One Year in Transition: becoming an international community of practice

March 31, 2016

NOTE: Images in this archived article have been removed.

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One Year in Transition (1YT) has been running in the UK for four years now. When we launched in September of 2012 we had a pretty clear idea that there was a large gap in education. A gap between the desire of students to use their course learning to bring about greater sustainability in whatever field they are studying, and the largely theoretical approach to learning they experience. A gap between entrenched ways of learning in siloes (geography, biology, maths etc.) and a desire to solve real-world problems in a joined-up way. A gap between the promise of jobs and the reality that jobs are very hard to find for youngsters these days. Gaps are good, they invite innovation, but the odd things about this gap is that almost no one I meet from the world of learning is talking about the fact that education is no longer fit for purpose. 

So the 1YT design team (myself and seven young adults) set ourselves the task of designing a learning experience that we would really benefit from and enjoy, knowing that imagining ourselves as the end users was a good guide to usefulness. It all became quite elaborate, imagining every detail, until we said: “enough, no more designing, lets just get a few basic ingredients in place and then make it work as we go along”. Those ingredients are first, a focus on inner transition alongside outer livelihood-creation, second that learning is done through personal connection to mentors of all kinds and their lived experience, and third that we embrace many ways of knowing from spread sheets to story-telling, from regenerative design to wild food foraging. 

In the UK we have seven young adults on the programme this year who come from around Europe, and one from Brazil. They are all in the process of creating their own Transition livelihood that is rooted in a place and community of their choice. There are four week-long meet-ups between September and July when there is space for reflection as well as intensive learning. In between everyone goes back to their day-jobs and applies the learning to the context they are in. Past students have gone on to be nature-based teachers, workers with wood, bakers, story-tellers who help businesses become sustainable, green conference and event organisers, food-growers and much more. They are now creating value in their chosen place and community: not always in a Transition group (there may not be one where they are) but they are seeding Transition values out into the world.   

For around two years now I have been supporting colleagues in other countries design One Year in Transition sister programmes, knowing that each place will need its own variant and that it is much better to export the programme than import students. Because we are now an international community of practice, each time 1YT takes root somewhere else we all benefit from new learning. Our meetings take place on Skype around once a month and we welcome new educators/facilitators in Transition who want to set up livelihood-creation programmes for young adults in their own country. We share the resources of 1YT UK, and now Portugal as that programme is now live, and look at the needs of young adults and the context the programmes are being designed into. 

Portugal launched their 6-month pilot Meio Ano em Transição with 8 students back in February and Sweden will launch their version in September. Youth unemployment in Portugal is currently officially at 30% (compared to 19% Sweden and 13% in the UK).

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However this figure masks the fact that every day in Portugal young adults are leaving the country because they see no future for them there, and those that stay struggle to find work at all, let alone work this is fulfilling of their own needs and the needs of their place and community. In Portugal the challenge is how to offer a programme that needs to be paid for in a country where people have very little spare money. Instead of asking for fees, the Portugal organisers ask students to provide the resources that make up the programme. And the organisers and tutors are giving their time voluntarily. 

In Sweden it is almost impossible to start a learning programme that is not offered through a Folk High School or another existing institution, because of the way that the education system works there. So a first priority for 1YT Sweden was to find a sympathetic Folk High School with some teaching quota slack that could be awarded to the 1YT programme. That allows students to apply for state funds to pay for the programme and provides an income for 1YT Sweden organisers and tutors. 

Sara Serrão explains how the first step in the São Luís area of Portugal where the course is now running was to look at what is already there and value it:

“We dared to imagine, and look at the place where we live, nurturing this looking with our dreams and gifts, and we decided to start walking. We see in São Luís the project Mandala Art Therapy by Filipa and Tiago, as well as creating children’s books by Carlota, the ethical catering of ReCo by Rita and Lucie, with Patricia’s art, and the consultancy services for planning in our region by Duarte. We see how these projects come together and contribute to ‘Casa Ser’, by Ana, that supports children and re-creates families.” 

Unlike in the UK, all the students come from the local area and are mainly young parents who are committed to revitalizing their place. In 1YT we ask each student when they arrive to map their own local place and community for what is already there, to look for hidden potential and how that can be realised, and to design from that basis. Each person is carrying a gift into the world and we help them find the sweet spot on the map that resonates for them. The 1YT international community of practice is excited to see how in Portugal regenerative design, livelihood creation, REconomy and 1YT are all being combined! In particular, we are looking closely at what emerges from this model of connecting learning to just one place. 

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Here is what Annelieke van der Sluijs (who with Sara Serrão and Ana Brazão has been co-leading the Portugal 1YT) has to say about the first meet-up in March:

“We were SO happy that we dared to start……. It was the invitation to come up with ideas for international REconomy projects that ignited our interest in developing the draft programme. And it was Isabel who was always there with her generous support. Sharing experience, materials, and above all, encouraging. Our participation in the international REconomy and 1YT groups is transforming from shring what happens in each country into a web of mutual support. Cristiano Bottone [Transition Italy] was present at our launch meeting of the programme".

With all the flexibility we encounter, and the Transition spirit of working with existing resources, we organically arrived at the decision to do a local pilot instead of rolling this programme out on a national level, as in the UK. After only one meet-up we can already say that this is such a lucky choice: resilience is happening on the spot, there is space for meetings in between, overlapping support networks, opportunities for the wider community to gradually become more involved. 

Most of our meet-up was made possible based on gift economy. The space, the meals, the lodging and the sessions, …… everybody involved contributed, and we could count on the support of our municipality. We had the pleasure to have Chris Bird from Transition Town Totnes with us on the third day, who kindly offered us a delicious lunch.  

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As a present from heaven, only one week before we started, we received a monetary gift from a private person via the Rainmaker Foundation. This person has an ongoing relationship with 1YT UK and the Transition movement. This is how we expressed to him the significance of his gift: ‘this came at the best possible moment. Your gift goes far beyond monetary value. You are bringing into life what we hoped could become reality, funding that comes from sincerely interested people with whom we can be in direct relationship. Receiving this energy is so different from formal funding!!!! With your gift coming in now, may it ripple in the whole way we can approach the financial base of 1YT Portugal.’” 

So you can see that we are pioneering new ways of freedom funding based on relationship as well as new ways of learning, place-sourced regeneration and getting young adults into work. If you want to join the international 1YT community of practice, or take the 1YT course in the UK, please contact me at For information on 1YT Portugal, send an e-mail to 

Isabel Carlisle: Transition Network Education Coordinator

Isabel Carlisle

Isabel Carlisle is a communicator, educator and large-scale project organiser. Her experience in the London art world (where her work included writing as an art critic for The Times and curating exhibitions at the Royal Academy) led her to set up and direct the Festival of Muslim Cultures that took place across Britain throughout 2006. Over 120 events in almost every conceivable art form brought audiences into contact with the Muslim world in order to build bridges of understanding between cultures. Isabel moved to South Devon in 2010 and created and led learning programmes for children and young adults with Transition Network. Since 2012 she has trained in Regenerative Development and Design with Regenesis.

Tags: Transition movement