In these rapidly changing times, we thought it would be interesting to hear what is happening across Transition groups in Scotland, what challenges and opportunities they are facing, what has collapsed and what has emerged, and what potential they see for the future. Below is a summary of interviews conducted with 7 different Transition groups in October 2020, giving a snapshot, rather than a comprehensive overview, of the state of Transition in Scotland.
Do the interviews resonate with your experience, or do you have a different perspective? Join the Transition Scotland online gathering to discuss more, on January 9th, 9.30-12.30, on zoom. Sign up at https://ts9jan.eventbrite.co.uk.
What is happening locally?
As could be expected from groups set in different contexts across Scotland, they had vastly different stories of what has been happening locally. Some groups who had funding have continued to thrive despite Covid-19 and ensuing lockdowns, being able to channel resources and paid staff time into running online workshops, as well as urgent and rapidly budding community projects, such as redistributing supermarket waste food to food banks. The availability of experienced staff with time, resources, and community networks at their hands proved invaluable to respond to the sudden change in need from community projects.
Other groups have seen an increase in the so-called “Doughnut Effect”, where energy gravitates away from the core to specific practical projects, who take on a life of their own and the Transition group is left without a core strategic vision or coordination. With lockdown and furlough, an increase in interest in volunteering and getting outside to “get your hands dirty” seems to have encouraged this trend. This has even led to some Transition groups discontinuing or deciding simply to merge their still functioning practical projects with other organisations.
Others still have managed to embrace this time for reflection, increased strategic thinking and collaboration. A sudden surge in demand for local food and veg boxes led to one group realising the lack of local food growers and food growing land, leading to the organisation of the Highland Good Food Conversation. Others have, inspired by the recent Bounce Forward project, started their own local What if-network.
What opportunities are arising?
What challenges have been experienced?
What is the essence of Transition in Scotland?
Acknowledging that the experiences of Transition groups across Scotland are probably not dissimilar from that of other community groups – we asked the question whether there is an essence or quality in Transition groups that may not be found in other climate action community groups? All of the people interviewed thought so, arguing that in a Transition group (whether you choose to use that name or not) there is a unique emphasis on both practical, positive, hands-on, locally initiated and locally led action for resilience, as well as on building social connections, friendships, and engaging in inner “transition” work. There is a recognition that neither aspect can be successful, sustainable, and resilient without the other.
What is changing?
Emerging trends in 2020 included that the argument and debate around whether or not we are in a climate emergency seems to have been taken over to a large extent by XR, with Transition groups no longer having to “fight that corner.” There is a large overlap in membership in many XR and Transition groups. However, in comparison to XR, who in the public domain have been portrayed as more radical and “doomsday-ish”, Transition groups have emerged as a less radical, safer, and positive option to get involved in. As momentum in XR changed with lockdowns, many Transition groups also experienced an increase in engagement from people previously active in XR, who were suddenly at a loss for what to do.
Another strong emerging trend is the recognition that climate justice is social justice, which is requiring groups to engage in even larger and more complex conversations. Most groups are questioning their ability to embrace diversity and recognising that they may need to change their narratives, foci, and activities to become relevant and accessible to underrepresented demographics, including youth.
The third strong trend is a resonance with the current work from Rob Hopkins, emphasising the importance of imagination and asking What if? – as discussed in his most recent book From What Is to What If: Unleashing the Power of Imagination to Create the Future We Want, and now picked up and expanded upon by the Bounce Forward project. This framing is less centred on the standard Transition narrative and language, making it possible to embrace a broader agenda and be more accessible across community groups. Additionally, framing the climate emergency as a creativity crisis helps to recognise where Transition tools and ideas can fit in, whether it be for practical projects and solutions, or practices for how we operate and hold meetings, or culture building in how we treat ourselves and each other.
What is next?
There is a nominal national hub for Transition groups in Scotland, consisting of a few self-selected volunteers who try to also hold a national awareness. There is recognition that it serves an important function in making individuals in local groups feel part of something bigger, and its annual gatherings are generally well appreciated as a place to take stock, connect, be inspired, build friendships, and get a boost. Additionally it could support local groups more through networking, sharing of anecdotes and storytelling, sharing of resources and practices, and being a link to the international Transition network.
Interested to explore more what is next for Transition in Scotland? Join the Transition Scotland online gathering on January 9th, 9.30-12.30, on zoom. Sign up at https://ts9jan.eventbrite.co.uk.
Moving on from a year of unprecedented change and challenges, what learning and inspiration can we take forward to ensure that Transition is vibrant, vital, and viable in the unpredictable year ahead? Here are some of our top pieces and webinars from Transition Network’s Bounce Forward project. Bounce Forward is exploring how the UK can, in true Transition spirit, use the power of imagination, community action, and resilience to bounce forward, rather than back, from the covid-19 pandemic, and the vulnerability and inequalities it has exposed.
Are you curious to explore how Transition is evolving in a Scotland specific context, and how we can locally and regionally ‘bounce forward’? Join the Transition Scotland online gathering on January 9th, 9.30-12.30, on zoom. Sign up at https://ts9jan.eventbrite.co.uk.
What is the context for the next 5 years of Transition?
Kevin Anderson (Tyndall Centre), Nick Anim (TT Brixton) and Eva Schonveld (Transition Scotland Hub) explore how best to be in service to the scale of ambition the climate emergency demands of us, the urgency of demands for racial and social justice, as well as the need to ensure individuals and groups have the emotional and collective resilience for times that will be turbulent, fast-moving, and always surprising? Interesting insights and provocative discussion. Chaired by Rob Hopkins of Transition Network.
Green, But Mostly White. Why?
Transition member Nick Anim presents his research on how racism impacts our work within the UK Transition movement. Ethnicity is widely acknowledged to be an important determinant in the harmful impacts of climate and ecological crises in space and time. Yet, many environmental groups and organisations in multicultural societies of Western countries, such as the UK, struggle with having a diverse membership. Why? How can prominent environmental movements and organisations address this long-standing problem? A much needed discussion. A further reading list is available here.
The Power of Asking Good What If Questions
Inspired by Rob Hopkins’ latest book From What Is to What If: Unleashing the Power of Imagination to Create the Future We Want, Rob Hopkins and guests Ruth Ben-Tovim, Megan O’Malley and Phil Frodsham explore what it is that makes a really good What If question to create the best vision for your community. Plenty of practical ideas for you to apply in your own community setting, especially if you are looking for something to re-energise and re-motivate your group/organisation.
Thinking big and building networks to mobilise communities to rethink the future
Representatives from Transition Kentish Town, Transition New Mills and Transition Ealing share how they are finding new and unexpected openings to work with their local councils in response to declarations of climate emergencies. Listen out for tales of empty cafes transformed into community hubs for the imagination, community ‘What Next’ imagining events, and ambitious plans for decarbonisation by 2030. Inspiration abounds! Chaired by Hilary Jennings of Transition Town Tooting.
See all the resources, webinars, and interesting ideas coming out of Bounce Forward at https://transition-bounceforward.org/. The project will culminate in a What Next? Summit from March 3rd-20th 2021 - not to be missed!
A free online gathering for members of Scottish Transition groups and those who identify with the Transition spirit, hosted by Transition Scotland Hub through SCCAN.
Sign up at https://ts9jan.eventbrite.co.uk
Following on from the successful Transition Scotland gatherings in previous years in St Andrews, the Black Isle, and Dunbar, this year we will have it online, but hopefully with the same levels of inspiration, sharing, and fun!
It will be time to connect with old and new friends, take stock and share what is happening in Transition across Scotland, share opportunities and challenges, and dream into what our future holds.
We will also explore the new resources around What if? developed by Rob Hopkins and Transition Network through the Bounce Forward project, which may prove very useful for Transition groups in these rapidly changing times.
We will use zoom, and have break-out rooms for small group conversations, creative activities, and plenty of breaks to avoid screen fatigue.
9.30 - Welcome and Introductions
10.00 - Small group reflection on What is happening in Transition in Scotland today
10.30 - Break / mingling
10.50 - What if Introduction and trying out of the new visioning resources
11.45 - Break
12.00 - What next for Transition Scotland
12.30 - Close
We hope to see you there!
Additional links - Plenty of interesting work and opportunities are coming out of the Bounce Forward project at the moment:
Series of webinar recordings reflecting on What is the changing context for Transition with Covid, Black Lives Matter etc, and what opportunities are arising?
Free course on Community Organising to embrace diversity and address issues of power and privilege (apply by Dec 16th)
What if webinar recordings and download What if visioning exercise guide
Link to follow... please use the contact form in the interim.
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