Transition Scotland’s (TS) 2016 annual gathering was held on September 10th and 11th. This year it was hosted by Transition Black Isle in the beautiful village of Cromarty. Based at the Old Brewery run by Cromarty Arts Trust, we ventured firstly to the Cromarty Community Market which provided us with an excellent learning exchange around how to run community markets, as well as tasty local produce, plants, and crafts.
In the afternoon there was an Open Space discussion around different aspects of the question: "How can we, as a national movement, be more effective in facilitating a move to a low-impact lifestyle?". It was followed by a delicious pot-luck dinner and plenty of chat and getting to know each other - as always - probably the most important part of the weekend!
The Sunday was spent walking around Cromarty, learning more about the local history of how the area around the Cromarty Firth had gone through its own transition from crofting, fishing, hemp production, brewing, sea-borne trading, oil rig construction and now looking over to Nigg where wind turbines are being constructed. . This provided us with time for informal brainstorms giving birth to exciting future ideas and projects which may be a part of Cromarty’s future. Who knows....
Reflections from visitors and TBI’ers.
It was exciting and inspiring sitting round a big table in the Old Brewery in Cromarty, hearing from 25 folk who were involved in transitioning Scotland one way or another.
Everyone's take is different, everyone has a different story to tell, but when we started pitching our ideas for the conversations we wanted to have in the Open Space session, there were lots of overlaps. People wanted to speak about how we broaden our message and appeal; about the different groups of people who're currently not involved in Transition and how to engage with them; about the way that humans relate internally and to others and how we can listen to one another and treat each other more mindfully; and about how we can inspire and draw people in with positive projects... This very loose, informal Open Space worked very well for me: I had exactly the conversation I'd been looking for, even though I hadn't flagged up in the initial go-round. The bit I was most interested in was whether and how TS could look at developing policy asks:
The question in my head was: What policies would be the most supportive of the work we're doing in our communities - what would uniquely 'transition' policies be?
The ideas we came up with included:
Since then, I've been pondering and also think we need one that deals with fast tracking lowering greenhouse emissions like the TEQs or others discussed by Holyrood 350 aimed at pricing carbon out of the economy and one on shifting our land management to restorative systems, which will both give us some more time to make the other changes and also change our relationship to the land.
I've took on to have a conversation with SCCAN about whether they could have a session on policy at their next gathering and also if this is a conversation they could help develop within Scottish Communities Network (and more widely). But I would also like to make sure that those within the wider Transition Network have opportunities to think together about this. Vanessa and Thessa both said this is something they're specially interested in too. If it is of interest to anyone else - do let me know - I'll be getting together with others to set up online or real life contexts to do this in soon.
It's always refreshing and energising to hear from others around the country, whether they're talking about their successes or their difficulties, what comes over is how much they care, how dedicated and creative they are and their warmth and good heartedness.
Overall for me, there was a feeling that a new movement was coalescing - or re-coalescing in Scotland. A more mature, broader, more inclusive movement, with a stronger agenda of reaching out pro-actively to other groups to share our experience and listen to theirs and a new willingness use the authority that comes with taking responsibility for your own locality to engage at every level. Very exciting and hopeful!
I came to the gathering in Black Isle mostly with questions around how/if we organise ourselves nationally. What I enjoyed most was meeting and speaking with Transitioners from some different areas, and really getting that feeling that we may be involved in different groups, but we are still together and pulling in the same direction. Somehow sitting around a table together induces this more than long email chains…
In the Open Space I got the opportunity to explore my questions more in depth: How do we form a national hub without taking energy away from the local initiatives? What we seem to be arriving at in Transition Scotland is a loosely knit together group within the formal framework of SCCAN that can be open and responsive to whatever the energy of the individual groups is. But we need to do that without losing accountability or congruence in terms of communication between international and local levels, making sure we are transparent enough to facilitate people getting involved in the area/level they want. What does that look like practically?
We agreed that the www.transition.scot website is a very important tool, and encourage all Scottish Transition groups to make sure they have up to date information there. But there is also huge value in meeting face to face and being able to exchange ideas and best practice. We had an excellent example of that in Cromarty, where the visit to the local market provided plenty food for thought for other Transitioners organising community markets back home. It was very simple to organise and more accessible than if it was written up in yet another document. I would find it hugely successful if Transition Scotland could be instrumental in organising one such visit per year, where Transitioners from all over the country can experience the activities and challenges of a specific group.
Thank you very much to Transition Black Isle for pioneering!
One of the conversations I found most interesting was around why there are not many new Transition groups forming in Scotland. Are we only geared towards supporting a vision of Transition that a certain “generation” of Transitioners can identify with? We did agree that some people may be more motivated by the urgency to be a response to the collapses brought about by Peak Oil and Climate Change, and others by the conviction that a Transition lifestyle leads to a happier, more fulfilled, and incidentally also more sustainable, life. How can we address both those agendas?
This, and indeed most useful conversations and exchanges for me, happened during the (remarkably) tasty potluck dinner in the evening and the walk around Cromarty on Sunday morning. This chance for informal conversations and getting to know each other more personally opened many new doors and led to some good ideas being formed. I think that is an important learning for any future events, especially as some of the participants left and missed out on it!
I left Cromarty and the Black Isle feeling energised and inspired, and grateful to have some new Transition friends to stay connected with. Probably we will visit each other soon again, and that, if anything, seems like a good basis for a national network!
As convenor of Transition Black Isle it felt a bit as I had multiple roles to play - making sure everything ran smoothly, ensuring a warm welcome for our guests and learning something useful myself. I should maybe also say, I have mixed feelings about networking events; there's almost always something useful to be learnt, but there's a limit to how many new ideas I can cope with!
In the event, any concerns I had about the warm welcome and the smooth running were quickly forgotten - as usual, there were plenty of TBI members taking the initiative. As far as new ideas are concerned, I had a long chat with Alan on Saturday night where it seemed we were solving all the Transition world's problems, but by the morning I wasn't so sure! (perhaps the beer was taking effect by then :-) - ed) And strangely it may have been some comments I didn't understand at the time which have been preying on my mind since the weekend . These were part of the feedback from Maria's open space group, and related to “old fashioned” groups set up around 2009. Now TBI was set up in 2009, and most of our active members are over 50, but I hadn't thought of us as old fashioned.
There was also a suggestion that Transition groups could offer some kind of internship for young people, and I've now put 2 + 2 together - maybe we could offer board, lodging, some training and professional support, for young adults to come and help us out, to mutual benefit? TBI did this, on a very informal basis, with a new graduate from the USA last year, and there were great benefits to both sides. I'm not 100% sure this would make us new fangled (the opposite of old fashioned?) but I think it would help. Maybe Transition Scotland could take on the idea and develop a structure that could be used by all of us?
Apart from this big idea, there were some other things that need more thought, and others again which will probably lie fallow for a while but may burst into life when something else makes them more relevant. And if I'm honest, quite a lot of the stuff we talked about late on Saturday night was probably rubbish! (definitely the delicious local beer talking towards the end - alan)
But I think it's good to talk rubbish with like-minded, positive people every now and then.
After the Gathering a few of us thought of some links that might be of interest to members of Transition groups across Scotland.