“It’s more than a garden, it’s a place in the neighbourhood where we can stay and have a few words with the neighbours, people you normally pass by.  We are seeing all different people talking to each other, all ages, from children to old people.  It’s a social meeting point.”
Sébastien Mathieu, 1000 Bruxelles en Transition.

Community involvement is absolutely crucial to the success of Transition in your community. It’s great if you can engage them in creative and inspiring ways as this breeds excitement and most importantly is fun. Some of the easiest ways to do this is to put on enjoyable events, run inspiring projects that are easy to get involved and simply, just speaking to people in your community about what Transition.

Involving and engaging your community enables you to:

  • Raise awareness about Transition
  • Help people to understand the issues that Transition addresses
  • Show people how they can make a difference in their community
  • Inspire new people to get involved

Resources

Frequently asked questions about community involvement.

Everyone knows about climate change (or peak oil or other reasons for doing Transition) - what is the purpose of putting on events?

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There are many conflicting versions of what is happening with the climate, energy and other resources, food supplies and so on. Putting on events that provide well researched information can help people get better informed. In many places this has been an important “wake up call” that everything will not continue as it has been. Events also give people a chance to talk about their response to challenging or negative information – including how confusing it can be.

There is also more to Transition than Climate change and Peak oil, in fact most groups don’t even mention these as the reason for doing Transition anymore. The focus of both the Transition movement and the rest of the world has changed, which is a good thing!  Transition has now developed to become ‘a movement of communities coming together to reimagine and rebuild our world,  rooted in caring for ourselves, each other and the living world which shows a different future is possible when we come together’.

So when putting on events, explaining Transition in this way definitely makes it more accessible to wider section of your community. Of course the climate is still changing and there are still many who don’t know know that yet and we still talk about it, but it is not the primary focus of Transition.

For more information on planning and putting on events read our guide to planning and putting on events.

How can we put on events that are appealing and relevant to our community?

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Some people will be interested in broad global issues like climate change or energy supplies. Many more are interested in local issues – health and well being, feeling connected in their neighbourhood, house prices, or unemployment. Making Transition issues relevant to local concerns is a real skill. How can you celebrate local history through stories from older people? Or create local food celebrations, healthy outdoor activities, projects which connect neighbours?

You need to know your community, and what interests and what might motivate people in your community to come to an event. Also think about how you can connect the global to the local. For instance; Is food a big issue? Put on a food event. Invite local farmers, show how they could become more of a force in making more local, affordable food available. Make it real and relevant

Make it easy to be involved. Most people will come to ‘hands on’ events rather than films or talks.  

Check out the events and fun things to do infosheet for some inspiration..

People come to events but they don’t get involved- what can we do?

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It is useful to have clear pathways for people to get involved. Most importantly always take emails or contact details at events and ask if people are willing to help out. It is great to have someone whose role it is to talk to people who might be interested in getting more involved, a “welcome” person or “volunteer coordinator”. Also look out for people who might be a little shy or under-confident and ask them to help with specific tasks or events. Think about ways that people can contribute their time without coming to all the meetings, you can create a list of people willing to help with events or projects. Having an online list of tasks you want help with on your website and in your bulletins or newsletters is a good way to let people know you need help.

People might not be getting or staying involved because of the way you are operating as a group. Ask people who have come to events if you have a contact for them why they haven’t got involved. Ask for their help and encourage them to be completely honest. Maybe they weren’t asked for their help so they assumed you had it all ‘under control’? Ask them to do something. Check yourselves- are you using lots of exclusive jargon and ways of communicating that others who don’t identify themselves as belonging to that group might find off putting? Are you honestly wanting others in your groups, especially others who might challenge your comfort zone? Do your groups function well? Do you pay attention to relationships? Express gratitude and appreciation to each other? Are you effective, do you get things done; more than just a ‘talking shop’ or even worse a moaning shop? Take a good look at yourselves in the mirror and be prepared to be honest with yourself first and also with others in your groups.

For further ideas and advice, read our how to get and keep people involved in transition guide.

How can we get our events promoted in local media?

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Creating good relationships with local media is a great way of promoting Transition. Make it easy for them to publish your story by learning how to write good press releases, sending them write ups after events – including photos.

It’s good to have someone in your group who is good at working with the media and knows:

  • How to write a good press release
  • How to engage with local media – understanding their needs
  • How to create ‘media friendly’ events.
  • How to speak on radio or TV
  • How to tell the Transition story

Also invite local newspapers, radio stations, and TV to big events, especially if they have good photo opportunities! Inviting the mayor, or other local celebrities can make people more likely to come and cover the story. For more information on planning and putting on events read our guide to planning and putting on events.

How can we ensure people leave our events feeling positive and connected?

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It can be good to consider what is the story you are presenting at the event. Is it positive? Does it focus on what people or we in our community can do rather than can’t do?  If you find yourself ‘going to the dark side’ too much check with yourselves if you are burning out, and do something about your personal resilience.

Are you aware of the many many positive and empowering stories coming out of the Transition movement (hint- read the 21 stories of Transition.)? Can you have someone telling their personal story of a project they did or some challenge they faced  and how they overcame that challenge? Personal stories are very empowering.

We also suggest that you start and finish an event with opportunities for people to talk to each other, express their appreciation, and network and just plain chat. This can be everything from a good old cuppa tea to doing a paired ‘active listening’ exercise, depending on your audience.  

For example, you could start every event by inviting people to turn to their neighbour and say their name, where they’ve come from and why they’re here. Listen to the energy in the room buzz!! If you’re showing a film or giving a talk give people a chance to talk in a small group – 3 or 4 maximum – afterwards, maybe before you invite questions.

For more information on running events read our guide to planning and putting on events.

How can we create events that will generate meaningful conversations leading to actions and projects that we don't have to do ourselves?

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The key to doing this is to host conversations that matter to people, which can then lead to projects forming as people with enthusiasm and similar ideas meet each other. Running an open space session is brilliant for this.

You can also invite creative conversations after an event by setting out tables arranged by themes or project ideas. Spaces for conversations is a vital element in Transition – invite the unknown and the unexpected! Are you also good at capturing ideas, actions, and making them available and following up on them after an event as these can help provide the momentum for further action.

For more information on planning and putting on events read our guide to planning and putting on events.

What is 'Open Space', how do you do it, and when is it useful?

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Open Space is a technology for inviting many people to have creative conversations which can lead to groups forming or action taken. Use it when you want to create more involvement, when you want others to generate ideas, when you want to make the most of energy and enthusiasm that’s happening. Many groups have hosted a talk on a theme such as local food, or energy scarcity, followed by an Open Space event a few days later inviting people to come up with creative solutions (How can our community feed itself after the age of cheap oil?)

Read our guide to running open space events for more detailed information on how to put on an open space session. .

For more information on planning and putting on events read our guide to planning and putting on events.

How do we reach beyond the usual people who would be interested?

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It’s usually easiest to put on events for people that are “like us”. To reach more people you could:

Think of a group you’d like to reach that you aren’t well connected to. How would Transition be of benefit to them? Can you think of someone who could make a link to this group? How could you start to build a connection? What activities would work for them? Think of what kind of activity, what time, what place, what language would make it appealing, is it affordable, who should be speaking, how their culture, worldview and experience can be honoured and included???

There are many barriers to inclusion – some we are aware of but there are many which are hard to spot. A helpful attitude is that we need humility, curiosity and respect to bridge differences in background, income, gender, and so on. Transition Network developed a toolkit for working with diverse groups focusing on bridging income, faith and ethnic groups.

We have produced an extensive guide on how to embed diversity in Transition here, which is well worth reading.

How do we stay in touch with people in our community?

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You need to find out where people in your community congregate, both physically and virtually. If you want to stay in touch with younger people you will probably need to use some form of social media; Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

Most Transition groups collect people’s email addresses, and with their permission, send out a newsletter every month containing reports of things that have gone on that month, and advertising upcoming events and projects. Most Transition groups also have a web site which can be regularly updated containing ways to contact you, forums for discussion of local issues, and a calendar of events.  There are many easy to use web site hosting formats like wordpress which make creating and maintaining a web site easy. But you still need someone to do the updating and uploading. Nothing is more off putting than an out of date website that clearly no one is interested in.