The Transition Network conference this year was held in rural Devon in the South of England at a former agricultural college called Seale-Hayne.  From September 18th through the 20th 350 participants from 35 countries came together to explore Transition, learn from one another, and share their hopes and dreams for real community resilience in their own country’s towns and cities. Seale-Hayne is nestled amidst rolling hills in a plump green lushness that I have not seen in California since before our drought began four years ago. Each day when the soft drizzle or light rain graced us I would just stand under it enraptured and imagine California feeling this wondrous moisture too. Instead, I found out that the Valley Fire that began just before I left (and now 2 ½ weeks later is 97% contained) burned down a town and 76,000 acres just north of where I live in Sebastopol.

It was sobering to be at the conference in its greenness and moisture yet know that my state along with much of the western US was peppered with blazing fires. Ample reason to underscore why we were all meeting together to put our heads together around building real tangible resilience in all of our respective locales.

The main Conference: The main conference opened Friday evening with an acapella choir leading us from the courtyard to the Great Hall. Saturday offered a lot of facilitated workshops to choose from (Sociocracy 3.0, Reclaimed Food Café, Creative Facilitation, Setting up a Community Owned Renewable Energy Company, Conflict as Possibility, Indigenous Arising, Telling the Transition story, Systemic change, Reinventing Democracy, Community Land Trusts, REconomy, and even a global webcast). For a flavor of the many more workshops see here.

To weave in the on-site participants with others in Transition across the globe a Global Webcast took place Saturday late afternoon. As part of the hosting and production team, I met with other team members (Tanja from Denmark, Issa from Brazil, Naresh from Totnes, and Filipa from Belgium) in several meetings to plan the execution of this first time endeavor. We worked with a technical production staff. The result was a live webcast through the Transition Network website, with incoming Skype conversations/twitter responses/and streams of instant chat. Participants and responders from Australia, Denmark, the US, Japan, and many other locales joined us along with a live studio audience, presenters from the conference, and hosts turning to the audience for questions or the social media sphere for comments. Very dynamic!

Saturday night was an international dance party. Participants in the National Hubs Gathering (more on that to come) were asked to bring their favorite music from their respective countries and these were seamlessly delivered by a DJ to a packed house. As the music changed from one country to the next so did the movements, centers of gravity shifted, and different parts of the room came particularly alive. It was mesmerizing, captivating, joyful and heartrendingly beautiful.

Sunday started with a comedic boost – the most engaging and informative spoof of open space I have ever witnessed. Maggie Seeley from Transition Albuquerque, New Mexico, was a flight captain getting us ready for take-off. Three flight attendants (all from different countries) decked out with upturned paper bowls on their heads led us through the emergency procedures (aka open space instructions: law of 2 feet, it starts when it starts/it ends when it ends, those who participate are the perfect ones, and of course the bee and butterfly contingents that either buzz around cross-pollinating or gently alight together in fruitful side conversations). These instructions were accompanied by coordinated hand gestures and plenty of laughter. And then we began. 350 people created ~60 sessions over the course of 2 cycles. There were sessions looking at welcoming the Syrian refugees (as portrayed by the people in Belgium in this very sweet short video), organizing around COP21 in Paris, doing Transition in huge cities (I participated in this one with people from Hong Kong, London, Sao Paulo Brazil, and Bangkok), Building Capacity, and, well, 55 more.

Here is one group pic from the conference, a link to the emerging story, and Rob Hopkins’ blog post about the conference.

The National Hubs Gathering: The national hubs gathering hugged the conference and in my memories, this gathering hugged me as well. It started Thursday night and ran Friday then again on Monday and Tuesday. The 50 attendees were from 26 countries and all have a national Transition Hub or are in various stages of forming one. The Philippines, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Australia and the US were participants from farthest afield with a generous array from Europe including Latvia, Croatia, and Romania. A rich tapestry of different cultures, languages, political regimes, and histories. The unifying factors, other than the Transition Movement, were the open-heartedness of the participants, and the deep listening that we all enjoyed together.

For the past few years, a strong intention and focus of the National Hubs gatherings has been on creating a real family feel, a genuine deepening of relationships, a view of the world through the eyes and experiences of others. Conversations/connections over lunches and dinners, outside under heat lamps, in the on-site pubs, and in various permutations/intensities/depths, were happening all of the time. People shared resources/ideas/future work plans, but mostly, a whole lot of heart. Being in this gathering with people from all over the world helped me realize how serious we tend to be in the US, how distracted we often are, and how far we can become removed from the essentials of real profound connection with our human family. The utter joy and fulfillment of the kind of connection experienced at the gathering is hard, in words, to relay. Suffice it to say, that there was real heart and soul at the gathering along with rolling-up our sleeves and getting down to work.

In this gathering we heard about the successes and challenges of Transition in all of the various countries (we’ll have more of a report on that soon). Together we began to get an overview of the scope of the work being done and of the political contexts various hubs are operating within. We spent time in open space sessions and practiced Sociocracyto set proposals and move them through a process where each adopted proposal will be convened by a working group over the course of this next year. Some of these working groups are:

·         The Exchange Group – researching what already exists in terms of sharing platforms, resources and possibly developing some structures and systems to fill the gaps.

·         Funding Group – sharing funding proposals across countries and possibly creating collaborative funding bids.

·         New Structure Group – create a democratic structure/process to meet the emerging needs of national hubs

·         Support Offer for National Hubs – along the lines of TN’s Support Offer for Transition Initiativesbut for national hubs.

·         And several other Working Groups too!

In Summary: This was a very full five days and nights, filled with the meeting of old friends and new, of very active listening, and lots of creative ideas. It will take me more time to digest all of the learning and be able to share it out. For now, I am diving back into my work here at Transition US with a strong intention to deepen relationships, further develop collaborative projects, and pick up where we left off with Transition Streets and its collaborative crowdfunding campaign (please support that if you can, and share it with others)!