Transition Movement moves on a step: becoming a global family

Lyon venueI’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.

good discussionTo 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.

eating lunchMost 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.

serving lunchAs 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.

park where we picnicedThe 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.)

meeting French transitionersAnother 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.

Sun morning workshopThe 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.

Saturday night partyThe 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.

meeting French transitionersOne 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.”

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3 Responses to Transition Movement moves on a step: becoming a global family

  1. Thanks Gary, for this detailed and hopeful report. More! The details and pics are very useful. I was amazed again to read yet another high-level meeting on designing the look and feel of going forward making no explicit mention of needs for personal-spiritual growth.

    I’m aware of “inner transition” and enjoy following that topic. I’m starting to think perhaps more than a simple oversight is in play. I’m worrying again lessons learned by my generation in the 1970s-1980s, attempting to implement Transition along virtually identical lines are forgotten.

    Here in the U.S. we have clearly defined green-eco-transition tribes; and, clearly defined personal-spiritual growth tribes. They do NOT overlap much at all here in the U.S.

    This is where we are stuck in the U.S., in my opinion. In the 1970s-1980s we learned–repeatedly–what are now called Transition topics alone, are insufficiently deep philosophically, to bring people together long term, for the arduous and wonderful work of building replacement culture.

    Compassionate Communication (NVC) skills are clearly the bridge to enable these tribes to hear each other and join forces. So far NVC skills are being conveyed to leaders only very slowly. So this is where the U.S. Transition is stuck, as I see it.

    The more articles like yours I read, the more I begin to think that UK-Europe may ONLY have sturdy Transition tribes and sturdy personal-spiritual growth tribes are absent, even with Findhorn relatively conspicuous and involved in the global ecovillages websites and activity.
    Maybe someone can set me right on this. Does a conceptual hole exist here in the whole-systems thinking of Transition in UK-Europe?

    In case I’ve raised a useful question, some solution-oriented comments.
    Values are what bring people together. Transition topics devolve from healthy, truly human values.

    Community builders in the 1970s-1980s got some practice and experience in; but for the most part, had little success with composing sturdy, sustainable packages of truly human values converging people strongly enuf to keep folks together, on the land, long enuf to build enuf culture, to get enuf needs met, to keep them on the land and raise their kids there.

    A shining exception to this sorry picture was Findhorn.

    What did Findhorn do that virtually all failed communities did not?

    Could we say Findhorn had explicitly spiritual values as part of its foundation?
    Could we say the leaders of Findhorn shared an ecumenical spirituality compatible with Transition topics?
    Could we say Findhorn offered–but did not require–community activities explicitly devoted to the personal-spiritual-growth needs of individuals?

    I’m starting to wonder if Findhorn is more revered here in the U.S. (for example Perelandra) than in Transition UK-Europe? Or is Findhorn simply taken for granted and considered impossible to replicate?

    Convergence between eco and church tribes = Green Spirituality?

    If you get push-back on anything and everything to do with the individual connecting with their own Divinity; believe me, we get that in the U.S. as well. Existing progressive spiritual groups remain very Balkanized since 1979 and ongoing.

    I call what’s needed: bridging sustainability into spirituality; and, bridging spirituality into sustainability.

    Converging outer “climate change” concerns with the hero’s journey towards inner sunshine would seem to be an expanded, juicy audience for Transition to go after.

    Any movement this direction is likely to result in a new brand: Green Spirituality. Feel free to adopt and use this phrase and these ideas. The book Green Spirituality by Chris Philpott is primarily a backwards looking history, so not of much use for looking forwards. A new book needs writing.

    Let me know if more material on this is of interest to you.

    • garyalex says:

      Hi Bruce,
      I have a lot of sympathy for your comments. I think that you are right about the two tribes, but as I see it there is a certain amount of overlap. I have both sympathy and disagreement with both. I think that Inner Transition, for example, is part of the overlap, and is a key part of the transition movement.

      You might like to have a look at my book, eGaia, Growing a peaceful, sustainable Earth through communication, available on this website. There is a draft of the second edition.
      Yours, Gary

  2. Pingback: Building a Global Family that looks after people and the Earth | Earth Connected

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