How best to sustain the momentum of your Transition initiative over the longer term?
In any Transition initiative, indeed in any community project, there will be moments when energy and enthusiasm dwindle. Boredom can set in. While it is possible that your initiative has come to the end of its useful life, it probably hasn’t. This ingredient suggests a few ideas for giving it new momentum...
Momentum can be supported through seeking new members, promoting new involvement, a range of events, and a sense that the initiative is moving upwards and onwards. Momentum won’t be constant, as different parts of the initiative will ebb and flow over time.
In any Transition initiative, indeed in any community project, there will be moments when energy and enthusiasm dwindle. Boredom can set in. While it is possible that your initiative has come to the end of its useful life, it probably hasn’t. This ingredient suggests a few ideas for giving it new momentum.
It may be that in all your earnest attempts to make things happen, you have stopped building into your project the space for members of your initiative to meet informally. Designing such events which have no agenda other than getting to know one another can be very productive. These events can even be better than more formal methods at getting people involved in practical projects.
Initiatives can get stuck because they don’t plan for succession. Who are the next generation, the people who will be coordinating the initiative in two years’ time? A failure to plan for succession can lead to a sense that ‘we have to do everything or this whole thing will fall apart’, and to burnout among those holding central functions. Succession rarely happens by accident. People need to be invited in, told ‘we need help with this’, and asked to take responsibility for an aspect of the work. People coming into the initiative and who want responsibility might shadow someone for a while, who gives them some support while they’re learning the ropes.
Another reason for loss of momentum can be a feeling that the project is shared between fewer and fewer people. If the same faces present all public events, it can give the impression that a small, closed and constant group of people runs the entire thing and has little need for others. Giving as many people as possible the opportunity to present events, or having multiple presenters, can offer good public-speaking practice and attract more people.
Sometimes, a perceived drop in energy can be due to unaddressed problems between members of the group: anger, disappointment, frustration and so on. A lot of the group’s energy is then used to suppress feelings. Creating space for meetings which focus solely on ‘how are we doing?’ can create a constructive outlet for that. Providing mentoring and support to those at the heart of the initiative can help to enable healthy responses to this problem.
Energy can also run low because money is short. It may be time to look hard at what the group is doing and to say that unless some funding can be found to support particular aspects of the work, those aspects will have to be dropped. This can lead to useful strategic thinking about doing better by doing less – which can be helped by ensuring that the things you concentrate on are what most excite people.
Finally, momentum can flag because there is a perception that the project has turned into a ‘talking shop’, with little practical work taking place. Some well-designed and high-profile practical initiatives can be a huge boost to morale, as well as acting as a great way of engaging new members. All projects will ebb and flow, with some areas more active than others, so what feels like a loss of momentum may just be the initiative’s energy finding a different outlet or expression.