Collaborative Design Council Expands Grassroots Leadership in the National Transition Movement!

Transition US is honored to share our progress in expanding participation and grassroots leadership in our wider movement to build resilient community by introducing the members of the 2018 Collaborative Design Council!

As we continue our collective work in building an unstoppable nationwide movement to shape a better world through inspired local action, Transition US recently launched the second iteration of the Collaborative Design Council, a voluntary board composed of active Transition organizers from around the country working together to connect and strengthen the movement, advise and support the activities of Transition US, and take action to advance the cause of community resilience and Transition activities around the country.


About the Design Council


The purpose of the Collaborative Design Council is to serve and strengthen the Transition Movement in the United States by building a community of active transitioners; learning from each other; sharing ideas, resources, skills and information; providing input on Transition US activities; and collaborating on projects that guide and support the Transition Movement.

The Council was founded in March 2016 by members of Transition US in order to strengthen the national Transition Movement and increase our movement’s resilience and connectedness at a national level. The initial group consisted of 17 individuals which eventually stabilized at 12 members (including three Transition US staff members, one Transition US Board member, and eight representatives from local Transition Initiatives around the country). This group met for a monthly online Zoom video conference, began building a national community of active transitioners, participated in many vibrant online discussions about national movement strategy, and helped to organize our first-ever Movement Strategy Session, a two-day Transition US leadership retreat held in Minneapolis, Minnesota in July, 2017 in the days immediately following the first Transition US National Gathering.

The second iteration of the Collaborative Design Council (CDC 2.0) began in January 2018, and is comprised of 18 members, including two Transition US staff members, one TUS Board representative, and 15 other individuals actively engaged in Transition work at the local, regional, and national levels. Continue reading to see current member bios.


An Expanding Council


This winter, after putting out a call for new member applications, the Design Council was overwhelmed by over 30 amazing applications to fill eleven new and vacant positions. It was great to see such an outpouring of enthusiasm for scaling up our movement, and the caliber of individuals who applied to join the team was absolutely stellar. It was not easy, but the Council ultimately landed on a diverse group of amazing humans to round out the 2018 iteration of this group, with the hope that those who were not invited this time around will consider re-applying next year.


The Council is working toward a group structure in which members each serve the Council for terms lasting three years. Each year, 6 members (one third of the Council) will rotate off and make space for new members to join. After serving a three-year term, members must take at least one year off before re-applying to serve another three-year term.


At the end of each year, new members will be chosen by current (and outgoing) Council members. An application will be made public (and posted on the Transition US website, blog, newsletter and social media pages) and all active Transition Movement participants will be encouraged to apply by completing an online form. Each year, new members (and alternates) will be selected by the Council based on the following criteria:


  1. Willingness and ability to commit to monthly online Zoom meetings for a 2-3 year term beginning January 2018. Please note that the Collaborative Design Council currently meets for 90 minutes on the third Wednesday of each month at 4pm Pacific Time. The Council may, by consent, choose to change the duration and timing of these meetings.

  2. Demonstrated ability and commitment to working well with others.

  3. At least one year of experience working with a local Transition Initiative.

  4. Knowledge of Transition activities nationally and in your region (beyond your local initiative).

  5. Involvement in regional hubs and national-level working groups.

  6. Maintaining balance in terms of geography, gender, culture and age.

  7. Consistent interest in serving the Collaborative Design Council demonstrated through applying in previous years.


If you’re interested in joining the council, look out this coming fall for an invitation to apply!


Meetings and Decision-Making


The Collaborative Design Council meets monthly for 90 minutes, using the Zoom web video-conferencing platform. In addition to our general meetings, Council members may join additional committees, working groups, project-based meetings and co-working sessions, which will be scheduled by participants as needed.


Non-members can ask to participate in Council meetings as observers, and will be invited to join by consent of the Council. Previous CDC members in good standing and TUS staff members may also observe meetings by invitation. If you’re interested in learning more or requesting to observe a meeting, email Transition US Co-Director Don Hall at


In our meetings, we follow several of the best practices suggested by Transition Network, as outlined in this document. To cultivate a group that is healthy and resilient, members of the Collaborative Design Council will take turns fulfilling the following roles at each meeting: Facilitator, Keeper of the Record (“scribe”), Keeper of Time, and Keeper of the Heart (“vibes-watcher”). Members are encouraged to try out each role and serve often.


The Collaborative Design Council makes decisions by consent, using our own organically evolving version of Sociocracy. Council members (and members of the wider Transition community!) are encouraged to become familiar with the Sociocracy governance model, and are invited to learn more by reading this article and other resources available here.


Some additional principles we observe in our meetings - as outlined in the Guidelines for Group Discussion of our Governance Toolkit - include:

  • Respect: We will strive to ensure that the time is shared equally between Council members in terms of speaking and listening, and that differences of opinion be allowed and respected.
  • Step Up and Step Back: If you tend to talk a lot, challenge yourself to talk less and listen more. If you tend to be more quiet, challenge yourself to speak up more.
  • Support: When possible, we will offer practical and emotional support to any Council member who is experiencing difficulty participating in the Council (whether due to technical or personal issues, special needs, etc.).
  • Collaboration: We strive to create a culture that fosters collaboration, including through shared responsibility for the success of each meeting.
  • Transparency: In line with the practices of the Transition National Hubs Working Groups, we will publish notes from our meetings to be accessible by the broader Transition Network.


Looking Ahead


The new Design Council has just begun meeting, getting to know one another, and setting goals for the coming months. One of the projects we are working on is planning a follow-up to last year’s Movement Strategy Session and Leadership Retreat, currently in the works for the summer of 2018 in Pittsburgh, PA. The working group that has begun convening to create this gathering will soon be putting out a call for additional participants, so please stay tuned if you’re interested in helping out, or indicate your interest by emailing

Other priorities of the Design Council looking forward include: collaborating on projects that guide and support the Transition Movement; providing input on TUS activities; building a community of active Transitioners; and sharing ideas, resources, skills and information.


With an expanding core of grassroots leadership from all over the country and throughout the breadth of the national community, Transition US is becoming more agile and building our capacity to meaningfully serve in the growth of a vibrant and robust movement. We will continue to share our learning experiences in dynamic, participatory leadership in this great Collaborative Design Council experiment. This feels like a significant development in the evolution of the US Transition Movement, and we look forward to sharing more with our wider community of Transition organizers!


And now, without further ado, join us in welcoming the 2018 Collaborative Design Council:



Aleisa Myles - Media, PA
Aleisa Myles has been an active member of Transition Town Media (TTM) since 2010. There, she is part of the local Inner Transition group and past member and facilitator for the working group on local food. She has offered visioning and writing workshops, organized events, and brought attention to relationship, imaginative play, and reflection as a member of TTM. Aleisa is a participant in the Mid-Atlantic States Transition (MAST) hub, as well as the Inner Resilience Network of Transition US. Additionally, she has served on the board of a small food co-op, and done volunteer work with disadvantaged youth, adults developing basic literacy skills, persons who have experienced domestic violence, and survivors of trauma, through AmeriCorps service and various nonprofit organizations since 2005. Aleisa has a Psy.D. from the Institute for Graduate Clinical Psychology at Widener University, She offers psychoanalytic psychotherapy, with a focus on healing from trauma, at the Philadelphia Consultation Center. As an Asian American woman and as a person who is mostly blind, she draws from rich personal experience with issues of diversity as well as academic, clinical, and activist traditions in presenting workshops and lectures on race, diversity, psychoanalysis, and social justice for professionals and students. Aleisa has a lifelong dedication, as part of her social justice work, to understanding and bringing transformative change to the typically unrecognized oppression of children and young people, known as childism. Aleisa is passionate about preparing the way in our hearts to bring forth a profound paradigm shift where we can cherish all being.

Asher Miller - Corvallis, Oregon
Asher became the Executive Director of Post Carbon Institute in October 2008, after having served as the manager of our former Relocalization Network program. He’s worked in the nonprofit sector since 1996 in various capacities. Prior to joining Post Carbon Institute, Asher founded Climate Changers, an organization that inspires people to reduce their impact on the climate by focusing on simple and achievable actions anyone can take. Some of his previous roles include: Partnership Director at Plugged In, an organization working in East Palo Alto, California that connects individuals and cultivates minds by creating the opportunity to produce, express, and contribute using technology; International Production Coordinator at Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation, which created the largest video archive in the world, containing more than 52,000 interviews conducted in 56 countries around the world; Youth Manager at the Volunteer Center of Sonoma County, which engaged more than 800 teens a year in community service and education about social and environmental issues; and Ghostwriter of the autobiography of a Polish Holocaust survivor who fought as a partisan in the forests of Belarus. Asher currently serves on the board of Transition United States.  Asher was born in the Netherlands, and has lived in Israel, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Connecticut, Colorado, and California. He currently lives in Corvallis, Oregon with his wife and two children. Asher received his B.A. in Creative Writing from The Colorado College.

Bill Sharp - State College, Pennsylvania
A lifetime sustainability advocate, writer, speaker, planner, project manager, and workshop facilitator, Bill Sharp is Co-founder of Transition Centre, co-founder Transition Towns State College, former Council Member of College Township, former member of Centre Region Council of Governments General Forum, former board member of Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub, former board member of Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light, Chair of Spring Creek Watershed Association, Chair of Garden Starters, Trustee at School of Living, Member of Spring Creek Watershed Commission representing his township, member of township Planning Commission and regional council of governments Planning Commission, and Vice-chair of Industrial Development Authority. Bill earned his MA in Sociology, and is retired from a career in government, higher education and business. He has served on a number of other nonprofit boards and co-founded several nonprofit organizations.

Clayton Horsey - Woodstock, NY
Clayton Horsey, MA, MSW is a NYS licensed psychotherapist in private practice working mainly with couples and groups. His primary interest is the dynamics of small groups and conflict resolution. Clayton is a resident of, and early member of, Woodstock NY Transition (WNYT). As WNYT was forming, he founded a working group called, Working Group Support (WGS), to provide tools, techniques, and facilitation to other working groups in WNYT to help them accomplish their mission and vision. WGS offers guidelines and recommendations for effective group process, communication skills and conflict resolution. The group meets weekly to develop and practice the tools and techniques that are offered to other WNYT working groups.

Don Hall - Sarasota, FL
Don Hall has had the good fortune to participate in the Transition Movement in a variety of capacities over the past decade. Initially serving for two years as the Education and Outreach Coordinator for Transition Colorado, he went on to found and direct Transition Sarasota from 2010 to 2016. During that time, Don delivered more than 60 Transition Talks, screened over 40 Films for a Future, hosted dozens of "reskilling" workshops, led an effort that harvested nearly 250,000 pounds of organic produce for those in need, organized six annual community-wide Eat Local Week celebrations, and compiled an Eat Local Guide with detailed listings for more than 250 related businesses and organizations. A certified Transition Trainer and experienced facilitator, Don was named Co-Director of Transition US in 2017. He holds a Master's degree in Environmental Leadership from Naropa University and currently lives in Sarasota, Florida.

Janice Lynne - Fort Collins, CO
Janice lives at the feet of the Colorado Rocky Mountains that she loves. She was once a Peace Corps Volunteer who lived on an island in the South Pacific, where she came to love the people and natural environment and learned how to be happy living a simple life within a close community. She joined Transition Fort Collins in 2011 and has worked on a variety of different projects under that umbrella.  In addition to her “Transition hat”, she collaborates with several local groups that work on universal health care, environmental and social justice, and support the City of Fort Collins’ Climate Action Plan.  Most recently she facilitated an effort to teach Colorado State University students to lower their carbon footprint, become more conscious of their consumption and waste patterns, and to promote a more environmentally conscious lifestyle to other students.  She is currently working on regional and state climate change issues, getting a Fort Collins’ electrical utility to quickly shift to 100% renewables, and developing a small cottage food & textiles business, with a co-operative marketing operation, to help others and herself sustain their household economies.

Laura Markowitz - Jericho, VT
Laura is a founding member of Transition Town Jericho in Vermont. Living in Florida in the 80's, she was part of the fledgling Tampa Bay Greens, whetting her appetite for community activism. In the 90's, she moved to Vermont to pursue life as a freelance musician. When she played a gig at town hall and earned Burlington Bread, the local currency, she became enthralled with the movement and eventually became an organizer with the Burlington Currency Project. Laura is also an avid gardener, and after taking part in a Transition Training in Montpelier, Vermont, she started a roving gardening group in her town, with participants touring and learning from each others' gardens. She makes her living playing and teaching violin, with a special interest in introducing young children to the joys of music. She lives for the outdoors, biking, kayaking and hiking in the beautiful Green Mountains of Vermont (and of course, keeping up with her ever-demanding garden!)

Laura Philon - Wilmington, DE
Laura is a lifelong social-change activist who feels it is imperative that she always be actively playing some part in co-creating ‘the more beautiful world we knows is possible.’ Since moving to Wilmington, DE in 1996, Laura has been active in The Green Party of DE, Occupy DE, Pacem in Terris, and a number of other groups. She helped found the city's largest community garden and co-organized 4 successful 'Better Block' events, one of which led to the city's first permanent on-street dedicated bike lane. In late 2009 Laura co-founded Wilmington In Transition (WIT) as a project of the non-profit peace and social justice group, Pacem in Terris. WIT is a small but animated group of social activists who manage to ‘do a lot, with a little’ in this small city which faces many 'big city challenges.' Laura has served as WIT’s primary coordinator for the past 6 years, while also running the local economy group and participating in the outreach and food working groups. She also created the DE Hour Exchange (Delaware’s first time bank) with other WIT members. Laura is the DE representative on the Mid-Atlantic States Transitioners (MAST) Council, and has been delighted and honored to co-create the Transition US Collaborative Design Council' She looks forward to broadening and deepening the Transition Movement in camaraderie with the collective brilliance of other Transition leaders, old and new!

Leslie MacKenzie - Minneapolis, MN
Leslie MacKenzie is one of the founders of Transition Longfellow (Minneapolis) and the organizer for Transition Twin Cities, an emerging hub coordinating communication and sharing between 7 (and counting) neighborhood-level Transition groups in Minneapolis-St. Paul. Leslie worked in small and very-small nonprofits for two decades, doing communications, nonprofit management, program planning, grant writing and fundraising. She has raised more than $6 million for programs serving youth, homeless persons, LGBT groups, and the community. She worked in media ethics, helping the community hold the news media accountable for ethical lapses - and helping the community understand the vital role a free and fair press plays in society. A stint as a senior writer/content strategist for law firms -- and hearing Richard Heinberg speak -- convinced her it was time to shift her focus to the critical work of climate mitigation, climate adaptation and community building. She is a tireless networker, bringing Transition to college classes, community groups, elected officials, and anyone who will listen - with enthusiasm! She intends to bring her communications and grant writing skills to the Design Council.

Marissa Mommaerts - Paonia, CO
Marissa Mommaerts has been with Transition US since 2013 and serves as Director of Programs. Marissa lives off-the-grid in rural Western Colorado with her son Gabriel and partner Jeremiah and is an avid gardener, homesteader, community organizer, and activist. She came to Transition US after six years working with government, civil society, and the private sector to promote just and sustainable solutions to poverty and public health crises. Prior to Transition, Marissa worked at The Aspen Institute coordinating a global communications project on reproductive health and population growth. Marissa has a Master's Degree in International Public Affairs from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she co-founded a sustainable development project in partnership with UW students and an island community in Lake Victoria, Uganda. She is a writer and speaker on topics related to community resilience, regenerative economics, and permaculture. You can view one of her recent presentations here.

Nils Palsson - Santa Rosa, CA
Nils joined Transition US in 2015 and serves as our Communications Director. A peaceful revolutionary and candidate for US Congress, Nils has worked since 2010 on building local resilience as a community organizer with Transition Lake County. He recently earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in writing from the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. Nils has served as a science and history teacher, a community radio host, the founder and facilitator of the annual Hands Around Clear Lake healing ceremony and tribal gathering. His passions include peace, justice, integrity and transformation, and his pursuits include holistic health and yoga, mythology and shamanism, and co-creating systemic change that benefits the whole. Nils lives in Sonoma County with his daughter, Satya Rose.

Nina Smolyar - Boston, MA
Nina is an activist for social justice, sustainability, and authentic democracy. She is affiliated with the New England Resilience and Transition Network (NERT), a group of grassroots organizations building localized community resilience. Growing up loving nature in rural Russia, and committed to preserving the ecological conditions that support life, Nina is a passionate advocate for sustainability across systems of ecology, economy, and society. Believing that environmental activism is incomplete without a spiritual root, Nina’s life is also marked by a commitment to spiritual traditions and philosophies from around the world. She has lived and worked at two intentional communities in Western Massachusetts, practicing sustainable living in right relationship with Nature and people. She has investigated community-building in a self-designed graduate program at Goddard College, with her thesis focusing on conflict transformation in intentional community. She is currently a graduate student at the University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, pursuing her MS in Leadership for Sustainability, with a concentration in Ecological Economics.

Richard Dandridge - Port Townsend, WA
Richard Dandridge lives in Port Townsend Washington, nestled on the western edge of the Cascadia Bioregion. Peak Oil brought him to Port Townsend, retiring in 2008 after working  thirty years in Video and Distance Learning for the University of Washington School of Nursing. He is an active member of the Local 20/20Transition Initiative.  Local 20/20 gets its name from the concepts of 'keeping it local' and having a clear vision of the future. Richard has been a member of Local 20/20 since 2007, and is currently their vice president and facilitator for their Transportation Lab action group. He is also a very active participant in the Salish Sea umbrella organization called SCALLOPS, Sustainable Communities all over Puget Sound, an emerging Regional Hub in the Transition Movement. In his free time, he works to build a strong bicycle culture in Port Townsend. He is thrilled that a bicycle helmet was used to draw the names of participants in the first TUS Collaborative Design Council, and he's glad to be part of this important work. Pedaling On!

Ruah Swennerfelt - Charlotte, VT
Ruah is a founding member of Transition Charlotte and a member of Burlington Friends Meeting (Quakers) in Vermont. She served as General Secretary for Quaker Earthcare Witness (QEW) for 17 years. During her tenure with QEW she helped Friends and Friends Meetings to, first, become aware of the spiritual relationship that humans have with Earth and two, make changes in their lives that would bring them more in harmony with that relationship.  She gave many presentations, workshops, and keynote talks across North America and in England. She has written numerous articles for BeFriending Creation, Friends Journal, and Quaker Life, as well as for her local newspaper and Burlington Friends Meeting newsletter. She has authored and co-authored chapters in several books. Recently she completed a book, Rising to the Challenge: The Transition Movement and People of Faith, which will be published in June, 2016. Ruah currently serves as clerk of the New England Yearly Meeting Earthcare Ministry Committee and serves as President of the Transition Town Charlotte board. She and her husband, Louis Cox, live in rural Vermont where they grow most of their vegetables and fruits, make their own electricity and heat their water from the sun, attempting to live lives that are simple, rich, and meaningful.

Sarah Gonzales - Houston, TX
Sarah Gonzales is a founding member of Transition Houston, located in Houston, Texas. The group has been active since 2009. During her time with Transition Houston, Sarah and her husband John were the grateful recipients of Houston’s first "permablitz" - and the love of supporting and growing local, organic food and a garden in every neighborhood began. For the past 3 years, she has taken on a leadership role with the core group that plans and promotes Transition events and activities. Transition Houston has focused on several projects, including promoting the use of public transportation in a city with limited resources and hosting 2-3 permablitzes per year. Given Houston’s large carbon footprint, Sarah and her Transition group have regularly teamed up with other environmental and sustainability initiatives to promote sustainable living, building and community. Transition Houston recently hosted its first Repair Cafe in partnership with the City of Houston, Citizens Environmental Coalition, Texas Campaign for the Environment, the Houston Peace and Justice Center and our TX/RX Labs Makerspace. The Repair Cafe was very well received and we intend to focus efforts on hosting them regularly throughout the city. Sarah finds this work refreshing and gratifying. It is wonderful to grow, learn and share with others through education and inspiring change at the local level.

Sari Steuber - Media, PA
Sari is a member of the initiating group of Transition Town Media (TTM) which started in 2009. Since then she has been part of the core group as well as several working groups and has held a board position (currently president) since TTM became a 501c3 in 2011. Retired since Jan 2008 from computer programming and team managing at an actuarial firm in Philadelphia, Sari spent a good part of 2008 on a round-the-country tandem bike trip with her husband, Pat Steuber, delighting in the beautiful diversity of land and animals, and the friendliness and generosity of the people in the US. She came back to discover a worthwhile project for her retirement years and serendipitously found TTM just as it was forming! Sari has been involved in helping set up and maintain much of TTM’s infrastructure (website, newsletter, marketing, finances, communications) and is also involved with the Energy Group’s Solarize campaign and with the Inner Transition Group. Since she took the Transition Training in 2011, Sari has been an initiating member of a hub of Mid-Atlantic Transition Towns, currently called MAST (Mid-Atlantic States Transitioners). Sari finds Transition work enlivening on many levels – intellectually, practically, and spiritually. There is nothing one can do that’s more satisfying than helping save the planet and creating a lively, engaged, and deeply caring community at the same time!

Sylvia Holmes - Pasadena, CA
Sylvia is an urban environmentalist based in Pasadena, CA. Currently, she is the lead organizer and founder of Free-Food Garden, co-leader and founder of Mulch for the People, and active on Good To-Go and Repair Cafe, all projects of Transition Pasadena. She is also the Secretary of the Shakespeare Authorship Roundtable and a volunteer with Pasadena Beautiful Wednesday Workdays, Towne Singers production committee, and teaches mindfulness at Cancer Support Community.

Theo Talcott - Manchester, VT
Theo attends events for Mother Earth when invited, and thus has been lucky to be part of the movements. He is a videomaker on YouTube and cable access, he has worked with Transition Town Manchester for ten years, started a community garden, planted fruit trees and helped convene the Manchester Riverwalk, a project that many Transition folks work on, creating access to the river in a forgotten in-between real estate space in the middle of the town. The river of Riverwalk was originally called the Ondowa, by Abenaki peoples, as was the larger region of southwest Vermont. Theo has spent decades listening at both good and bad meetings, and has become interested in the topic of council making and listening because of a love for "horizontal democracy on the fly," or, how do we talk fair and flat with respect and not interrupt each other and listen from the heart. Like taking a vow not to interrupt due to the power dynamics of interrupting. Theo is a "progressive politics possibilitarian," serving as Vermont state lead for Movement for A People’s Party. His other interests include listening to indigenous people whose worldview provides a way forward into a sustainable future by teaching people to listen to the land and have reverence for water and to defend the sacred; honoring Native treaties; lifting up Nature. "Respecting the worldview of indigenous people feels super important if we are to design a life-positive human society in the 21st century," Theo writes. "We’re going to have to go backward to go forward in some practices: like having reverence for Mother Earth and prizing those who work for her."

William Mutch - Palo Alto, CA
William has been an active environmentalist and teacher for most of his life, apparently, although he started formally practicing in his early twenties.  He moved quickly from a degree in Environmental Biology to a degree in Transpersonal Psychology with advanced certificates in Psychosynthesis to basic and advanced Permaculture Design Courses and independent studies, with constant themes of religious studies, intercultural studies, Tracking, Bird Language, traditional skills and environmental education in the background. Learning about the Transition Town Community from various sources all at once, he helped found both Transition Silicon Valley and Transition Palo Alto, the latter still being active as a hub and steering committee for the local Transition Initiatives.  He has founded many local projects with Transition Palo Alto, the longest running being the Skillshares, Transition Café, and Permaculture Café, all of which he continues to help host, although Transition Palo Alto hosts and partners on diverse projects and groups.  Current emphases include Social and Emotional Intelligence and how they relate to Social Permaculture, Systems Thinking, and Pattern Language/Pattern Literacy, as well as how to skill Humans up on these things, quickly and appropriately.


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