Transition Network Conference 2009

Transition Conference Participants 09

I’m finally back from an exhausting and exciting whirlwind trip to London where I attended the 2009 Transition Network conference. The venue was the Battersea Arts Center, an impressive stone building with a long history of social change.

Around 400 people were gathered in the Grand Hall. To kick things off we were guided through a group mapping / milling exercise which revealed the wide geographical and age spread of the conference attendees, along with the size and stage each respective Transition Initiatives was at. 

Being from the US, I immediately went to the far West corner, and was surprised to find a good size group already gathered there. I knew that fellow Board member Michael Brownlee, our Executive Director, Carolyne Stayton, and Transition Trainer, Tina Clarke would be there, but to my delight there were around 7 more people from the US and Canada.

We grouped around a table and quickly set about the task of building a graphical representation of Transition in the States. It was a colorful, creative exercise that engaged a sense of play between us, and solidified a feeling of being in the Transition crucible together, as a nation.

We were instructed to address the questions of: What was going well? What was challenging? and What were we looking forward to in the future?

Transition Conference 09

Later, we walked around and looked at the creative answers to these questions by other Transition Initiatives around the room. It was incredibly inspiring to witness the rich diversity of Transition being put into action around the world.

Most of the conference was designed into a dazzling array of Open Space sessions with over 30 different sessions on offer per day. It was exceptionally hard to choose where to put one’s attention and energy, and I mostly used the law of two feet and flitted about from table to table, fertilizing ideas and thoughts from here to there.

There were also 11 workshops on offer each day, all of which were equally enticing. It was very frustrating having to choose only 2 from such a delectable selection. You can see what I mean by viewing the full program here.  In the end I settled upon “Energy Descent Planning” with Rob Hopkins on the Saturday, and the “Transition Web Project: Bringing the Transition Movement Together” on the Sunday.

The Energy Descent Planning workshop was a lively, informative presentation made first by Transition Forest Row and then followed by Transition Town Totnes.

Forest Row recently completed their Energy Descent Action Plan, and had copies of their publication at the conference for sale. You can buy copies here. They approached their EDAP as a narrative, weaving together stories of transition into a delightful, easy-to-read, colorful document that everyone in the community could understand and be drawn into. They were inspired by the visionary mapping project of Bioneers: “Dreaming New Mexico: Dreaming the Future Can Create the Future” and looked to build something similar, a “future map” of Forest Row.

One of the main lessons they learned in pulling their EDAP together, was the importance of managing relationships. They found that they were taking care of people’s communication and trust needs most of the time, and that it was essential to get very clear on people’s roles and responsibilities, and to cultivate diplomacy throughout the process. It was critical that people were able to “own” the way the vision for their community was communicated.

The Totnes EDAP is still very much a work in progress. Like Forest Row, they are developing their EDAP as a story telling document, but unlike Forest Row, Totnes is building their EDAP as a research document filled with hard data. Both Rob and Jacqi Hodgson, the Totnes EDAP Project Co-ordinator, gave a comprehensive, fact-filled PowerPoint presentation, which they promised to upload to their website in the very near future. Watch this space!

Interestingly, the Totnes EDAP has been inspired and informed by Oil Independent Oakland’s Action Plan from 2008, which indicates how the US is at the forefront of the Great Transition.

The second workshop I attended on the Transition Web Project, was a series of mini-presentations made by members of the Transition Network web team. They have been working  hard on the development of an international “platform” that the global community of Transitioners can use and benefit from. It’s a momentous task, and I was impressed at the scope and breadth of Ed Mitchell’s presentation. I was also pleased to learn that they have decided to work with Drupal for the next phase of development, since that is our platform here at Transition US, and we are keen to ensure that our work integrates in the long-term.

If you want to find out more about the web project, including the downloads of their presentations from the conference, then please visit the Workspace for Transition Network Web Project here at Wiser Earth.

Other highlights from the conference included the In Transition Movie Premiere, which was met with mixed reviews. On the one had it received a standing ovation, and on the other hand it was criticized for not being representative of the Transition movement, for being too “white”, and for being too UK-centric.

Overall, the food was fabulous, the people fantastic, and the atmosphere was charged to the brim with ideas, inspiration and wisdom. We live in extraordinarily challenging times, but the Transition Movement is meeting this challenge with its own extraordinary message of hope.

I left the conference nourished by the knowledge that I was part of something much larger than myself. Something powerful. An opportunity to engage in a collective vision of the future that could sustain us through dark times. A dream of the world as it could be, as it was meant to be: vibrant, abundant and resilient.

I am proud to be part of such a dream.

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