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Making a Start on Inclusion at the Transition Conference 2010

Although I wasn’t present, I’m told that it was at last year’s Transition Conference that the will to develop an inclusive movement was born.  A year on, Transition is taking this issue seriously –  funding has been sought and won to employ me as the dedicated Diversity Co-ordinator and at the conference itself it seemed, there was a sense that we’re moving in the right direction.

First off, around 70 people attended the interest group, surgery or workshop on diversity bringing enthusiasm, thinking and questions such as:

  • “How can we find and use language that is inclusive and really connects?” 
  • “How can Transition respond to all the concerns of a community such as crime?” 
  • “What is it that attracts people and that doesn’t attract people about Transition?”
  • “What would an inclusive Transition Town Stoke Newington look like?” 
  • “In what ways will the movement have to change?”
  • "How do I get my fellow Transitioners to pay more attention to inclusivity?"

One particularly encouraging action that came out of the surgery session on diversity was the setting up of a group to look at how to better include children in Transition activities.  More than simply a childcare service, this group sees itself as facilitating the unique and crucial role that children can play.  In fact, this was directly played out by the group of 13-14 year olds from Bro Dyfdi in mid-Wales who gave a workshop showing the film they had made on the Canadian Tar Sands and leading an action planning session on how young people can be inspired to form an international youth Transition movement.  Even among those who didn’t attend this workshop, there was a feeling that the presence of the Bro Dyfdi crew injected a great deal of hope and stimulus to the conference atmosphere. 

As for age diversity more generally, it seems the ages of people involved in Transition is starting to broaden.  At the closing session, a 28 year old man said “last year, I was one of the youngest people here but this year, just a year on, I’ve moved a lot further up the age bracket”. 

Culturally, there were representatives from Mexico, France, Spain, the United States as well as a party of Brazilians who gave a workshop entitled “Is Transition in Brazil following the football road – created in England with the best players in Brazil?” 

And of course, let us not forget the Stoneleigh session (a talk on the financial situation given by the Economist, Nicole M. Foss) which seemed to affect everyone at the conference regardless of whether or not they attended the talk.  This session further compelled my belief in the importance of creating a Transition that holds equality at its core.  For me, the ways that an equal, inclusive community might deal with financial meltdown is very different to how an unequal community might act in the same situation.  As Peter Lipman put it in his interview with the Brazilians “Becoming more resilient has to mean becoming more equal”.

I don’t wish to understate the long way we have to go in developing an inclusive and genuinely diverse Transition but I do feel deeply reassured by the seeking spirit of everyone I spoke to about this.  As the Brazilians circulated the canteen one lunch time, playing Brazilian music and giving out home-made sweets, the sense of celebration and possibility that diversity brings struck me afresh.  It reminded me of one of the questions that came up in the diversity session of “what might a truly diverse Transition look like?”  Well, I’m not sure I know but I’m excited to find out!


Mike Grenville's picture

Kids included

The group of kids at the conference were certainly an inspiration - I wish we had a video of the powerful Beaver Creek rap they did at the open mic night.

The issue of how to present the issues that we deal with in Transition (run away Climate Change, Peak oil, global economic collapse, loss of bio-diversity etc!)  to teenagers especially younger ones is an challenge that I would like to hear more ideas on.

I am often told that we need to get this information to school kids which always makes me deeply uneasy. It often seems like we are dumping a whole load of challenging information on them and somehow expecting them to deal with it. A cop out from our generation and handing the problem on to the next. Not wanting to change our middle class , 3 plant reliant life style and somehow thinking our kids will just deal with it. 

Certainly the positive visioning ideas and practical projects that TT groups engage in but unless we walk the talk I am nervous that we might just pass the burden  on to them.

Catrina Pickering's picture

Kids included continued

I see your point and I appreciate that one way to "deal" with the issues Transition faces is to simply pass the buck to the next generation and forget about it all.  On the other hand, I don't believe that's what anyone involved in Transition is trying or would want to do. 

I echo your welcome of ideas for how to “present” Transition and the issues we work on to younger audiences.  Yes, there is the almost x-rated doom and gloom scenarios of 6 degrees warming and peak oil and we need to be sensitive in the way those are presented to anyone, not just children.  But time and again, the reasons I hear for people getting involved in Transition is because of the hope it offers and I think it’s that that I can see young people running with. 

From a personal point of view, I remember when I was a child and Comic Relief/ Red Nose Day (a national fundraising day on poverty) was first launched when I was about 8.  I wasn’t actually that attentive a student but the presentation we had at school really grabbed me.  Here was something that I could finally do about the pictures I’d seen on the tele of the starving children in Africa.  So me and my best friend went round the neighbourhood raising money for a sponsored skate - skating 100 times round the school.  It’s probably no coincidence that that experience at quite a young age instilled in me a sense of “can-do” on social change that has stayed pretty consistently with me throughout my life. 

As for a more recent example, in Oxford last weekend, a local arts organisation got together with 10 local primary schools to create a vision of a ship that sails away to a low carbon future.  The children were asked “If you were sailing away on a low carbon future, what would you take and what would you leave behind?”  Here are just a few of the responses:
“I would take solar power, friendship and games and leave bad thoughts, weapons, robbery and drugs”.
“I would leave pain, war and hatred and take solar power and love”.
 “I would leave behind money – it makes too much greed and prime ministers arguing”.
“I would take peace”.
For further info on the Ark see here:


Shaun Chamberlin's picture

Woodcraft folk

Hi Mike,

The Woodcraft Folk are a group who work with people aged 15 and down.  They are running their London Camp 2010 in a couple of weeks on the theme of "Power to the People" (meant both in the sense of literal energy - electricity etc - and in the sense of empowerment)

They got in touch with me as they feel that Transition is right up this particular alley, and I sent them various resources and suggestions.  They are likely to have some interesting ideas on how to communicate this stuff (and soon, some interesting experience!)

Perhaps a good partnership to cultivate?

x S