Skip to Main Content

Young People in Transition - where we are at

A week ago Battersea Arts Centre hosted the first ever Transition Youth Symposium. I wasn't really sure what to expect as you can probably gather from my introduction to it. I arrived a wee bit late and was immediately struck by just how many young people were there - around 40 I think. It didn't take long to realise that most of them weren't currently actively involved in Transition, but the fact that there is so much interest and that young people would like to get more involved is great. There was also a wide range of ages from 18 to 30.

Mark Boyle foragingOver the course of the day it became clear that there were several obstacles that were maybe stopping young people getting involved with Transition. One of the main ones being that we are often transient not being based in one geographical place for long periods of time. The general image of Transition is that it is very place based and the feeling seemed to be that people were worried that if they started to get involved they would be asked to commit to something long term, which they could not do. I think having more projects that can be achieved in a short timeframe would help resolve this and would probably benefit everyone involved, in terms of commitment.

So what did we get up to? Well after introductions we started by mapping ourselves - firstly on whether we felt hopeful or hopeless and empowered or disempowered. Fortunately the vast majority of us were feeling hopeful, but there was a bit more of a spread in empowerment. Next those working at the moment placed themselves on the spectrum of working inside or outside the system and then everyone placed themselves where they would like to be. It was reassuring to see such a spread and to know that we have all fronts covered, transforming the system from all angles! It takes the pressure off of trying to do everything yourself!

We were then treated to a talk by Mark Boyle, the moneyless man, who gave us a very interesting talk on the gift economy and its philosophy. Despite having hosted a week on living without money earlier this year and having a guest blog from Mark I hadn't really grasped the true concept of the gift economy until this talk (Sorry Mark!). I was particularly taken with the framing that economics is about interrelationships and money/paying for something is in effect saying that you no longer want to be in relation with that other person. So by not being focussed on immediate reciprocation the gift economy maintains all of the interrelationships. We then got into small groups and took different economic needs to explore how they could be achieved without money - it's harder than you think to let go of the idea of an exchange! Lots of interesting ideas were suggested, none of which I wrote down, but many of which will be in Mark's Moneyless Manifesto that will be freely available online in November. To round us off we had a gift circle, where everyone said something that they needed. Unfortunately there wasn't time to go round and add our offers and after 40 people had said their needs I forgot who and what I thought I could help with, oh well! 

Lee Brain talking at the Youth SymposiumWe then had an inspiring call to action before lunch from Lee Brain from Transition Prince Rupert in Canada, who spoke about the insanity of Canadas current tar sand plans and the whole crazy global situation. What he didnt talk about was the fantastic work they are doing establishing their Transition Initiative on Prince Rupert Island. They have raised the money to have all their core group properly trained in the necessary skills and then have plans for doing the same after their launch for the working groups. It sounds fantastic and I hope I can encourage him to tell us more on this blog in the future.

As usual it was the discussions over lunch and in the tea breaks that were the most valuable and I think just bringing all of us together around this topic was in some ways all that was needed. I had a very interesting discussion with Sarah and Lisa about jobs and where, what and how we wanted to live. Its good to talk to so many people who are in the same boat as you!

After lunch we had a talk to Rob Hopkins followed by some discussions. We also had some open discussions where we could contribute topics and I suggested meaningful livelihoods as I felt that topic had not been sufficiently covered by the days activities. We decided that we were talking about a 'lifestyle' rather than necessarily a job as people may want to work outside of the system. You also don't need to come up with a fixed answer, it can change over time as you need. We discussed that staying at the correct scale is important, not getting dragged into the ethos of bigger is better all the time. Sarah made an interesting point that no-one will ever employ you for your full worth as then they would not gain anything, so being self-employed might be a good plan or working cooperatively, such as in a housing co-op. We thought it would be useful to collate a list of sustainable livelihoods and case studies that could be used for inspiration. So I might start doing this at some point!

Unfortunately I felt that the day was a bit too hectic and because of this few outcomes were properly reached as you didnt have time to conclude and reflect on your discussions. One outcome that was achieved, however, was the formation of a young persons network, so that we can all stay in touch and share experiences and support each other in our journeys. It will also be good to follow the two participants in the one year in Transition programme - hopefully we can get them writing us some guest blogs!

I would also just like to add my hope that we can stop using the word 'Youth' and use 'young people' instead, as it makes me feel like a teenage delinquent!

Photos: Unfortunately only one photo from the day has appeared so far, so I this isnt as photo happy as I'd hoped. Mark Boyle foraging for blackberries and Lee Brain inspiring people to act (Mike Grenville)


Alex Loh's picture

this is a good start, though

duplicate comment (not sure how that happened!)

Alex Loh's picture

this is a good start, though

A good start, though with changing lifestyles I'd extend the definition of "youth" well beyond 30, as far as into the early 40s! I turned 40 this year and apart from still consdering myself young (though having had the sense not to burden myself with long term partnerships and/or children has helped loads), more importantly it was only in my mid 30s that I found the stability in my life to even think about getting involved in Transition.

One thing I feel is overlooked is that the bulk of younger people in Transition (at least those I have met) have either studied some kind of environmental subject at University, or have become interested in this via their family or in some cases older peers. I also feel (at the risk of being un-PC) there is a tendency towards greater enlightenment amongst those 20-somethings from "middle class intellectual" backgrounds who have "grown up quick" but there are still as many who just want to party, shop and consume or are distracted by hedonism (I was one of them myself in my teens and 20s), and I confess that due to living further out from the CSA for my local initiative and working long hours I haven't done as much in my local group as I should, as when I get back from work I just want to have a couple of beers and maybe listen to / mix a few tunes! (I still do a bit of DJing for fun, and might be volunteering for the locla community radio station soon).

On that note though if you really want to engage with young people you need to accept they also want to have fun (I still do) - especially things like music, multimedia, art - but if you can get them to creation rather than passive consumption (whilst accepting that these fun projects no longer provide a guaranteed living like in the 90s) that could be a start..