I’m just back from a wonderful 4 day international meeting of the Transition National Hubs, in and around Lyon, France. There were about 35 of us, a few coming and going over the days, from 17 countries around the world. To sum it all up, there were great discussions (moving the Transition movement forward, in my view) but also silliness, great people, fun social events, lovely food and beautiful venues. I will report mostly on the parts with which I was most involved.
To start with the substance, the ‘national hubs’ are groups of people that support the local transition town groups (‘transition initiatives’) in their countries. Last year in London, as an extension to the Transition conference, there was a two day meeting of the national hubs, but this was the first time they met by themselves. Last year we came up with the metaphor that we are a family, supporting each other and the planet. To be clear, this means that local initiatives would no longer be isolated, simply working on their own projects, but would part of an active network, where they were in regular contact with each other, helping each other in whatever ways were appropriate. This year we did a lot of work on that idea, with lots of plans to make it practical.
Most of us came from Europe, but a few were from farther away. We had people from: Belgium, Brazil(!), Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, Israel, Latvia, Luxembourg, Norway, Philippines(!), Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, and the UK. Some of the hubs were large and well-established, like Sweden which has 172 initiatives and has funding, while others were small and just starting, like Latvia with only 1 initiative.
As we talked about how we could work together, it was clear that there were lots of possibilities. We planned some regional gatherings, like one for the Baltic countries, where the stronger Scandinavian nations could support the newer ones like Latvia. There might be an Eastern European meeting, a German-speaking one (Germany, Austria, and the German part of Switzerland), and possibly others. We talked about a ‘buddy’ system or ‘twinning’ or ‘mentoring’ where two hubs were paired, and would keep in regular contact. (“Have you called your family this month?”) We want to have a few smaller conferences each year, probably regional, and one bigger one for everyone. The hot favourite for 2014 is Copenhagen. And then, we want to have a much larger number of smaller, informal connections, through Skype or similar, or telephone, some on a regular basis and some informally.
The easiest and most obvious ways we can help each other would be organisational support. There are the beginnings of a ‘Transition Initiative Health Check’, that could be developed further, and could identify and help with difficulties. One particular area would be to develop a system of handling the conflicts that so often arise, and sometimes cause initiatives to fail. There could be help with trainings, or with translations of materials, with sharing of materials, and joint funding proposals. (In fact, the funding group set up last year was very successful, with a contribution to the costs of the event. Several of us had our traveling costs paid.)
Another dimension to this, perhaps later, would be practical and economic support. The first example was couch surfing, when people are traveling. In fact, all of us stayed with local couch surfers. We speculated on a future Transition exchange system, where we tried to patronise each others’ ‘Transition businesses’, extending some of the REconomy ideas.
The Transition Network (the Totnes organisation), took this meeting very seriously, sending Pete Lipman (Chair of the Trustees), Sarah McAdam (the new Delivery Director), Ben Brangwyn (International Development), Naresh Giangrande (training and education), Fiona Ward (REconomy) and me (Trustee), all of whom presented their work with a view to engaging the national hubs in the changes of organisation and strategy that have been happening recently. We will try to include a representative of the Hubs on the Board from next year. We speculated on the possibility of setting up a UK hub that is separate from the Transition Network.
There were some exciting discussions with Fiona, which means that at least 3 hubs will be participating in the REconomy project this year, with small funding.
The first two days of the event, Thursday and Friday, were held in Lyon itself, meeting at the ‘Maison Associations’. Wonderful food was provided by people from the Lyon initiative, first for lunch, and then a picnic in a local park, after a long walk.
On Saturday morning we took a coach to Charette, a small country town, where we met on an organic farm that was simultaneously hosting a French regional transition meeting. That meant that we met with and worked with the local French transitioners in a few activities. These were bilingual, with everything translated from French to English or vice-versa. It was all very lively, with a party on Saturday evening with a local folk band and lots of ‘crazy French dancing’. Again, there was great food prepared for us by the locals.
Sunday there were more workshops in the morning. In the afternoon we concentrated of becoming clear about the next steps that would be taken during the coming year.
One of the roles that the Transition Network is becoming clearer about is ‘keeper of the DNA’ of the movement, the core ideas, values, and identity, such as the statement, “Transition Network supports community-led responses to climate change and shrinking supplies of cheap energy, building resilience and happiness.” As the international work is progressing, perhaps that DNA will be extended to include “Transition Network is building a ‘family’ of people around the world that are at the same time separate and autonomous but also are looking after each other and the planet.”