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Inner Change: Towards a more inclusive Transition

 

 Inclusion in Transition:  Why does it matter?

Over the next few weeks, we at the Transition Network are going to be reflecting on what Transition as a whole could do to be more inclusive.  The idea is to mull over the kinds of inner change that we might need to engender in order to become a more inclusive movement. 

Your thoughts on this – from the mundane to the sublime to the completely off the wall – are very welcome.  First off though, why is inclusion important anyway?  For me, there are two main reasons:

Resilience:  If we are serious about creating a truly resilient movement, we need to include the voices, experiences and strengths of everyone in our communities. For example, how can we produce an Energy Descent Action Plan that is fit for purpose if it doesn’t include and place the voices and concerns of the most vulnerable in our communities at its heart?  Diverse peoples, by virtue of being different, bring a vast array of skills and experiences with them.  Unless the movement can genuinely unleash these, it won’t be able to tap into the huge potential present in communities across the UK.

Justice and fairness:  Unless we can fundamentally address inclusion in Transition, we are in danger of putting the cart before the horse, of “having the revolution and then thinking about equality”.  In order to be a just, a fair, a sustainable movement; inclusion needs to be at the heart of everything we do.

Where are we now?

The Transition Diversity Survey conducted in April-May 2010 indicates that most people involved in Transition feel that they are socially and culturally aware.  Given that the diversity project has been greeted with a fair amount of enthusiasm, this would also seem to indicate that we are, at least in principal, keen to welcome in a more representative demographic.
 
However, although the Transition movement has mushroomed at an incredible rate in the last few years, it is largely a very white, middle-class movement.  Although it seems that as individuals we are inclusive and welcoming, could it be that as a movement we have created something that speaks and acts mostly in the dominant culture of the white, middle-class and that therefore fails to appeal to more diverse groups?
 
Rather than dwelling on how we might not be inclusive, the attempt here is to look at measures that we can take to become more inclusive.

What can we do?  Putting inclusion at our core

If we are to become an inclusive movement, we need to work against this tendency with real intention.  That means absolutely insisting on inclusion and holding it as a starting point for everything that we do, even if this makes things initially a lot harder for us.  It means taking a profound and holistic look at ourselves and seeing what we can do to transform this tendency and inspire the necessary inner change. 
 
The following is a few non-exhaustive thoughts for how this could practically be achieved, from the specific to the holistic.

Suggested Principles/ Intentions

  • Becoming practitioners of dialogue:  Time and again, people who do diversity work will tell you “it’s about starting where people are at, finding the common ground, two-way processes, active listening, building trust”.  These are skills that can all be broadly encompassed under the banner of “dialogue”.  To become good at dialogue takes work, it doesn’t happen overnight.  Committing to learning about and becoming good practitioners of dialogue, would be a good start.
  • Recognise that it’s not easy:  Because we live in an unequal society, it seems fair to say that inclusion doesn’t come naturally to us.  When we reflect on ourselves as individuals, how many of us can truly say that we hold a representative sample of the UK population among those who are dear to us?  With that in mind, we should recognise that developing an inclusive movement isn’t necessarily going to be easy, it’s going to take a lot of persistent self-reflection and tenacity in taking the route that won’t always be the easiest or quickest.
  • Welcoming new visions:  According to John Bird, Founder of the Big Issue, “to me, it’s not just about what makes a good life, but about the barriers that stand in the way of people getting there.  The biggest of these is lack of hope.  Social exclusion is one way of describing it.”

    And yet, possibly the most unique, powerful element of Transition is that it’s founded on hope. Unlike many social change movements, Transition doesn’t work against something, it works for something – this is what fuels its life-bed of positivity.  It envisions a better life.

    That said, currently most of our visioning has been carried out by one sector of the population.  If we’re going to profoundly bring people on board therefore and empower them to establish their own hope for a better future, we need to essentially start that process again.
  • Seek, and integrate feedback: In a nutshell this is about actively seeking, taking seriously and then integrating feedback from diverse groups into what we do.

Methods/ Tools

  • Transition Handbook and other publications:  Revisit and update with eye to diversity both in terms of using language that is inclusive to all groups and in terms of directly and consistently addressing the need for inclusion.
  • 12 steps:  Look at whether or not we need to modify the 12 steps.  For example, could the “honour the elders” be changed to honouring experience and difference that would then take in the experiences of other cultures as well as those of our own before our time?  Could we also make diversity a keener goal in steps 1-4 as if we really got everyone in the community involved in steps 1-4, genuine inclusion should be more of a given from there on in.
  • Diversity mission statement and policy:  Alternatively/ in addition to the 12 steps, could we ask all Transition Initiatives to develop their own diversity mission statement and give guidelines on the sorts of aspects that might be included in this?
  • Training:  Include a section on diversity as part of the two day Transition training or better still, make diversity training available to anyone and everyone involved in Transition.

     

  • Alternative mass communications:  Transition is a thinking movement.  Much of this thinking and inspiration is recorded on the web and in the handbook and in general relies on the written word.  It seems fair to say that it would be difficult to become active in your local Transition Initiative without reasonable literacy skills. However, the Daily Telegraph has indicated that as many as one in six British adults lack the literacy skills of an 11-year-old.  Of course the web is important and publications such as the handbook have proved invaluable but how can we find other ways to communicate to people who for example have not read a book in years?  This likely needs to be done on a local level through peer-to-peer sharing and informal networking.
  • Trustees:  Look to recruit representatives of diverse groups to sit on TN board and adopt a diversity statement as part of the Trustee Terms of Reference (eg, proportional representation of low-income, faith, Black Minority Ethnic groups).
 

 

Comments

Anonymous's picture

How much will it take?

I am so glad to see this discussion beginning.  I absolutely think this is a big issue, in fact I think the capacity of the Transition Network to be truly effective is dependent on how successfully you can engage the marginalised majority. 

I like you're suggested actions but I think they do not go far enough.  If you are serious about this thing taking off among the poor (which it will need to do if it is anything worthwhile) then it is going to take middle class people giving up their middle class existence and relocating to neighbourhoods facing urban poverty and marginalisation for as long as it takes to see local people dreaming the same dreams (probably at least 15 - 30 years).  I can only say this because this is exactly what my wife and I (and 4 others) have done and are doing. 

I am currently in the process of sparking some kind of permaculture/transitions/gardening project in my local area and it is going to be a long hard joyful battle, but oh so worth it.  One barrier between the Transitions/Permaculture middle class whities world and the poor and marginalised is language.  No one in my neighbourhood is ever going to want to be involved with some thing called transitions or permaculture.  At the moment we are working on finding language that will communicate our vision meaningfully. 
I have found that a lot of my neighbours are keen to start producing their own food and greening the place up a bit - they certainly have plenty of time on their hands, but it is going to take a special kind of people, people who can give up their middle class dreams and lifestyle, to get alongside such people for a long time to nurture and grow the seed that the Transitions Network has planted. 

Thanks for dreaming big and working hard.  Keep up the great work!  May you all take this equality stuff really seriously and not back away from the deepest responses.  

What you're doing sounds really interesting.  I'd love to hear how it goes with the permaculture/ gardening project.  It sounds like there's a lot we could learn from what you're doing. 
 

Catrina Pickering's picture

What you're doing sounds

What you're doing sounds really interesting.  I'd love to hear how it goes with the permaculture/ gardening project.  It sounds like there's a lot we could learn from what you're doing. 

On the language, yes, I've been thinking about this too and would be interested to hear your thoughts further.  You might also find the following two publications give quite useful "feed-in" ideas to your thinking:

That said, these two publications I've linked to look at communicating climate change and I wonder if instead a focus on resource scarcity and resilience is more helpful and relevant to low-income communities.  For example, fuel poverty is already having an impact on more vulnerable communities in the UK and so perhaps an approach that looks at how to build resilience to resource scarcity/ fuel poverty through food growing activities might have more direct relevance in your community.  As for the exact language to use, I expect there's a lot to learn from doing it, seeing what language comes out and then using that language to develop further activities - a sort of "learning by doing" approach.

Anyway, please do stay in touch and let us/ me know how things go - my email is catrinapickering@transitionnetwork.org.
 

 

Amanda 'treaclemine' Baker's picture

Talking about a Transition for everyone

 (Apologies for not logging in to comment - my login to the site is currently broken, even though I successfully set up a profile some while ago).

The main ways in which I can find myself excluded from groups and activities are as following: my own health, which is variable, and I can find myself dropped because I can't reach some 'unspoken minimum level' of activity; being a carer, which means I have to put my caring ahead of other commitments; hearing difficulties, which can mean I simply don't follow what's happening in loud groups; being female, with all that can mean for marginalisation.

But what do we mean by 'inclusion' and 'diversity'?  If all we mean is, that we feel embarrassed and guilty that everyone else in the room is the same as ourselves in colour, first language, health, age, faith, sex etc. and we want a tutti-frutti group so we can stop feeling bad about ourselves?

What if what we are saying, doing and aiming to achieve is our own narrow vision, which just isn't shared by the wider, deeper, community-of-everyone?

I'm very wary of talking about 'inclusion' and 'diversity' as they so often seem to mean 'everyone has to do and think the same as us'.

I'm coming to the feeling that the first thing we should be doing is going out to listen, learn and join in with activities where we're the outsider.  That might start to move us on from 'what we know that we do not know' to the far more tricky of problems of 'what we think we know that just are not so' and 'what we do not even know that we do not know'!

Thanks,

 

Amanda

 

 

Amanda 'treaclemine' Baker's picture

Talking about a Transition for everyone

 (Apologies for not logging in to comment - my login to the site is currently broken, even though I successfully set up a profile some while ago).

The main ways in which I can find myself excluded from groups and activities are as following: my own health, which is variable, and I can find myself dropped because I can't reach some 'unspoken minimum level' of activity; being a carer, which means I have to put my caring ahead of other commitments; hearing difficulties, which can mean I simply don't follow what's happening in loud groups; being female, with all that can mean for marginalisation.

But what do we mean by 'inclusion' and 'diversity'?  If all we mean is, that we feel embarrassed and guilty that everyone else in the room is the same as ourselves in colour, first language, health, age, faith, sex etc. and we want a tutti-frutti group so we can stop feeling bad about ourselves?

What if what we are saying, doing and aiming to achieve is our own narrow vision, which just isn't shared by the wider, deeper, community-of-everyone?

I'm very wary of talking about 'inclusion' and 'diversity' as they so often seem to mean 'everyone has to do and think the same as us'.

I'm coming to the feeling that the first thing we should be doing is going out to listen, learn and join in with activities where we're the outsider.  That might start to move us on from 'what we know that we do not know' to the far more tricky of problems of 'what we think we know that just are not so' and 'what we do not even know that we do not know'!

Thanks,

 

Amanda

 

 

Catrina Pickering's picture

Hi Amanda, First off, I'm

Hi Amanda,

First off, I'm sorry to hear you at times feel marginalised.   I can't really comment on that without knowing more but do let me know if you'd like to talk about this further (my email is catrinapickering@transitionnetwork.org).

I completely agree with you that there can sometimes be a tendency to want to become more diverse so as to ease a sense of guilt. However, I don't think we'll get anywhere if we take that approach as that will amount to an attempt to get more people on board without really listening to what each and every one of those individuals has to say or offer. 

The work I'm doing encourages people already involved in Transition to think about why they might want to create a more diverse and inclusive Transition beyond the "so we can feel good about ourselves" reason.  And of course, there are many other reasons like that

  • we can learn a lot from people not already involved in Transition
  • people in vulnerable communities are likely to suffer most from peak oil and climate change
  • if we are going to create a more positive future, equality needs to be the driver etc, etc.

I couldn't agree with you more on your point about going out and listening to people rather than simply going out and converting people to the Transition way of thinking.  I think if we're serious about this, we need to be prepared to change our views and activities according to what we hear.  This is beginning to happen already - in the Transition Network, we're beginning to look at what issues are immediately important to people not involved in Transition and how or even if Transition should respond to these. 

I think I'll leave it there for now but interested to hear any further thoughts you may have.

 

Catrina

Sue's picture

'putting inclusion at our core'

When you start your discussion with 'Becoming practiotioners of dialogue' you have the problem right there.

Management speak. Middle classness writ large. Exclusivity. Jargon.

If you stopped 20 people in the street and asked them what the above quote meant 19 wouldn't have a clue and one would know because they were a manager in one of the public service bodies and therefore wrote this stuff themselves in policy documents.

Transition is middle class, white, and middle aged and that is for a whole heap of reasons, but whilst it looks middle class it should take far more care not to sound middle class, and at the moment it sounds horrendously middle class.

As I read down I notice the phrase 'diversity mission statement' and I see business as usual is alive and well. Transition shouldn't be slavishly following the model that has got us into this mess in the first place, but finding a new, true, authentic route that doesn't sound like it's been taken from a local council website.

THEN you may find more people actually want to join and not just all the usual suspects.

Treaclemine also makes some good points.

Catrina Pickering's picture

Hi Sue, Thank you for your

Hi Sue,

Thank you for your thoughts.  My own thinking on "jargon"  is that a word is only jargon if you don't explain what the word means.  On the other hand, if you clearly explain what you mean, then you give other people the key to understanding and using that word too. 

You'll see that in the piece I wrote, I did try to explain what I meant by "practitioners of dialogue".  I agree that going out onto the street and asking people what it means, wouldn't be very effective.  I'd argue that would be precisely because it wouldn't be in context and you wouldn't be giving them that key.

We are certainly trying to develop as you put it a "new, true, authentic route" to inclusion. Any ideas you may have on this, would be very welcome.

Catrina