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Let it go where it needs to go

In early writings about the Transition movement, one of the guidelines was to "Let it go where it needs to go." Don't attempt to control the growth of your budding initiative or local group. Allow it to develop -- "organically" if you will -- however it needs to.  Given the unique dynamic between individuals on our initiating core teams, given the particular issues in our local communities, given the preexisting status of transition-oriented activity around us, what needs to happen next in one locale has been quite different from what needs to happen next in another.

I've already written about the early development of Transition activity here in the greater L.A. area. (part I, part II) At this point in time, our city hub is a little over 2.5 years old. Next month will mark 3 years since the initial public gathering when we first began using the word "Transition" for what we have been doing in the initiating group since 2005.

In these three years, Transition action in L.A. has grown from one active local group with a pretty little food garden, to a city hub (TLA) plus eight-going-on-eleven active local groups holding public meetings under the banner of the Transition movement.

More about TLA structure (word docx); TLA map circa Dec 2008; TLA map today

WORKING GROUPS

Here in L.A. "Let it go where it needs to go" has meant that working groups pop up where they need to, operate for a while so long as there is participant interest, and then organically evolve into whatever they need to become next. We have discovered that working groups, rather than being plugged into some predesignated place on the org chart, work best when they are allowed to form spontaneously from groups of interested individuals.

Right now we have some topic-focused working groups at the local group level. For instance Transition Mar Vista/Venice has a strong interest in sustainable health care. Thus they are creating events and gatherings around that topic. They offer Community Wellness Mondays which are gatherings of local alternative medicine practitioners. They have published articles on sustainable health care in regional magazines.  They host visitng speakers from various alt med modalities.

Designations of "hub" versus "local" seem to blur when we consider the Inner Transition working group. Its core people are from two adjoining local groups, so is this geography-based or city-hub-based? (Since we don't run a formal org chart, we don't worry about it.)  They host events together, alternate sites for meetings, and bring in wisdom speakers.  They also do quite a lot of outreach into "faith based activism" groups and the broader interfaith communities.

The Transition Enterprise working group grew out of a gathering which was thrown open to area-wide participation. Thus one could say that on an org chart the Transition Enterprise working group is a "city hub level" working group. This group is exploring the concept of what business and/or social enterprise might be like within a Transition context.

At the city hub we maintain a Speaker's Bureau -- in a way this team is an "Outreach" working group at the hub level.  There is also a "subcommittee" of people who field media requests ("Media" working group).

Recently some new participants expressed interest in forming a legal committee focused on preventing legislative roadblocks to the path of Transition. Since they are from diverse geographies, perhaps this is a city hub level working group.

Another important team/subcommittee/"working group" at the city hub level is the Crosspollinators. These are individuals who attend the meetings of multiple local groups, crosspollinating ideas. They carry ideas from one group to the next and help knit the relationships between the various sites. This job evolved years ago when the area was first starting several local groups and we had one person who liked to attend many if not all of the meetings. This proved to be very useful, so we have tried to continue the practice, giving it a title and welcoming the Crosspollinators to core team meetings for feedback on what they have experienced.

The local groups each seem to have their own unique spirit/vibe/atmosphere.  Transition Mar Vista/Venice, with their emphasis on healing arts and Inner Transition, tends to be warm and nurturing.  NELA (Northeast LA) is demonstrating more artistic tendencies.  Westchester does a lot with food and gardens.  Transition South Bay LA works with and co-hosts events with many other local activist groups in a coalition style. Transition Culver City (located in a small city nestled within the folds of L.A.) has a strong interest in working with local government. The Inglewood group is working with a school.  Transition Culver City seems to be forming an interest in watershed, while the geographically-flat Transition South Bay LA area has offered several events on the topic of bicycling.

PROJECTS

Two of our local groups, Transition San Fernando Valley and WATIF (Whittier) have formed local time banks. The NELA group works closely with a time banking group which somewhat overlaps with the Transition group but not exactly. A time bank was formed in the Transition Mar Vista/Venice and Transition Culver City geography by an individual who came from outside the Transition group.  Transition members joined and use it although the time bank itself isn't "run by" the Transition group. By contrast, Transition San Fernando Valley uses the time bank they created to run all their Transition operations, including reskilling workshops and more. In the Westchester area, a LETSystem was created 1.5 years ago, it operated for a short while, then died a slow death from lack of cheerleaders dedicated to that specific cause.

Other projects at local levels: nearly every local group is involved in some sort of food gardening project. Three local groups have active food redistribution programs. Spin-offs from the Transition Mar Vista/Venice garden have included a Seed Library.

We're just getting started on the EDAP for L.A. so that will soon become a big project at the city hub level.

One of the initial "projects" -- if you want to call it that -- of our city hub has been mentoring new local groups. To this end, we now have designated volunteers who can take new local initiators under their wing and answer questions, help troubleshoot, and share experiences and what worked/didn't work from the varied history of the local groups we have thus far.

The Whittier group is mentoring budding activities in not-so-nearby Pomona, yet since Whittier is the closest active local group to Pomona, they have taken it on. Transition South Bay LA splits events between two sites which are miles from each other. Thus they are helping to grow pockets of Transition action in both the Beach Cities/Manhattan/Redondo/Hermosa area and the Palos Verdes area.

Both Transition South Bay LA and Transition San Fernando Valley operate within enormous territory/geography. Each of these Transition groups go forward with the ongoing understanding that they will one day be more like hubs themselves with subgroups within the various neighborhoods of their current territory. Yet for now it works for them to be a gathering place for like-minded people, some of whom have to drive distances to meet with each other.

Additionally, as a "regional" network of hub and multiple local groups, we're trying to become more aware of what other groups are doing, with the realization that we don't have to do it all.  Plenty is already underway.  Our networking efforts strive to bring triple-crisis awareness into other groups so that we can work in partnership rather than duplicating the work.

CORE TEAM (S)

The TLA city hub coordinates communication between the local groups. The city hub has a core team -- about 25 people from among those who are actively involved in leading a local Transition group. They're together on a GoogleGroup and from this virtual communication they coordinate events, arrange to fill requests from outside groups for Transition speakers, and handle other city hub tasks. Representatives from this core group (it has never been the full group of 25) get together at monthly leadership meetings. There they touch base about what is going on in local pods, troubleshoot leadership issues, and give each other encouragement and support.

The city hub core team recently set aside a whole day for a TLA Retreat to reflect on our future direction. The 30+ attendees throughout the day included core team members and representatives from nearby non-L.A. groups.

In seven of our eight active local groups there is some semblance of a core team / steering group. In most cases the local core team meets regularly to strategize group direction.

THE "RIGHT" DIRECTION?

The Westchester group, where all this Transition action began almost 6 years ago, doesn't technically have a core team. Since that's my home turf, I used to worry about that a lot.

Event and project ideas in the Westchester area of L.A. are spearheadded by one of three people and from there we find volunteers to staff it and make things happen. Periodic efforts to gather more Westchester leaders have thus far failed -- we've held "leadership meetings" hoping to draw Westchester faces, which resulted in no-shows or in people coming from other areas to gain coaching in how to start a new group in their local geography.  From Westchester residents we seem to get participants and project leaders but not core group leaders.

But a few months ago I came to peace with this.  Westchester is doing a lot -- it merely isn't following the same track that the other areas seem to be. Westchester is project-based. There are lots of different projects going on here. Christine B and her informal team run one community garden with weekly workdays. Christine T and her larger team are building a second, 1 acre garden which will have public plots and a school garden. Christine B, Peter and Margie run a local harvest redistribution program which collects excess backyard fruit. There have been art and drum series. John and I offer ongoing vegetable gardening classes. Peter offers a great site where the city hub often hosts events. We do group purchasing periodically throughout the year. Peter hosts an Inner Transition series once a quarter or so. We seem to have plenty of participants and attendees; we have plenty of name recognition and our presence is known to all the local politicians and activists.

In a way, Westchester kind of has a "core team" -- all the people who lead all the different projects. They just don't gather together for "core team meetings"! Plenty is happening, thus "Let it go where it needs to go" would logically dictate: It's okay. Give it time. The core team part will come along when it's right. Meanwhile isn't it funny that a group can be so successful when it has backed into all of this, in a fashion so different from the "typical" Transition model?

There seem to be many ways to get Transition-type action started.  The Transition US and Transition Network models describe some of the more common ways.  But through the wide variety that makes up "Transition in L.A." it is clear there are as many ways to approach this Great Turning process as there are groups that are doing it.

 

Joanne Poyourow is widely regarded as the initiator of Transition action in Los Angeles.  She co-founded the Environmental Change-Makers community group, which became the initiating group for the Transition Los Angeles city hub.  Joanne continues to keep her fingers (and wrists and elbows and shoulders...) in the pie as the TLA city hub grows.  Joanne's recent projects have included a white paper on "Economic Resilience: What We Can Do in our local communities."  An index to the online portions of "Economic Resilience" is here. 

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