Making Change in How We Live, Where We Live, in Light of Climate Change

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

From the Local to the International - Journeys of imagination and generosity at the Transition Network International Conference

Back in September, Charles Whitehead wrote a preview piece about 8 of us from Tooting heading to the Transition Network International Conference at Seale Hayne, Newton Abbot. We went by caravan, car share and train arriving the day before, early afternoon and late at night.

You can read all about how we contributed to the conference in Charles' blogpost here. Following the conference, we were all excited to share our experience of it as it had so much energy to give! Please do click on the links in the highlighted words, if they are of interest. There is also a Storify of the Conference and a blog on the Transition Network site.

Tooting heads West!
Home away from Home, with cake!

After arriving, pitching our tents, siting and re-siting our caravan and finding our rooms, Jenny , Hilary and myself participated in the Transition Skills day, learning lots about Transition Thrive , designing a new economy in "REconomy" and how to "Become your own Developer" before the conference actually began.

Meanwhile, Lucy was running her own workshop on Creative Engagement, she writes...

"Once I'd recovered from the news that my main collaborator, Ruth Ben-Tovim (she of the Tooting Transition Shop from 2012), was sick and I would have to get on and run the day long Transition workshop on the arts and creating community on my own, I decided this Transition Conference (my 4th) was going to be about getting on and doing it with the resources I had to hand. I calmed myself by imagining the 14 strangers I was about to meet and wondering why they could be interested in learning about the craft of making things happen, and the art of creative participation. The knowledge they would all be doing this in a Transition context i.e. making the world we want to live in by modelling the changes in how we live where we live, immediately made me relax. I felt I could be myself and invite them to give all of themselves to the workshop, which they did! The day was astonishing for the rich diversity of their expertise, their generosity to give and gain from one another and the final artworks they created together. I was bowled over by how much creative ground we covered and my abiding faith in the central role our imaginations and creativity play in Transition. I have spent 3 years capturing this in the transition book in the arts, Playing for Time - making Art As If the World Mattered and it felt as if the book had in a sense, come home.

This feeling of generosity, sharing and common goals was echoed by Jenny's experience, she reflected later:

"It was inspiring and encouraging to meet other people from around the world who share a vision for a fairer, more community-led world. A focus on collaboration, partnerships and relationship building was a common theme. It's something we cherish in Transition Town Tooting and will continue to build in 2016. A Neighbourhood Plan, Foodival and our garden projects wouldn't be possible if it weren't for the generosity and energy of our partners and volunteers".

My experience during the Transition Thrive training was similarly applicable to our activity in Tooting and encouraged me to be active in looking after the wonderful volunteers and core group of Transition Town Tooting as well as offering the opportunity to participate to more people through Open Days and outreach.

Our Workshops: Outdoor Learning with Young People and Creative Facilitation with FanSHEN


Day 2 and the conference proper begins... Jenny, Charlie, Sharon and I hosted a workshop on Outdoor Learning with Young People. We shared our work in Outdoor Learning in 3 areas:

  • with children of Gatton Primary School at the Community Garden - both Reception/Year 1 and Year 6.
  • with teenagers, creating a garden space at CARAS.
  • with families during our regular Sunday sessions at the Garden and through our collaboration with FanSHEN during the 6 Field Days that ran through he summer. 
We asked the group what Outdoor Learning meant to them and even got outside to share 3 Outdoor Learning exercises, including the Human Camera...
What is Outdoor Learning?
The Human Camera - one
of 3 Outdoor learning games











It was fascinating to bring it together for one workshop. Really valuable for us not only to present together, but also to hear each others experiences in a different way. It was also representative of the Conference as a whole that we had 7 participants from 7 different countries! Hearing their experiences gave us food for thought.

Hilary's reflections echo this:

"The single best thing was the opportunities to meet and discuss with others in the Network Worldwide - supported by a great blend of facilitation and self-organisation. From the opening session were a group of 300+ individuals from 40+ countries met and mingled through to focused discussions in the workshop and Open Space sessions and the random conversations over meals, the programme provided every opportunity to connect and talk. Most of all, I enjoyed the capacity of Transitioners worldwide to self organise a room in moments - as demonstrated here!"


The First Gathering, anticipation builds...

Lucy goes on to say...

"The next 2 days of the conference felt like a brilliant holiday! Meeting new people, feeling the pulse of so many international initiatives connecting worldwide; enjoying a session with Tom Crompton from Common Cause on intrinsic and extrinsic values; learning about COP21 in Paris in December and being in a home group with Alajie from Gambia, Pete from Perth and Gill from Transition Exeter. My highlights? Selling all the copies of Playing for Time and attending a brilliant bicycle maintenance workshop with Mike Jenner: as much about a philosophy of life about looking after things, community and compatibility as about chain tools and gear cogs."

Meanwhile, Dan and Rachel, aka FanSHEN - our collaborators in the Tooting Field Days - ran a workshop on Creative Facilitation with 50 attendees! Complete with hurling eggs and plasticine models.

The shear variety of activity on offer was mind-blowing, as can be seen by our mind-map of things to follow up.
The Paris Climate Change Conference: COP21

One of those strands was COP21, the International summit on Climate Change happening in Paris. This conversation was convened by a participant of the Conference during one of two Open Space sessions, here's Charlie's digest of some key points:


"The conference runs for the first 2 weeks of December: a vast stage-managed event where final negotiations are thrashed out, and at the same time citizens and groups worldwide watch the process - and make their feelings known, if possible. A good article to sum it all up can be read here. It's even pretty optimistic!

Paris is the 21st of these global conferences, and the Transition Network has commissioned the publication of "21 stories for COP21" - inspiring stories from around the world of transition groups taking practical action that has an impact now on carbon reduction, and social and environmental benefits. We'll circulate that publication as soon as its ready.


What should we do for COP21?
At the Transition Conference in September, a very active group focused on what could be done in Paris to support visiting Transition groups who want to be close to the action - witnessing the talks, maybe adding their voices to the marches, and also running events and workshops to demonstrate what we are achieving together now. We'll share those details.

Of course there are many events in London too - workshops, films and a major Climate March on November 29th. Never "marched"? Have a look at the post on the TTT blog to consider what its like, and why do it. On the day described, 700,000 people marched all around the world. We'll share details of a TTT group taking part."

Final Thoughts...


The Valley view, early morning


From a glass of wine overlooking the valley in brilliant sunshine to Local Entrepreneur Forums to co-creating a network across the world's Megacities, it was a wonderful weekend. Lucy writes...

"I came away glad to put so much of my life energy of the last 7 years into a movement that has taught me so much about the broad picture challenges we face, and the practical, immediate and enjoyable ways in which these challenges can be turned to opportunities working day-by-day over time with like minded people.

Above all it was magic to be there with so many others from Tooting. What a place to come from and go home to! Onward!"

And the last word to Sharon, who describes her experience of going to the Conference for the first time:

"As a first-time conference goer, I was anxious about being out of my depth. However, I met lots of fascinating, friendly folk and felt I made valuable contributions - from the outdoor learning workshop I co-hosted, to the lively sessions on professionalising Transition work and creating livelihoods. It was also great to meet non-Transition people at the conference who shared similar goals, values and ideas. All in all, an exhausting yet very energising weekend."

All best, Richard

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