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.
Link to follow... please use the contact form in the interim.
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