How do we ensure that our work in Transition meets the needs of the most vulnerable in our local community and builds solidarity with communities overseas? How important is social justice in the Transition movement and what might a strong social justice approach look like?
Transition Stratford upon Avon might have some interesting answers to this. They concluded that they needed to make explicit their commitment to a just and fair Transition and have added an aim in their constitution “to promote sustainability, inclusivity and social justice”.
Since then they have taken the practical steps of formally involving Transition Stratford in the local Fairtrade Town network. They’ve also included support for the locally based international development charity Practical Action in their programme. Practical Action (formerly known as the Intermediate Technology Development Group) focuses on sustainable technology approaches to development. It has a number of projects which are working on adapting to the effects of climate change in Bangladesh, Nepal and the Sudan. To date they’ve held a public meeting with a speaker from Practical Action and arranged a couple of events to promote Practical Action’s work and raise money for it.
As well as building a global awareness, Transition Stratford are also building links with community organisations across the town, such as the Clopton Community Forum, which runs a community hall and projects in one of the more deprived areas of Stratford upon Avon. In spring 2011, at the suggestion of the Forum, they held a seed swap’n’sale. The idea of the swap’n’sale was that gardeners grow seedlings every spring, but often plant more seeds than they need to insure against failures. Often the spare plants then end up on the compost heap. So gardeners were encouraged to bring along their surplus seedlings to swap for plants from others or to sell if preferred.
On the day, around 50 people turned up – more than half of whom were unknown to Transition Stratford. The stalls all received a lot of interest as did the teas and cakes (supplied by Transition Stratford). There was a Transition Stratford stall where they talked to people about Transition and also some other local schemes, such as the local Garden Share project run by Transition Stratford. The Forum is now looking at setting up a gardening club as a result of interest in the event, and Transition Stratford has put the Forum in touch with a Transition Stratford supporter, who is also a member of Warwickshire’s master gardener scheme, to help get this going.
So to return to the questions posed at the beginning of this piece, I think Stratford provides an interesting example of how social justice might be placed at the centre of a Transition initiative’s aims and worked on at all levels – from the local to the global. It’s bound to take different shapes from one Transition initiative to another but I wonder if it’s a conversation worth having in your Transition initiative?