Bring yourself… nothing more

For the first 24 months or so I was in a panic. How could I lead a community group and ‘get’ local people thinking about a future beyond oil. I didn’t have a clue what to do. I had no experience in running community groups. I was just a writer.

I know. It’s painful how obvious it is now. But it wasn’t until I spoke to a fellow Transitioner from Stroud that the penny finally dropped. It still took a while though.

My day job resides in the friendly bosom of a marketing department for Britain’s first and foremost green energy company. I write copy for websites, customer communications and anything else that’s thrown at me. It’s an interesting and varied post.

I can’t believe it took me so long to realise that this is what I could bring to Transition.

I thought I had to be some kind of ‘magical’ leader. But now I know that all it takes is to bring myself to Transition and be a stand for it succeeding locally.

So what have I brought? Well, I’ve started a Facebook page, published a new website at http://www.transitioncamdursley.org.uk and distributed posters around town. It’s what I know – and right now it’s exactly what Transition Cam & Dursley needs.

What could you bring?

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What took me so long?

It’s been ages since I last posted – August 2011, I’m ashamed to say. And why the sudden interest again? Well, last weekend I [finally] went to Totnes where the Transition movement pretty much began, for the ‘How to get a Transition initiative going’ training.

This involved an early, early journey down the M5 on Saturday morning with my friend, and fellow Transitioner, Jennie. And when we arrived through the door, we met 11 other like-minded souls from across the country. We all got the low down on peak oil and climate change and how they create the need to transition. Then we learnt practical and easy ways to run meetings, structuring ourselves, answering or finding answers to the difficult questions people undoubtedly ask us Transitioners and creative ways to raise awareness and work with people in our local community. Never forgetting the golden principles of retaining a positive vision and having F.U.N.

The weekend would’ve been worth every penny at the end of day one. But after an evening of delicious Indian food, an earlyish child-free night (yay – how sad am I now) and breakfast in our B&B, Sunday arrived.

Day two was an entirely different kettle of fish. An amazing kettle of fish that looked into something called ‘inner transition’ – the process of journey people go through when they realise that our modern lifestyle is unsustainable. I won’t go into what else we did here. But, trust me, it was amazing and deep.

Jennie and I left Totnes with a genuine sense of pride that ‘we are some of the ones bringing Transition to our community’. We also got some really good ideas and the perfect structure to really get things going where we live and to inspire more people to get involved.

One thing we learnt this weekend is that we need to focus on getting our initiating group formed. Ploughing on with just a few of us will undoubtedly lead to stress and almost certainly burn someone out.

Burn-out happens easily when you’re intent on ‘saving the planet’. But the finishing mantra from Sophy and Hamid, our trainers, was the total importance of looking after ourselves.

So, when I left the weekend, I left not only wanting to care for my community, but wanting to take care of me too.

If you’re thinking of getting a Transition group off the ground where you live or your struggling a bit – and you haven’t  been to Totnes for the training I can’t recommend it enough. Go on, be kind to yourself.

I don’t know exactly what happened down there in magical Totnes. But from the moment I returned home and walked through my own front door up until right now (a week later) I’ve felt so peaceful. I think Jennie has too.

I know everything is going to be OK now.

Right now, there’s a group of people out there – living their lives – who will soon meet and complete Transition Cam & Dursley’s initiating group. And, thanks to my training weekend in Totnes, I won’t be too jaded, tired or stressed out to thoroughly enjoy meeting them.

Looking forward to meeting you guys 😉

Being in Transition

Launching Transition Dursley feels like stepping back into the dating world. It’s full of excitement, self-doubt and spurts of passion. People come along and check it out. And if they like what they see they come back for more. If not they don’t.

Our first meeting felt like a bit like a first date. I was really nervous no one would come or that too many would show up. We booked the community room above Dursley Fire Station and in the end half a dozen or so people showed up. We showed them a short film about the Transition movement. Then everyone split off into groups and moved around the room writing their thoughts down on giant flipcharts about the kind of place Dursley is for them and what could be done to improve life for the community. It was nice and relaxed.

The second meeting was a lesson in itself. I didn’t email the invite out until the week beforehand. I ruffled a few feathers over that one. And I kicked myself… a lot. Luckily, I managed to slay some minor demons that had had me believing I wasn’t responsible enough to form a Transition group – or anything else for that matter. But once I realised that being a leader doesn’t mean doing it all yourself things became a lot easier.

Only four of us were at that second meeting. But it was magical. We really got to grips with the kind of projects that could boost Dursley. Like many communities the district has an abundance of people already doing fantastic things. But much of it happens in isolation. People are so busy that they simply don’t get a chance to talk. So we chatted about how great it would be if Dursley had a community newspaper that is owned by the community and produced for the community. As an idea it has been knocking around for a while. But if Transition Dursley can help to nurture it into being that would be a real achievement. Around this time we also received an invite to attend Dursley Festival and so we talked about the kind of things we’d like to do there.

Things were really starting to take shape now and by the time meeting number three came along things really started happening. A lady called Liz Green – the founder of a community paper in a neighbouring town called Nailsworth News ¬– came along as our special guest and shared her dos and don’ts for setting up a community newspaper. And as we go to print plans are afoot for us to make a short film at Dursley festival in partnership with another local organisation. We hope to capture residents talking about what they like about living here, what frustrates them and the one thing that could improve life in Dursley.

It’s great that Transition is starting to take off here. But I’m under no illusions that we are still very much in the honeymoon period. This week I heard that a neighbouring town’s group folded due to too many disagreements between members. It’s a sobering thought and something we need to learn from. But I’m an optimist at heart so I’m still wishful that Transition Dursley is ‘the one’ for me.

Transition Dursley’s next meet up

Great news. Our next meeting will be on 14 June in the Community Room at Dursley Firestation. All are welcome. Liz Green will be visiting from Nailsworth to talk about the community newspaper, Nailsworth News. We have been thinking wouldn’t it be great to start something like this in Dursley. We’ll also be chatting about this year’s Dursley Festival and how we plan to be part of it. Please email transitiondursley@gmail.com if you want to come along.

Making the Transition

When my husband and I moved to Dursley in Gloucestershire, eleven months ago, we had a four-month-old baby and three-year-old son in tow. Sleep deprivation does funny things but add the stress of moving and it felt like normal Rachel was still packed away in one of the removal boxes under the stairs.

In our last house we recycled, painted our walls with chemical free paint, put our boys in washable and biodegradable nappies, composted, grew food and generally felt like we were making a difference. Ironically, it was when we moved to a new-build eco house that things went pear shaped.

Think global; act local is a great slogan. But as mother of two small boys the thinking global bit had started to weigh heavy. Getting through each day before crawling into bed at night left no time for me, let alone the planet.

Then about four months ago things started to change. Normal Rachel started to re-emerge and as she did so some chance conversations led me to the Transition movement. I had been aware of Transition for a few years ­– I knew it was something to do with climate change, peak oil and towns – and when a friend suggested that if no local group existed then maybe I should set one up it seemed like a good idea.

But first I needed to know what I was letting myself in for. So my first port of call was The Transition Handbook – from oil dependency to local resilience by founder Rob Hopkins, which I read from cover to cover.

Many of us are aware of the threats climate change poses (food and water shortages etc) but peak oil is a lesser-known quantity. Simply put, there’s only so much oil in the ground that’s extractable and one day soon we will get to the point when we have extracted more than is left. From then onwards oil will become scarcer and prices will soar. So where does that leave us? Doesn’t our world infrastructure rely on oil?

Hopkins’ calls this realisation the ‘End of suburbia’ moment. But instead of leaving us high and dry he guides us gently through a 12-step plan for turning our local community into a Transition-ing one.

Step one involves forming a steering group that will take steps two to five together. This involves raising awareness of peak oil and climate change, networking, unleashing Transition to the wider community and forming working groups (such as food, transport, business, energy, health etc). At stage five the original group disbands and one person from each working group forms the new steering group.

So here I am at step one, putting feelers out locally for half a dozen or so like-minded souls in Cam and Dursley. Slowly and surely people are starting to come forward including a local sustainable energy expert. Him and I are now are busy planning our first meeting. Our Transition neighbors in Stroud have lent us a DVD to show at the meeting and given me some much needed advice.

And an amazing thing is happening. As each person comes forward I can feel the weight of the world lifting off my shoulders. So I am rewriting the slogan. For me it’s ‘Think local; Act local’ because when you do the global bit takes care of itself.

For more information visit http://www.transitionnetwork.org