Like Heineken you might hope that the Transition Network refreshes the parts others cannot reach.
“What,” I ask a random Transitioner at a monthly meeting, “has the Transition Network done for you?”
There is a long silence, which, remembering my teacherly training on “take up time” I do not interrupt. Eventually, somewhat timidly she says,
“What’s the Transition Network?”
A lovely summer afternoon in a neighbouring seaside town. The little park is covered with tents and bunting for the annual carnival, a band is playing, children dance and the Occupy free shop is doing a rare trade. Generously sharing their tent with Occupy is a baby Transition group, with cake and compost, plants and leaflets and recognising me, they tell me all the news. There’s a bit of a problem with some aspect of the new growing project so I burble enthusiastically about a helpful article I’ve seen in the Transition Newsletter.
“Where’s that?” they say.
Don’t imagine it’s all ignorance. I fare better when I talk to some old hands on the Lancaster Transition scene. So what has the Transition Network done for them? After the mandatory gap for thinking, everyone starts by saying they don’t use the Network much, apologetically, as though like Bible reading for the evangelist, a daily dose of the Network would make us better at spreading the word. Not much really …
Except the wealth of information – people were agreed on that, how you could go on the site and find out about transition related topics, courses, other initiatives, jump off to articles, research, and opinion.
An “amazing archive” one person said, “If you want to research an idea you’ve heard of at Conference or follow up some training.”
At its best the site has a sense of bubbling activity, many, many people willingly contributing their time to contribute their personal stuff they know and have found out about Transition. One member of our Steering Group has quietly made it her job to check over the Transition site every week or two, select interesting, apt articles and email out the links to individuals and groups who are working in the same area.
"We are like bees in the TN hive as someone put it, most Transition-like, we come back with our nectar and it’s there for everyone to share."
It needs to be dynamic: it needs to flow so more prosaically, I say hat’s off to the team that keeps the TN site up to date and makes the selection of articles and links and then ensures that they are working so all the information is available. If you do much researching yourself you soon find how frustrating it is when even quite prestigious sites are out of date and difficult to use.
"It’s the connecting that’s important,"
someone else told me, in the midst of a conversation about how we find a new venue for our Sewing Café, now the Library has to charge “market rates”. What she meant was that when she looked on the site she was often after the answer to a problem and through the site she had been able to find names of experts, email addresses or websites and from there to actual people. Unfailingly, she’d found the “actual people” had been generous over email or “brilliantly helpful” by phone and several of them had then come to Lancaster.
What else did the Network ever do for us? Well there’s the inspiration … A number of the people I spoke to were looking for “where next” as individuals, but more often for their group or in the case of Steering Group members, the whole initiative. Lancaster Transition has just set up as a CIC and the germ of inspiration for that came from finding out on the Network what other groups were doing. For some people the fact that others all over the world are doing great things with food and growing or Reconomy or renewable energy arouses a can do spirit, maybe even a healthy sort of competitiveness. The “ordinariness” of the other people involved, the fact that there is no hype, was also commented on.
"If they can do it, we can do it".
Personally I’d say the new online Transition Companion is one of the greatest things on the TN site. The Education Group I belong to is going through the chapters meeting by meeting, talking through the content, giving each other a few short notes to sum up the section. It’s a great way to ground us in the ideas we may have forgotten and to evaluate where we have got to on our Transition journey. I am a bit hooked on going through the online links in each chapter and getting to some stuff that isn’t in the book. A bit of me wants to say that is sad but another bit of me gets just plain excited about the world it opens up and wants to recommend it to all of you out there. Especially if you haven’t tried the Companion yet.
My most trenchant commentator seldom went directly to the Transition site, preferring to read the Energy Bulletin because,
"It picks the best stuff off the Transition site for me. Great blog today about the Transition Network …"
He would count himself as one of the people who “dig and talk and make stuff” so what he wants from the site is just a quick research tool. A brief bit of support, maybe a sense of the pitfalls to a new line of development. Like most of the people I spoke to it was a matter of:
"I just don’t have the time."
Were there criticisms of the TN site? Few. It’s not visually exciting though it is getting better. It can be a bit “All things bright and beautiful” and not acknowledge the problems in Transition though it’s getting better. It doesn’t quite capture the grind in Transition and the way “There is never a quick fix” . If we live up to our values there should be more ways than a simple comment box for Transition members to make an impact on the site – it seems very controlled. It could do more for our training needs than details of courses and the Companion because unless you are pretty literate and patient it is difficult to “teach yourself Transition” using the site. As an ex teacher, that is one of my criticisms too. Instead of the current article I imagine some great 2 minute cartoon introduction that pops up when you hit “What is Transition?” and a series of fun interactive quizzes at different levels for people new to Transition as a way of introducing ideas, useful stats, key people. That way I might not have gone round in a fog for 12 months wondering what the movement was all about. That way all those new Transitioners I mentioned at the beginning of this blog might be using the site themselves.
So what has the Transition Network done for us? Well it has given us the Network site and more like Guiness than Heineken we’re agreed up here its’s:
Good for you.
No-one in my small research group mentioned the people that are truly the Transition Network, an interesting conundrum and one that will be explored later in the week.
Pictures: Transition Network logo, Transition Companion. (both Transition site) Bread rising (Youtube), Energy Bulletin logo