During July 27-30 I attended the first ever National Gathering of transition towns in the US! hosted by Transition Towns US and held in St. Paul, Minnesota. It was beyond expectation! Workshops covered everything from inner transition work to emergency preparedness to communicating with transition leaders worldwide via satellite.
Keynotes were given by three of my heroes, Richard Heinberg (Post Carbon Institute) Rob Hopkins (transition town founder) and Phyllis Young (Standing Rock) Much of the learning was simply sharing stories with each other and through ‘open space’ a technique of catalyzing large groups of people into strategic planning.
The best workshop I attended was about building effective transition towns. Two very different approaches were offered; thought I’d share what I learned there.
Martin Pepper represented Transition Town Media (PA) a town just a bit larger than Jericho. He said they started with seven enthusiastic people with very little experience. They’ve grown to become one of the most happening, long running transition towns in the US.
Founded in 2009, TTMedia has a membership of 2000 people, hosts hundreds of events, and has 1000s of followers. they’ve established a timebank (2011) a freestore (2014) and solarizing campaign (42 homes in 2016). There were also workshops on the latter two, big topics unto themselves.
Martin explained that many people have joined and left TTMedia; projects have succeeded and failed. The organization almost fell apart when their leader butted heads with the rest of the group. Martin suggests celebrating successes, learning from failures.
They have two types of meetings: The ‘action’ meetings where various working committees come together to share and the ‘being’ meetings which are potluck/social meetings. They have an annual planning session every January, whereby people give various levels of commitment to agreed upon projects for the upcoming year.
-Get good at understanding your community, where you fit in
-Do projects the membership and community have energy and excitement for
-Assist/collaborate with other groups, supporting without having to ‘own’ those projects
Martin was gracious, forthcoming and supportive, offering a thousand details but you get the idea!
Don Hall was the other presenter in the workshop, drawing upon his experience as executive director of Transition Town Sarasota. Rather than volunteer-run, TTSarasota started with Don as the full time leader, though he had to fundraise his own salary!
Don broke down starting a transition town into five stages:
Don said when he left Sarasota (he currently works for Transition Towns US) TTSarasota was somewhere between stages three and four. He also said they had a challenge transitioning to a volunteer-run organization.
I know this is kind of detailed, but I find this stuff fascinating and hope you do too!