Regional Gathering in Western Massachusetts

Thanks to Transition Trainer Tina Clarke for this recap!

On a cold, wintry night, Transition Initiators in Western Massachusetts gathered for our fourth Regional Gathering. On January 16, we came together to celebrate with local food, friendship, stories, and open space discussion groups! Members of the Initiating Group of Transition Wendell -- Shay, Judy, Alistair, Patty and Betsy – hosted 54 of us from 14 towns on both sides of the Connecticut River Valley. We filled the quaint, old Wendell Town Hall to the brim!

Wendell, Massachusetts is a remote “hilltown” in the woods of western Massachusetts. Getting there is a treck up winding roads up forested hills. In spite of impending snow, Transition Initiators old and new gathered to learn from each other and explore collaboration across our bioregion.

We began with socializing and a potluck -- a bountiful table of shared food and Patty’s delicious soup. We made a large circle of chairs, and introduced ourselves, sharing our reason for coming. Judy, Emily, Walter and others from Northfield, Massachusetts told the story of Transition Northfield’s Great Unleashing of the Collective Genius! If the video came out half-way decently, we’ll post their presentation on

Transition Regional Gathering

Then we did Open Space: We created small group discussions on topics of our own making using the questions:
How can we support each other in transitioning our communities? We had groups on “How do we get started?”, “How can we involve more of our neighbors in Transition?”, “How can we support health and aging in place?”, “How can we support the growth of local manufacturing?”, a “Stories of Resilience” video project for our region, and a “Heart and Soul” discussion.

Jono Neiger, a well-known Permaculture Designer and teacher in the northeast, and I shared information about the Transition Neighborhood resources I’ve created with three permaculture designers in our region – Jono, Steve Whitman and Keith Zaltzberg – and several other resource people for resilient living. Members of Transition Northampton and Transition Amherst asked to be the first communities to receive this program.

We then discussed ways of supporting each other in the region. We’re developing a web site of “Resource Groups” for Transitioning to resilience in our region. (Possibly limiting those listed to a one-day travel distance by boat, rail, bus or horseback/buggy! Keeping it local!) We’re initiating a Regional Council – a “Hub” of Official Transition Initiatives (and towns in progress). We’ll keep having Regional Gatherings. We’re going to ask the Northeast Organic Farming Association in MA to partner with us again this year and include a “Transition Track” of workshops at their big summer conference again this year. In addition, the Slow Living Conference in Brattleboro, Vermont, asked if we could partner with them to have a Transition Track of workshops. (We’ll do this at their three-day event on May 30, 31 and June 1.)

As an icy snow started to fall, we exchanged contact information, shook hands, hugged and left, in our car-pooling groups, into the beautiful night.

Change the vehicles, replace the oil burner with wood, insulate the old Town Hall, put a wind turbine on the neighboring hill, replace the plastic markers with paper ones, put a solar hot water panel on the roof to heat the water, and create a garden in the town common…and the scene could be the same in 20 years: caring people gathering, giving their skills and hearts to be a part of something bigger and good, discovering similar passions and creating projects -- creating good work together in service to the larger community, as we create new friendships and deepen old ones.

-Tina Clarke


Tina Clarke has been an advocate, educator, consultant, and director of nonprofit programs since 1985. She was recently a consultant with Bill McKibben's global initiative and the Sustainability Institute. She has been providing professional training and support for community leaders and campaigns for over 20 years.  In Washington, D.C. she directed national citizen advocacy training programs for faith communities, and directed Greenpeace USA's citizen activist network. She has consulted with over 400 NGOs on organizational development, public outreach, coalition-building, and energy and environmental issues.  In Massachusetts she directed a regional nonprofit assistance center, training leaders in strategic planning, fundraising, and organizational development. (read full bio)

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