“When we get together, it’s like everyone is feeding everyone else. There’s this atmosphere of ‘I tell you … you tell me’. Everyone listens, then someone comes up with another idea. It’s like collective excitement, collective inspiration, collective knowledge, coming together for the profit of the group. You can feel the thrill.”
To deliver Transition effectively you need to have a well functioning group. If you set up good clear group structures in the beginning then your group is much more likely to be effective and sustainable. This is not the end though, as your group develops you also need to tend to its needs to keep it healthy and productive, particularly when new people get involved and you develop new projects and work.
At a minimum, it is great to:
- Have an understanding of how groups develop
- Decided how to make decisions
- Know how to run successful meetings
- Record action points and carry out tasks
- Encourage people to stay in your group
- Understand how to deal with conflict
Frequently asked questions about healthy groups
Read our how to start Transition guide for all you need to know about setting up a group.
Yes, once the Initiating group has set up and established Transition in your community it is wise to replace it with a core group whose focus is to project manage Transition over a long period of time. The reason for this is because starting a project requires a very different set of skills compared to the long term management of a project. People involved in setting up projects can be very good at setting up projects, but not suited to maintaining projects over a long period of time so this is an opportunity to reflect on this and determine who is best suited to what roles. It can be that those good at starting projects take on developing practical projects and theme groups while others take on the role of sustaining the core group.
See our moving to core group guide for more information on this.
Include activities which help people to get to know each other – warm up games, go-rounds where each person has a few minutes to say something about their background, interests, reasons for wanting to do Transition and so on. Also arranging meetings with social time, perhaps sharing food, can help.
There is no right model for leadership within Transition – different groups choose to work in ways that suit their own members. It’s usually helpful to discuss in the group how responsibility is delegated, and then how people are accountable to the group for what they’ve taken on. In most groups leadership will evolve over time, and it’s worth taking time to update your shared understandings about how leadership, power and responsibility are working.
People might not be getting or staying involved because of the way you are operating as a group. Ask people who have come to meetings 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 meetings 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.
One of the main causes of conflict in groups is lack of clarity. Check you’ve worked through all the processes in the healthy groups essential ingredient. This includes having clear structures and roles, as well as agreeing a code of conduct and process for decision making.
Some disagreement in a group is a healthy sign – that there is enough safety to go beyond being polite and is common part of group development. There will always be differences, and an effective group will be able to hear different points of view without getting stuck in anger or arguments.
If the disagreements are starting to interfere with the group purpose take time to sort out what’s happening. If you don’t have someone with skills in conflict see if you can bring in an outside facilitator to deal with this
There are three qualities which can help us to build solid bridges between people with very different backgrounds, worldviews, or ways of speaking or behaving:
- Respect – I value your way as well as mine.
- Curiosity – I want to know more about your way
- Humility – my way isn’t necessarily better than yours
Check out the comprehensive diversity toolkit for transition for lots of ideas and activities for achieving this.
Many Transition groups have used a public “Launch” or Great Unleashing as a way to:
- Tell their community about what they’ve done, and their plans – and invite more people to join
- Get publicity, invite the mayor, strengthen relationships with other organisations in their place
- Host an open space session to form working groups or projects.
- Start or complete the process of handing over from the Initiating Group to an ongoing structure that takes the Transition group into the next phase.
Many groups have not run these events – in places where things are quieter or the process of Transition moving to the next phase happens smoothly.
The following are some of the top tips for preventing conflict:
- Have clear agreements and structures for how your group will meet, make and follow up on decisions. Get clear about roles.
- Balance time spent on task (what you do) and process (how you work together) – 25% on process is a good proportion for effective working.
- Seek and welcome people with skills in personal and group dynamics as a valuable part of the group. Learn communication and conflict management skills together
- When you’re ready for it, create group agreements about how you will handle conflict.
The healthy groups essential ingredient has a range of resources to help you with this.