“Dear Transition Agony Aunt. My Transition group has been going for several years. We’ve done some awareness raising but never managed to get to form theme groups. We get people signing up for our email newsletter and people are happy to show up for events – but they don’t get more involved than that. Is there something we’re doing wrong? It seems it was easy in Totnes and other places?” M.H.
In many places there is a first phase of Transition where the Initiating group (you might call it something different) comes together, puts on events, connects with other organisations locally, maybe runs some Reskilling workshops, and does some practical projects. Lots of people want to join in and it’s possible to seed groups looking at different themes – food, energy, inner Transition, education and so on.
In other places this is much harder, and in many places it doesn’t happen at all, so the central group carries on running the whole project. It sounds like your group is more in the second category – so here are some suggestions for getting working groups started. If you’ve already tried them, you’re with many other groups in figuring out how to do Transition with one group, and there are ideas about how to be effective with this structure.
Inspiring people with ideas and then providing conversation spaces seems to be really key to getting theme groups to form – people need somewhere to find others with similar interests or ideas, and in many places these spaces just don’t exist. So it might be an event about local food or renewable energy or even the launch of your Transition project – but make sure part of the event invites everyone who comes to have conversations with each other and sign up to be contacted because they’re interested in getting more involved. In many places this has happened when Transitioners run Open Space events – a day or half day where the people who turn up create the conversations that will happen, and people go to whichever conversation they are interested or excited by. In Totnes this seeded three of the working groups (food, energy and housing) and many of the practical activities that ran for the first few years.
Another way to start a theme group is to put on an event specifically around that theme, include some discussion time, take names of people who are interested, and announce a preset first meeting date – so people can come to one meeting and see what happens from there.
In many places there just isn’t the interest in Transition – perhaps because so many other things are happening, or because there aren’t many people who want to be involved. In these places the group often goes through a process of consolidation, perhaps forming a legal structure, and then continues with the elements of Transition. Instead of having groups that are doing all the different activities, the central group might have a season of community engagement events – film showings, talks, discussions – followed by some Reskilling workshops, and then focus on practical projects such as a community solar panel bulk purchase, or getting funding for a community garden.
It feels important to say that Transition doesn’t have to be big to be effective – if you are having fun, doing interesting things and engaging people in your positive vision of the future you are already having an important impact, and opening a new possibility and choice beyond the myth of endless economic growth.
Our Agony Aunt for this post was Sophy Banks. If you’d like the Transition Agony Aunt to answer an issue you have come across in your Transition work, email firstname.lastname@example.org.