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Transition Culture - an evolving exploration into the head, heart and hands of energy descent

One Year in Transition and the Power of Alternatives to University

Today's post is by Transition Network's Isabel Carlisle, and focuses on 'One Year in Transition' (1YT), a course she has developed and piloted this year.  The post below contains 3 audio clips, with Richard, Lisa and Hannah, this year's participants, reflecting on their experience as part of the successful pilot. Registration for 1YT 2013-14 is now open. The cost will be £1500 for the year.  Over to Isabel: 

There is a conversation going on at the margins of higher education that is just beginning to be heard in the market place. It goes something like this: If the future that we are educating young people for is not the future that is approaching, how can we adjust the course of our monolithic education system? What are the skills and aptitudes needed for a world of economic contraction, rising energy costs, environmental degradation and climate change? Have we been charting our course by the wrong North Star?

For many young people the rising tuition costs of higher education are not the only reason that they are questioning the desirability of getting a University degree or college certificate. The conveyor belt of performance learning from SATs to GCSEs and A-Levels and upwards no longer guarantees a job at the end. Nor do they see much work that accords with their values and their desire to bring a different future into being, one that supports their lives, the lives of their communities and the lives of future generations. 

With Azul Thome at Food from the Sky on the roof of Budgens Supermarket in Crouch End.

In spring of 2011 I began to reflect on these issues as I looked at ways in which Transition could make an offering to young people looking for right livelihood in community. If they were to step forward into community, either their own or a Transition community that offered them a place, what skills and knowledge would they need? How would they map that community and make their pitch, knowing that they were creating value and finding their niche? How would an understanding of new economic models such as Gift Culture serve them, and how would we weave a learning process that combined the inner and outer aspects of Transition?

Around these questions a group of eight young people aged 17 to 27, in different parts of the UK, gathered for regular Skype chats. This design team agreed the learning should be through mentoring. They liked the idea of practical skills and they asked for the freedom to learn through being given responsibility and being allowed to fail. They didn’t want an over-designed course, they thought the students should design much of it themselves, and they said it should not cost more than £1500 for a year. One Year in Transition was born and then launched at the September Transition conference.

Despite the fact that we didn’t have time for marketing 1YT, we have three intrepid “Transitioners” who have so far had one week-long meet-up in Totnes in which we explored the nature of change. Each has a personal mentor who is a trained psycho-therapist or coach. We use Action Learning to plan, take action and reflect on our projects and own our learning journeys. Skills mentors are being recruited to offer voluntary placements in the skills that the Transitioners choose to learn. We collectively plan future meet-ups and the “tutors” who we invite to teach us. The January focus is on REconomy and Gift Culture.    

Doing an Introduction to Permaculture course in Camden.

The projects that the Transitioners are embarking on include setting up the new network for youth in Transition, starting up a new Time Bank in Oxford (Cowley) and starting a new green skilling programme for young people at risk of exclusion in Bristol. 1YT validates the way in which young people want to learn.  Here are some closing thoughts from the participants of the pilot year:

“This week has shown me many possible ways to tackle difficulties with a healthy attitude, but also how to avoid situations becoming difficult in the first place. It has encompassed personal, group and social psychology, and the technicalities of developing initiatives. It has given me permission to get wrapped up in nature and the metaphors of myth and has caused us, as a group of students to become close and to be truly honest and appreciative of one another” (Richard in South Brent). 

“I signed up to 1YT because I felt I needed a container and support for the things I'm planning to do this year. I need to reframe success, and I want my ethics to be central to my working life, not something I do in my spare time. The first week's training was just phenomenal. I learnt so much from the Transition model, which is going to be so helpful in my own project. Especially the way people deal with the realisation that we are living in an unsustainable world, and how to support them and ourselves as we come to terms with the kind of appropriate actions we need to take” (Hannah in Oxford)

“As I stepped out of the door [at the end of the week] I realised how incredibly grateful I am to be a part of 1YT and how healing it is to be carrying out this work” (Lisa in Bristol). 

 Isabel Carlisle, Co-ordinator, Transition Education.  isabelcarlisle@transitionnetwork.org