Transition Goshen 0.2

Hi friends,

Thank you for your participation, interest, and support for Transition Goshen.  It was a busy and fruitful year, culminating in an informative and inspiring trip to Milwaukee by Ben Beyeler and I to connect with other Transition groups and meet Rob Hopkins.  After contemplating what we learned and testing some new strategies, we’re ready to shift Transition Goshen’s course.  This letter attempts to summarize Transition Goshen’s evolution thus far, re-frame what it represents at present, and invite you to help envision and guide how it moves forward.

A good place to start is the question “who is the we in Transition Goshen”?  It’s one I’ve personally struggled to give a good answer for.  I’ve described it as everyone who has participated and collaborated in Transition Goshen since it began in 2012.  I’d prefer to say it includes anyone initiating something in a way that reflects the Transition model (when I think of “Transition” happening in our community, I certainly don’t limit it to action directly associated with Transition Goshen).   But at present, when asked who’s actually steering Transition Goshen, the simplest answer is probably “Ben Beyeler and I”.  Along the way, we’ve had the privilege of collaborating with many folks on a variety of projects, as “Transition Goshen” and as individuals.  But in general, we’ve struggled to consistently include and engage other voices when sitting down to shape and ask questions about Transition Goshen itself.  The trip to Milwaukee provided an opportunity for us to reflect on this pattern and how it started.

The Transition model is essentially an open-source, ecologically-based, community-oriented compilation of tools and strategies for enabling communities to localize resources and increase resilience, starting from the ground up.  It asks how communities might respond to the new resource, climate, and economic “normals” of our time and envision a healthy alternative today and tomorrow.  It’s ultimately about turning positive individual intentions into a collective community vision for where Transition might lead.  You might say “transition” really emerges when a community begins to tell a different story about who it is, where it came from, and where it might be headed.

Of course this is no small task.  Discerning how to initiate Transition locally is the challenge that each community must figure out for itself, but in solidarity with a vast network of other communities around the globe.  In some locations, Transition has emerged as a dynamic grassroots network of partnerships and decentralized leadership, while in others it has been led by a few individuals with the availability and capacity to drive it as a social enterprise.  The Transition model doesn’t require a formal organizational structure.  But in our case, even though it wasn’t a conscious decision, we seem to have slipped into patterns of organizational behavior that have affected our perception in the community and perhaps confused the role we’ve hoped to play in creating a space for Transition to manifest itself locally.

I think we assumed a need to legitimize our work by referring to ourselves as a “grassroots” organization, often speaking as a broad “we” rather than as “Ben” and “I” and any other specific individuals.  While this affiliation has been useful, it has at times been confusing.  Becoming an official organization with non-profit status was recognized as one possible outcome, but it was never an immediate goal.  Rather, our intention was to simply experiment with Transition tools and incubate some of the ideas within our personal spheres of influence, to try and create a space from which Transition might emerge into the broader community.  I’m not sure how well we’ve communicated this intention.

The modest events and projects initiated thus far were inspired by the Transition movement, but do not represent it in any specific terms.  Here’s how I see it:

Transition Goshen is not the Low-Hanging Fruit project  or any of the events we’ve organized; its the “space” within which common interests converged to explore these local needs and opportunities, and from which individuals stepped up to focus their intentions on collective goals.

Or, as Ben puts it:

Transition Goshen is the space where separate entities (individuals, groups, and so on) utilize the Transition model to collaborate around common interests.

I believe Transition Goshen can best be seen in the physical and social spaces created during the Urban Food Open Space, Connecting Our Local Foodshed, and Share the Bounty Week events.  The Transition model was manifest behind the scenes as the design process through which the events were conceived and organized.  It was modeled during these events as the application of specific social technologies and ideas gleaned from other Transition initiatives.  It was represented as a convergence of individuals and groups seeking to explore and collaborate on common goals.

In other words:

Transition Goshen is much more of a “what” than a “who”.

Personally, Transition is what motivates me and forms the lens through which I understand and focus my intentions in the community I live –  my preferred means of applying permaculture principles to build social capital.  My work at the Farmers Market, care of our land and home, engagement in local faith communities, and broader networking all represent different aspects of Transition in practice.  But they do not formally represent Transition Goshen any more than the daily activities of a student represent their school.

Ben and I hope that Transition Goshen can inspire others to take new initiative in their own lives, individually and collectively, by offering a means of connecting to a much broader movement with access to useful tools, information, and ideas.  We hope it becomes a space into which existing groups can converge, and out of which new initiatives can emerge.  At a practical level, as a named entity, we hope that Transition Goshen can offer a recognizable “association” (affiliation?) for startup groups and individuals to reach a broader audience.

If enough people converge with a broader intention to collaborate and initiate Transition as a core group, they’ll be welcome to do so within whatever structure best suits them.  In the meantime, Ben and I hope to invest our time and energy in the community in ways that are less likely to be perceived as filling the very space we’ve sought to open up – recognizing our actions as the products of individual intentions within a larger movement rather than as the movement or group itself.

We’ll continue to maintain the website and coordinate some events, but we’ll be pointing to the broader Transition movement for context and details until a more specific localized vision is formed.  We’ll organize gatherings to explore Transition together, but in formats that encourage more social interaction and networking without as much pre-set agenda.  We hope these interactions will help connect people to emerging projects, working groups, and actions throughout the community.

Ben and I are happy to answer any questions or needed clarifications about this letter, the Transition model, or Transition Goshen.  Really.  We love talking about this stuff and are happy to chat over a drink or by phone.

We feel the timing for this shift couldn’t be better, as Rob’s tour of the U.S. has re-framed the current context for Transition in some excellent new resources:

We encourage you to explore any of these resources and consider how to weigh in with your own response.  Join us at an upcoming gathering or initiate your own to discuss some of the ideas with friends old and new.  There’s no need for permission, and no better time than now to explore new opportunities to align your intentions and passions with others locally and around the world.

As Transition’s “cheerful disclaimer” states, “we truly don’t know if this will work. Transition is a social experiment on a massive scale. What we are convinced of is this:

  • if we wait for governments, it’ll be too little, too late
  • if we act as individuals, it’ll be too little
  • but if we act as communities, it might just be enough, just in time.”

Thanks again for your consideration and support.  We look forward to your feedback, participation, and collaboration.

sincerely,

Phil Metzler