Inner Change: Towards a more inclusive Transition
By Catrina Pickering 9th June 2010
Inclusion in Transition: Why does it matter?
Over the next few weeks, we at the Transition Network are going to be reflecting on what Transition as a whole could do to be more inclusive. The idea is to mull over the kinds of inner change that we might need to engender in order to become a more inclusive movement.
Your thoughts on this – from the mundane to the sublime to the completely off the wall – are very welcome. First off though, why is inclusion important anyway? For me, there are two main reasons:
Resilience: If we are serious about creating a truly resilient movement, we need to include the voices, experiences and strengths of everyone in our communities. For example, how can we produce an Energy Descent Action Plan that is fit for purpose if it doesn’t include and place the voices and concerns of the most vulnerable in our communities at its heart? Diverse peoples, by virtue of being different, bring a vast array of skills and experiences with them. Unless the movement can genuinely unleash these, it won’t be able to tap into the huge potential present in communities across the UK.
Where are we now?
What can we do? Putting inclusion at our core
Suggested Principles/ Intentions
Becoming practitioners of dialogue: Time and again, people who do diversity work will tell you “it’s about starting where people are at, finding the common ground, two-way processes, active listening, building trust”. These are skills that can all be broadly encompassed under the banner of “dialogue”. To become good at dialogue takes work, it doesn’t happen overnight. Committing to learning about and becoming good practitioners of dialogue, would be a good start.
Recognise that it’s not easy: Because we live in an unequal society, it seems fair to say that inclusion doesn’t come naturally to us. When we reflect on ourselves as individuals, how many of us can truly say that we hold a representative sample of the UK population among those who are dear to us? With that in mind, we should recognise that developing an inclusive movement isn’t necessarily going to be easy, it’s going to take a lot of persistent self-reflection and tenacity in taking the route that won’t always be the easiest or quickest.
Welcoming new visions: According to John Bird, Founder of the Big Issue, “to me, it’s not just about what makes a good life, but about the barriers that stand in the way of people getting there. The biggest of these is lack of hope. Social exclusion is one way of describing it.”
And yet, possibly the most unique, powerful element of Transition is that it’s founded on hope. Unlike many social change movements, Transition doesn’t work against something, it works for something – this is what fuels its life-bed of positivity. It envisions a better life.
That said, currently most of our visioning has been carried out by one sector of the population. If we’re going to profoundly bring people on board therefore and empower them to establish their own hope for a better future, we need to essentially start that process again.
Seek, and integrate feedback: In a nutshell this is about actively seeking, taking seriously and then integrating feedback from diverse groups into what we do.
Transition Handbook and other publications: Revisit and update with eye to diversity both in terms of using language that is inclusive to all groups and in terms of directly and consistently addressing the need for inclusion.
12 steps: Look at whether or not we need to modify the 12 steps. For example, could the “honour the elders” be changed to honouring experience and difference that would then take in the experiences of other cultures as well as those of our own before our time? Could we also make diversity a keener goal in steps 1-4 as if we really got everyone in the community involved in steps 1-4, genuine inclusion should be more of a given from there on in.
Diversity mission statement and policy: Alternatively/ in addition to the 12 steps, could we ask all Transition Initiatives to develop their own diversity mission statement and give guidelines on the sorts of aspects that might be included in this?
Training: Include a section on diversity as part of the two day Transition training or better still, make diversity training available to anyone and everyone involved in Transition.
Alternative mass communications: Transition is a thinking movement. Much of this thinking and inspiration is recorded on the web and in the handbook and in general relies on the written word. It seems fair to say that it would be difficult to become active in your local Transition Initiative without reasonable literacy skills. However, the Daily Telegraph has indicated that as many as one in six British adults lack the literacy skills of an 11-year-old. Of course the web is important and publications such as the handbook have proved invaluable but how can we find other ways to communicate to people who for example have not read a book in years? This likely needs to be done on a local level through peer-to-peer sharing and informal networking.
Trustees: Look to recruit representatives of diverse groups to sit on TN board and adopt a diversity statement as part of the Trustee Terms of Reference (eg, proportional representation of low-income, faith, Black Minority Ethnic groups).