The Global Heart of Transition: Reflections from the 2015 International Transition Network Conference

I was very fortunate to be able to attend the International Transition Conference and National Hubs Meeting in South Devon, England last month, thanks to a scholarship from Transition Network. After two and a half years immersed in Transition work at the national, regional, and local level, my soul was in need of some nourishment. The International Transition Network Conference gave me exactly what I needed, and so much more. I am returning to work with more heart, focus, humility, inspiration, courage, strength, aliveness, and motivation.

Here are a few of my highlights from the conference:

Connection, Heart-full-ness, and Inner Transition

In my position, I often feel as if I am carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. Though I know there are many others across the country and around the world who are sharing the load, sometimes it’s hard to remember that from my desk in our small office in Sebastopol (even when I’m fully engaged in local Transition activities).

Being immersed in the overwhelming positivity of our Transition colleagues from around the world—who are just as (if not more) aware of the realities of the challenging times in which we live, yet choose to be proactive and come from a place of love—brought me to tears many times during our six days together, and filled my heart with enough hope, solidarity, and love to get me through the next year of hard work.

Especially heartening was the National Hubs Meeting, a group of ~50 diverse people from around the world who truly feel like family and who welcomed me to my first hubs meeting so sincerely and joyfully I had no choice but to embrace it. Many thanks to National Hubs Coordinator Filipa Pimantel, a talented organizer who knows that connection and trust are key to successful and sustainable collaboration across differences.

Now I am eager to find ways to foster more of this type of connection within the Transition movement in the US. We’re exploring how to integrate more Inner Transition practices into our daily routine in the Transition US office, and how to bring more Inner Transition practices to the grassroots movement in the US through our existing communication channels.

But the deepest, most potent work (like Joanna Macy’s Truth Mandala, which we practiced during the National Hubs Meeting) will come from leaders in the US Transition Movement meeting in person and really getting to know each other. Maybe it’s time for a US National Transition Conference? I’m convinced that the benefits of meeting in person can outweigh the negative impact of travel.

Intergenerational Inclusion & Collaboration  

For the first time, the Transition Network conference featured distinct spaces for both Elders & "Youngers": an Elders breakfast & “hearth” space, and a pre-conference Youth/Young Adults Day. These spaces were designed to support and raise the voices of these two groups, each with their own unique contributions and needs for participating fully in Transition.

Some conference participants expressed discomfort around the creation of these distinct spaces, fearing they would create some sort of separation or division between age groups. As a younger person in Transition who has at times struggled with group dynamics issues related to my age, I see things very differently: by creating a space for us to share and seek support from our peers, we are then in a stronger place to effectively collaborate with and articulate our needs to the rest of the group.

My sense is that many of the Elders at the conference appreciated being honored for their wisdom and life experience, and I know the Youngers got a lot of value from the Young Adults Day. You can read more about my reflections from Young Adults Day here.

Global Citizenry

The Conference brought together more than 350 participants from 35 countries, some coming from as far as Chile, Thailand, Hong Kong, Australia, Malawi, and The Gambia. Hearing the accomplishments and wise words of Alaji from The Gambia (during the conference Global Webcast  - at 2:08:00), a place with far fewer resources than we have access to in most other countries where Transition is happening, was one of those very inspiring and humbling moments.

The National Hubs meeting included 50 participants from 26 national hubs, including Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Croatia, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Mexico, Netherlands, Philippines, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Romania, Scotland, Slovenia, and Sweden. Many of the National Hubs coordinators are doing incredible work with little or no budget, in countries with low levels of economic development or where economic collapse is already occurring (in Argentina, it happens every 12 years!).

My background is in international relations and human rights, and the deep perspective and sense of global citizenship I gained from participating in the conference is something I have truly missed working in Sonoma County, CA, a very privileged and somewhat insular part of the US. Though Transition is explicitly local, it is also inherently global. It is important for us to hold the global context of our work, and to be reminded of how each of our actions or inaction (and especially the actions/inaction of those of us in the US – which one of the other National Hubs coordinators casually referred to as “the heart of the Empire”) –affect the rest of the world.

Many of our European counterparts are considering how to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis, a heartbreaking example of the interconnectedness of our globalized world. I recently wrote in a blog post about the importance of meeting our neighbors that “we are only as resilient as those around us.” This applies not only to our neighborhoods and communities, but also to neighboring countries.

Shared Governance

To me, one of the most fascinating things about Transition is witnessing the fractal nature of our movement as it evolves. A key theme that is showing up in our work in the US is the need for increased participation in governance by those most affected. How can Transition US, as a national hub, nurture the development a connected, coordinated national movement that truly honors the “bottom-up” spirit of Transition and supports more authentic ownership of the movement?

It was heartening to recognize a similar pattern emerging at the international level: Transition Network is supporting the group of national hubs to take more ownership of the international Transition movement by creating spaces for national hub organizers to connect, share ideas and best practices, and co-create. Importantly, Transition Network staff and board members were also very conscious of real and perceived power dynamics related to their role in the movement, and were willing to address, process, and transform these dynamics. Sometimes that simply meant stepping back and allowing national hubs organizers to lead or facilitate the conversation.







This level of connection, awareness, respect, and commitment to doing the difficult but transformative work builds collective power and ownership, which I tasted at the National Hubs meeting and am eager to help cultivate more of here in the US.

Owning Our Power  

Several times during the Conference and Hubs meeting, my heart was so full of love and possibility I really felt it might explode. In those moments I experienced, with certainty, the incredible power our movement holds.

I feel very fortunate to live during such a rare and beautiful planetary moment, and to be sharing this journey with all of you.

"As one of just a handful of people who has been to every single Transition Network conference, what was different about this one?  Firstly the international nature of it was clear, with that international feel not just represented in those attending, but also in the facilitation team.  Secondly, the number of young people there was really heartening.  The presence of Elders was also a feature of it, for the first time they organised Elders Breakfasts, and had a 'Hearth' spot where they could meet with other elders (how people chose to define themselves as 'elders', or not, was left up to them!) 

It felt to me like the conference where the balance between Inner and Outer Transition was most seamless, most balanced, most integrated.  Above all, it felt like such a privilege to be back among old and new friends, people doing such remarkable work in so many places around the world." ~Rob Hopkins (read more in his blog post about the Conference)

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