How best to ensure that your initiative doesn’t imagine it can do without the support of, or partnerships with, other organisations – an approach that could leave it isolated and less effective than it could have been?
Transition initiatives were never intended to do all the work of decarbonising/relocalising their community on their own.
Recognise the value of clear and mutually beneficial collaborations and partnerships, and seek them out whenever possible.
Transition initiatives were never intended to do all the work of decarbonising/relocalising their community on their own. Rather, they catalyse and support projects, trying to change how a place sees itself so that Transition becomes a community’s way of thinking. Doing this requires skilful collaborative work and the building of strong local partnerships.
Transition and partnerships
In an interview on the Mid Wales Permaculture Network’s website,[i] Dave Prescott of Transition Hay-on-Wye reflected on the partnerships his initiative had created. One, an alternative transport day, was co-created with Herefordshire and Powys councils, Sustrans and local business and environment groups. Transition Hay-on-Wye had also done work with the local Chamber of Commerce. Dave commented on the role of partnerships thus:
“For me it boils down to the fact that as a group of six individuals there isn’t a great deal we can do, but if we collaborate with existing groups and, over the longer term, encourage other existing groups to recognise that Transition is something they can be thinking about and acting on, then we have a chance of creating meaningful change.”
It isn’t just individual initiatives that can benefit from partnerships. In November 2009, a one-day conference was held in Slaithwaite in Yorkshire called ‘Transition North’, bringing together Transition groups from across the north of England.[ii] The event was a partnership with the Co-operative Group and Co-operatives UK. It proved to be a dynamic coming together of organisations with many overlaps of philosophy and practice.
[Insert pic: Ing 4.1.5: Caption: The local Mayor is presented with a bouquet of locally grown vegetables following her opening of the Transition North conference in Slaithwaite, Yorkshire.]
Within your community there will be many organisations that, though not obviously aligned with Transition, will overlap with some of what you do. Unexpected partnerships often lead to more interesting interactions and new contacts. Offer presentations to a wide range of local groups and tailor your talk, as best you can, to their interests. I once gave a talk to a local Women’s Institute. Before my talk, they had been discussing how milk was too cheap and how that was affecting dairy farmers. It meant I was able to start by talking about localisation and globalisation, relating it to milk production as an example.
Key events can make such connections visible and bring in overlapping organisations in the community. For example, at the Unleashing of Transition Town Lewes, those attending entered the hall through another room, which included dozens of stalls – of local groups, food producers, businesses and so on. Much the same thing happened at the launch of Transition Town Chepstow, with various local enterprises and organisations having stalls.
[Insert pic: Ing 2.8.2. Stalls from a range of local organisations at the Unleashing of Transition Whatcom, in Bellingham, Washington State, USA, April 2010. Photo: Suzan Fiskin]
Partnering organisations, however informal their link, must understand what they are doing. Misunderstandings can easily lead to fall-out, taking a lot of energy to resolve. Your initiative must do some skilful networking, because Transition needs to involve a far broader range of bodies than has been the case up to now.