last chance to book for the Transition Northwest Conference!
12-13 July Lancaster
Our first Roadshow is booking up fast- there are no lunches, or b&b’s places left, but entry is still available at time of writing.
Powys Networking Day
Powys in Transition has gained funding to setup a regional network of local organisations involved in Transition or Low Carbon Communities. Mike Thomas went along to the launch event.
The Transitioners' Digest (June): "Is Transition political?"
This month our theme has been Transition and Politics. Our editorial concluded that the answer is yes. Deeply. But it isn't explicitly so. It comes in under the radar, and that really matters.
We have interviews from the Mayor of Frome, former MP Alan Simpson, Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, Greg Barker MP, Minister of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, and Caroline Flint MP, Labour's Shadow Energy Minister. Plus Sophy Banks thoughts on what politics might look like were it "to orient to what truly makes us happy as humans".
The June 2014 Round-up of What’s Happening out in the World of Transition
Another bumper edition, busting at the seams with news of how Transition is manifesting itself around the world in a dazzling diversity of ways. Stories around the UK from Belper, Cambridge, Chepstow, Chesterfield, Crystal Palace, Reading, St Albans, and Totnes. News from other countries Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Spain, South Africa, and USA.
REconomy goes global!
Five national hubs have been exploring how they might support REconomy-type activity in each country - let’s begin with hearing about Croatia’s groundbreaking event in Zagreb:
Economic enablers, REconomy style
Transition groups are doing a range of projects that support new and existing local businesses, including creation of infrastructure - here’s some inpsiring examples:
Our Mainstream Stories
Jay Tompt calls on us to re-appropriate the word 'mainstream'.
The Ukraine, Sharks and Compost Loos
Chris Bird asks about the dominant stories we come up against when we try to bring about change, in particular what we should do with our shit!
Everything We Dream of Makes the Impossible Possible
Steph Bradley travels across Wales hearing and sharing tales of community and healing.
Educating for Hope in Troubled Times
A new book has just been published which is a great handbook for school teachers and educators in Transition. Called “Educating for Hope in Troubled Times: Climate change and the transition to a post-carbon future”, it explores the three issues of climate change, peak oil and the limits to growth that teachers and learners need to know about and be more prepared for. There is a tendency in schools to avoid ‘big’ issues and this book helps teachers to identify positive ways of engaging with them, sharing success stories (including a number from Transition groups) and sources of inspiration and hope. There are many suggestions for classrooms activities plus up to date information and case studies. The author Dave Hicks (formerly Professor in the School of Education, Bath Spa University) says “In fast changing times yesterday is no longer an accurate guide to tomorrow, so how we help young people think about their future is of major importance.This book is about developing new ways of being and seeing and the exploration of new horizons.”
£26.99 ~ Available from Institute of Education Press at:
The next Launch onLine begins October 8th. Transition Launch trainings in London UK, Poppau Germany, and Charlottestown, Canada. Thrive- Hallaberg Sweden, and Train the Trainers Alingsas Sweden. Details: http://www.transitionnetwork.org/events/network-training
One Day in Transition
Young Transitioners creating their own jobs.
12 July Bristol
An event for young adults looking for ways to create Transition livelihoods. It is a workshop in its own right that also introduces One Year in Transition. Past and present students from One Year in Transition are the hosts. They will also be talking about their own community-based projects, the experience of doing the One Year in Transition course, and offering mini brainstorms on the project ideas that participants would like to discuss with them.
Real World Economics
19-20 July Dartington
Kick starting the new economy on your doorstep.
Wellbeing and the New Economy
9 August Rotterdam
Create a vision for a New Economy centred on shared values and ecological renewal.
VIDEO: What is Transition?
We asked members of Transition Town Lewes how they would describe what Transition is. The event going on in the background is their 'Seven Year Itch' event, celebrating all the great things they have achieved during that time.
July's theme on the website is 'Transition and Celebration'
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
"We cannot paper over the cracks anymore; we must delve deeply into the very fabric of all it means to be human and begin decision making from the heart."
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This newsletter is published on the first Friday of each month.
Next newsletter 8 August 2014
We're delighted to be able to publish the final version of Transition Network's new three year strategy. It's been a fascinating process working together as a team, TN staff and trustees, to develop this document in consultation with people in the wider Transition movement.
We are now making it publicly available so everyone can see what we plan to focus on over the next three years and why. We'll be reviewing how we've done and whether everything is still relevant each year and, as always, your feedback and ideas will be very welcome.
Thank you to every one of the 736 people in 48 countries who viewed this document in draft and especially to the 71 people who provided comments in writing. We asked a headline question about your satisfaction with the draft survey and got this response...
|Overall, I think the draft strategy...|
|Set's a clear, useful direction for Transition Network||61%|
|Is broadly helpful, but needs some further work||34%|
|Needs to be changed completely||5%|
It was great to receive written comments on the draft strategy from the National Hubs in Belgium, Brazil, France, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Romania and Spain. They responded very positively to the document - mostly they endorsed the planned outputs and activities and started to discuss how we all might take this work forward together. There were also a few useful comments about aspects of the document which came over as UK-centric.
This strategy is fantastic, very inspiring for our hub, great job!! I often wanted to write "this part is very important too"...
We very much appreciate this document. In our national feedback round, the response was that this work is very inspiring as an example for our national organisation. It gives us motivation to work on a concrete proposal for the formalisation of our national hub.
I would like to express our satisfaction about the quality of the document and thank you all for the job you are doing.
It makes a lot of sense, and is built as a macro scale of a TI (with National Hubs and projects as working groups).
Some people found the document too corporate, others said it contained transition jargon and needed to be shorter and sharper. However, many more people responded positively than were critical, saying they found the document clear and helpful.
We're going to accept that we'll never please everyone and are not going to amend the style of the document at this stage or play around too much with the format or length. We're going to take what we've learned from this process, including all your comments, into the work TN is now doing to review how we tell the Transition story.
People liked the focus on streamlining, clarifying and improving the support TN offers and on nurturing peer-to-peer support (whether between individuals, Initiatives or National Hubs). Some of the National Hubs reminded us that there is very little support or information offered in languages other than English and that the National Hubs themselves don't currently have the capacity or resources to translate much Transition-related material.
It's great (and a little bit overwhelming) to hear about the appetite for improved support and resources. We've just consulted on the next stage in the development of the TN support framework and people seem pleased that we're heading in the right direction. Our aim is to make it much easier to identify which are the key pieces of information that would benefit from being translated into other languages, but we're conscious that this is much better done by people who understand the particular context in which Transition is operating within their country. We have secured some funding to help develop the capacity of National Hubs and, if they see it as a priority, to enable them to pay for translation. We're also seeing National Hubs starting to group around some of the main global languages and co-operating to produce materials that can be used in more than one country - we'll be alert to anything TN can do to support this very positive development.
There was strong support for the references to social justice throughout the document (although a couple of people felt this was taking us into difficult territory politically). A number of people commented that the Transition movement is still relatively narrow in its appeal and suggested TN should be doing more to ensure that the ideas and benefits of Transition reach all sections of society.
We're currently seeking funding to enable us to identify and share the best UK examples of TIs and other similar groups working inclusively and/or addressing social inequality. We think there is a lot of learning to be exchanged across the National Hubs network on this, since the focus of Transition activity varies considerably around the world. And an important objective behind the work we're doing to update the Transition story is to make sure TN speaks consistently and powerfully about the importance of social justice, transmitting messages that reach and make sense to as wide a range of people as possible.
A number of people questioned whether TN is playing this role effectively and, indeed, whether it is an appropriate role for TN to undertake. Some people expressed a desire for a stand-alone UK Hub, designed by and accountable to UK Transition Initiatives. A couple of people also talked about the more direct, practical support that a UK National Hub might be able to offer to UK Transition initiatives.
We would very much like to explore this idea further with UK Transitioners. We certainly want to share and seek feedback on TN's plans for UK-focused work and we are keen to support UK Transition Initiatives to develop stronger connections between each other and with TN. We're also making an effort to be more explicit about which aspects of TN's work and resources are internationally-focused and which are UK-specific. We're not sure at this stage whether there's a need for the UK National Hub to be a completely separate organisation from TN - there would be advantages and disadvantages to this - but we would love to see much clearer representation from the UK within the National Hubs Group network. We're also very conscious that Transition Scotland and Transition Ireland already exist and there are strong networks developing in Wales. So we're certainly not assuming that a UK-wide structure is the right one to go for.
The UK roadshow events that we are planning for the autumn of 2014 and the spring of 2015 will give us an opportunity to take this conversation forward with Transitioners generally, but it would be great to hear before then from any individuals in the UK who are willing and able to put time into exploring the issue (we've already had a couple of volunteers). If a small group of people come forward, TN would be delighted to support them to meet and start to develop their own vision of what a National Hub might look like and what it might do. If you're interested and/or would like to talk more about this proposal, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
A number of people commented on the need and potential for TN to work more closely with organisations and networks with similar aims and values - to avoid duplication and together achieve a greater impact. The examples given were many and various, drawn from across the environmental and social justice movements and beyond.
Developing effective partnerships is a priority for TN over the next three years. We know we have a better chance of delivering each of our desired strategic outcomes if we work with other organisations and networks so, rather than constantly repeating our intention to build partnerships, we stated it as a general intention in the section labelled How we will work (see paragraph F headed Collaborating and looking for synergies). The challenge - and we know it's the same for National Hubs and Transition Initiatives - is to work out which potential partnerships to prioritise from amongst all the great organisations and networks that are out there and to find ways to collaborate which are light-touch, don't require us to set up cumbersome structures and which support rather than burden people in the wider Transition movement. We're experimenting with a couple of interesting alliances at the moment - all at a very early stage, but we will share what we learn from these experiments and you should see evidence of us being increasingly connected to others who are working to support change.
A number of people asked whether there was more TN could do to influence politicians and argue for policy changes that would make it easier for Transition to have an impact at a local level.
We're not sure! We are still a very small organisation compared to the many bodies that are set up to lobby policy-makers and we think it's important that our primary focus is on inspiring, encouraging, connecting, supporting and training people to take action locally. We are also trying to work internationally wherever possible, so it wouldn't be possible or appropriate for us to devote lots of time and resources to influencing a single national Government. But we know that relatively minor changes in policy can sometimes open up new possibilities for many individual Transition initiatives and we want to respond positively to the increasing interest we're finding in community level action at both an international and a national level. So we're going to explore this further, in discussion with National Hubs Group and have mentioned this in the strategy.
Don't get set in your ways and ideas, stay open and flexible with the em-phasis on experimentation and responding to feedback, keep your strategy, and indeed the very existence of TN in its current form, under review.
This feels very important to us. As we get slightly bigger as an organisation and as the Transition movement grows in scale and impact, we're trying to find ways to be more structured about what we're doing without losing our nimbleness and creativity. We've designed this strategy to cover a three year period - anything longer feels much too difficult to predict - and we've committed to reviewing how we're delivering against it every year. Feedback from the wider Transition movement will help keep us on our toes. We know we won't be able to do everything you'd like us to do and we'll certainly make mistakes, but please keep letting us know what's working well and what you'd like us to change.
We are delighted to announce the four initiatives selected to host our four 2014-15 Transition Roadshows. We had 9 applications from Transition initiatives across the UK, and after much deliberation can reveal that the hosts chosen are Transition University St. Andrews, in Fife, Scotland, Transition Penwith in Cornwall, Transition Bristol in Somerset and Transition Town Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire. The exact dates and details have yet to be arranged but will be announced shortly. Our gratitude to everyone who applied, and for the time and creativity poured into all the applications. It was a very tough call.
In the meantime, we’d like to remind you about the first pilot Roadshow, taking place in less than 2 weeks in Lancaster. It’s going to be fantastic, and there are still places. It’s going to feature all sorts of stuff: workshops on personal resilience, local currencies, community energy, retrofitting homes, REconomy, local food, 'sustainable dying', support for Transition and communicating climate change. You'll also be able to find out about all the wonders being created by Transition City Lancaster, hear talks and have an evening of celebration with music by Howard Haigh and The Men of the Hour. You can still book a place, come along!
We are really excited about these Roadshows. They offer a great opportunity to try a different approach to our usual annual conference (which looks set to be back for 2015 by the way), one with the potential to bring a great burst of energy to both an initiative and its surrounding region. We hope to see you at one, or more, of them.
I was really happy to go to the county network for Powys Transition and Low Carbon Communities Network launch event on 29 March and hear about some great projects and meet some keen Transitioners in Powys. Powys in Transition was successful in gaining funding from the National Lottery through the PAVO's Community Voice programme "One Powys Connecting Voices" to setup a regional network of local organisations involved in Transition or Low Carbon Communities within the Powys region. They have employed an administrator to help manage this process, who works one day a week and will be employed for five years.
As well as this the network has funds to offer member groups free places on Transition Training courses, organise annual county gatherings, provide promotional materials, help with resident opinion surveys and provide opportunities for sharing knowledge experience and resources.
I am really interested in Powys, as they are one of the areas of the UK where they are beginning to develop a regional network of groups. This model could be really beneficial to Transition groups as interconnectedness and peer support could enable groups to support each other. At the event you could see people were already chatting to each other and sharing experiences which is crucial to building strong networks.
The day itself was fascinating. I got to hear about many great projects. Renew Wales director Rob Procter told us about how they had got over 200 local community projects to begin to think about climate change and act to address it. They have done this through over 50 Peer Mentors and networks of like-minded groups and organisations. The project is based on bottom up action.
What I found really inspiring was the range of groups they had worked with, such as tenants groups, rugby clubs, faith groups and community councils amongst others. Through working with these groups they had setup Hydro power, community energy projects, community building improvements, food projects and much more.
We heard about a car share project in Llanidloes which was doing very well and helping lots of people to get around as well as reducing car use in general. Then we heard about community based renewable energy form Jeremy Thorp of Sharenergy. Finally before lunch we heard about the some great Permaculture work that Steve Jones had been doing in Wales and Liverpool that has engaged disadvantaged communities in food growing and much more.
Just before lunch there was a Powys Network AGM and election of officers and it was great to see people coming forward to sit on the Management Committee, this means that the network will have ownership and accountability to its members.
After a great lunch we had a World Cafe where people came up with their own topics and had meetings on them. I was there to host a space on how Transition Network could help a regional network and Transition Initiatives. During this session I heard about some great projects happening in Powys.
I also heard about the challenges that groups were facing such as energy poverty as lots of people not being able to afford energy now and the floods that have been occurring; concerns about the organisation of regional networks in terms of how a regional network register on the TN website; what type of constitution should a regional or county network have and the unique support needs that a regional network has compared to Transition Initiatives.
There were also questions about how can Transition groups monitor and evaluate their work so they know whether they are making a difference, how can groups keep up their momentum and issues of funding and developing shared visions.
Other workshops looked at different questions, such as how to communicate the latest facts on climate change to people in their communities; how food systems can be developed; how can volunteers be supported and how can community owned wind power and electric bikes be promoted. Out of these workshops came loads of great ideas on how to move things forward. This was a great example of the power of coming together to look at issues together, using a collective intelligence to discuss solutions.
At the end of the event was a Question Time style panel activity where all the speakers from the morning where quizzed on a variety of topics, before everyone headed off back to their hometowns having made some new connections, a greater understanding of the Powys Network and what it can do and hearing about some great projects.