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Crowd translating the Dutch version of the Transition Handbook - the letter that started it all off...

This is a little tale that shows how an articulation of a vision and a leap of creativity can lead to remarkable achievements.

There are several translations of the Transition Handbook now - Italian, German, Japanese and Dutch. Most of them were translated via the conventional route of using a national publisher who commissioned the translation. However, the Dutch version took a different path - it was "crowd translated".

In Dutch speaking regions of Europe (the Netherlands and part of Belgium) there was an embryonic group of transitioners who were trying to get the Handbook translated. This was proving to be tough since the normal channels weren't working.
This frustration resulted in a creative leap by the Flemish core team. One of them woke up one morning and decided to write a letter to all Transitioner as if the translation work had been completed through an innovative collaborative effort.

Prompted by this compelling vision, fifty people across the region (Flanders as well as the Netherlands) made it happen, translating chunks of the text and assembling them all for a phase of meticulous editing to harmonise the terms and tone of voice. And then, as if on some prearranged signal, up pops a publisher who is so inspired by this approach that he offers to print the book on very favourable terms.

Here's the letter that kicked it all off. It's remarkably not only for its creativity, but also just how accurate it was in terms of how the work was actually undertaken. I guess that's one of the secrets of a compelling vision - it's plausible and realistic as well as seeming crazily ambitious.

Major kudos to all the people mentioned below - a team effort that's really helped transition grow in that region.

Dear Reader,

What you hold in your hands is the most colourful, diverse and organic translation ever. It is as rich as nature herself, and it grew out of concern for the planet and the life that we share. This is, in many ways, a translation full of trust. A translation that we need, so that the transition movement can also inspire people in Belgium and The Netherlands. And we will need many more people and their talents, hands, concern and creativitity to build the futures that we dream of. That's why we also needed this book in translation: to reach many more people.

So, what is this colourful translation? How do you make a translation if you don't have the time to do it? Then you look for a lot of people with a little time. So, every so many pages in this book you meet a different translator – something you may or may not notice, since we also wanted it to be good translation work and did a fair amount of final editing. All these people have different faces and different life stories. Taste and imagine the diversity. This is the wealth of life lived. This translation is like a food forest.

Some were good in writing and translating, some had trouble with the grammar and spelling. Some worked in someone else's garden or they looked after somebody’s children, or cooked for them because they don't understand English and still wanted to be part of this translation. So they had someone else do it for them.

After all, maybe this book (and the translation) is not about the book (or the translation), but about the people. The Transition handbook, and this translation is temporary. It will wear and be taken up in the soil, where it belongs. We don’t mind. We need to give back to the soil. We, and others, will be able to write other books. But now, now that our world seems to have lost a sense of direction, we thought we needed this translation because it helps spread something we badly need: ideas to build new futures.

The world suffers, an old dream lies in shatters. Why don't we give the future the shape of this wonderful planet that we call home? This book is but a step, the colourful result of many people. The transition and transformation is not written by someone, it is written by all, day by day.

Enjoy. And we hope you enjoy meeting all the people in the book.

Jeanneke and Rudy

The team that contributed to this translation was: Maarten, Natasja, Els, Vladimir, Kim, Kelly, Nahid, Yung Han, Luca, Eva, Kelly, Kris, Liesbeth, Jan, Dorien, Stefan, Lilly, Lotte, Sarah, Dorien, Eliane, Ana, Tina, Iris, Els, Lynn, Marilu, Xander, Jelle, Kirsten, Rik, Lieve, Stephanie, Kaatje, Kathleen, Céline, Charlotte, Sam, Fieke, Stefan, Franky, Luc, Christiane, Jochen, Hugo, Debbie, Lien, Ann, Auke, Pep, Wim, Nico, Alma, Anne, Paul, Hajé, Wivine, Esther, Anneleen, Adri, Latoya, Katrien, Jonas, Frank, Wim, Aagje, Rudy, Jeanneke.

Final editing: Jeanneke van de Ven, Lucas Brouns en Jan van Arkel

About the author
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My journey towards and within transition involves me a) asking myself what I have done, unwittingly or otherwise, to contribute to the global crises of climate change, oil addiction and inequality; b) really acknowledging my “contributions” c) trying hard to understand the consequences and impacts within our complex ecological, social and economic systems d) working at both the personal level and also alongside my fellow citizens to come up with ways of making sure my/our contributions switch from exacerbating these situations to ameliorating them, and/or making sure they stop; e) trying as much as possible to work at root cause level.

Transition, with its creative, positive and “can-do, will-do” approach is, for me, the most appropriate mechanism for doing this work.