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"You might not exist as a place in 20 years": Portalegre's inspiring response

This is a guest post from Filipa Pimentel, the Transition Network national hubs co-ordinator and she’s from Portugal. This is based on an email that she recently sent, and which I found moving and inspiring – so Filipa kindly agreed to share it with you…

Hi all,

I am going through a very intense process of change and I feel sometimes that I do not have all the time the space or opportunity to sit and share what I hold inside with you all, in a real space, not virtually. Anyway, I will share:

As you know, my country Portugal is struggling. Portalegre, where my Transition Initiative (Portalegre em Transição) is located,might be living in even worse conditions, I would say.

Portalegre is a very special place. I heard very often that people in Portalegre, maybe historically, always felt they should leave – no opportunities for the young to develop… I suppose that many of the young people with guts left. Then, big industry working with a very strong hierarchy stayed for several decades, employing almost all the population, whole families worked in this system for years. In the last 5-10 years a huge part of this industry closed down.


Portalegre, Portugal

I think that in this context, it is not surprising if people in this city seam to be so negative, lacking initiative, and why it is so difficult for people to feel empowered to do something. Portalegre em Transição has been working in this context and I must say that it has been a long road, and not always an easy one to ride on. We feel very proud of the developments we got from the work we developed until now, I have to admit.

I wonder many times, what to do when even some studies state that Portalegre in 20 years probably does not “exist” anymore? What can a Transition Initiative do when there is so much economic and social distress?

We have been exploring Transition in a context of gift economy, trying to rebuild the threads of community, trying to empower people aside of the classical market economy, in which Portalegre cannot compete. How can we do that? How difficult is that?


Signs of change?

I have been in contact with Charles Eisenstein since Gary Alexander invited me for a meeting in London, last year. Charles, together with a couple of other Portuguese friends and I decided that we needed to organise a conference in Portugal, regarding the deep crisis the country is living in. We thought it made sense to do it using a different concept: instead of choosing the place that would offer the best conditions for the classical participants and international speakers, the chosen place would be the one that would gain more, that would be, probably, the most fertile ground for change to happen. Yes, this is really what we aim at: CHANGE, not talk only…

So the big event will be in Portalegre! It was named AJUDADA. As we wanted change, we needed to put a process in place and a team of facilitators was formed. The Transition people in Portugal took the front line in what concerns the facilitation and sharing theory of change, BUT we DO NOT WANT to connect the event with one movement/organization – we wanted to be fully inclusive. It is important that change starts there – everybody is equally responsible and active part of the organization of the event – it will be the event of a whole community – the community empowers itself to influence how the future is heading.

I have been using everything I learned since I made the first contact with the Transition movement and since I joined the team of Transition Network.


Gathering community support

AJUDADA has been an incredible process, full of joy, amazement, surprise, and sometimes I feel so tired. The truth is all the pain I felt sometimes was ok and I found the right support in the group. It is amazing how it is unfolding. The hardest bit is the inner work – it is the most amazing as well.


Filipa Pimentel

Sometimes I feel it is a miracle… from 5 in the beginning, we grew to be more than 100 members of the organising team, from the community. We have active members, with specific tasks, from 14 to 82 years old.

Now I face a town that is in a revolution of awakening for a new perspective: the local university is changing the curricula, students have thesis on AJUDADA, doctorates are studying the process, new projects of community self-supporting are being launched, we have received more than 30 proposals for activities for the 3 days. There are people from Turkey, Netherlands, UK, France, Italy, US, etc. joining.

Here’s more information about AJUDADA in English and here we are on facebook.

Ajudada will happen 14-16 June, 2013. You know I would love you to join us, don’t you?

Thanks for this “space” of sharing,

Abraço forte, Filipa.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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