First published March ’13 at the Transition Network, also at There’s Better Ways Of Working. Written primarily for a Transition Towns audience, this article describes the joy of hosting, organising, participating in training events that seek to create a deep personal shift or equip communities with useful skills. It talks of partnerships to co-create capacity building and skill sharing. It talks of the 21st Century approach to facilitating learning rather than imparting knowledge at people.
(NOTE: I’m going to waffle on for a bit, so feel free to look at the pictures and skip to the short version UnManifesto at the bottom)
The thing about taking or running workshops is that they have the potential to host deep transformational experiences that can have long lasting, even permanent effects. Or host pleasant learning of simple skills, that can have long lasting, even permanent effects.
Workshops allow us not just to learn, but to explore experientially, to get deeper, to practice, to try things out. Perhaps to rediscover how much we still have to learn. To find others who know things we don’t. Discover fellow adventurers. To galvanise and rejuvenate our determination. I often encounter Transitioners seeking ways of serving and engaging with their locale, of reaching out to groups they aren’t reaching, and of getting everyone else doing the Transition Dance. Running a programme for useful learning, perhaps in partnership with other local organisations, can be a brilliant way of achieving multiple Transition objectives.
I want to focus in particular on organising events that simultaneously inwardly equip the Transition community with useful skills, and outwardly support personal growth in the wider community.
We might call it Community CoLearning
A workshop programme doesn’t have to be around traditional Transition subjects. For example, if you have a couple of people on board who have some skills at organising to an appropriate standard (which could be really loose and informal or highly polished depending on need and context), and a few people who want to learn how to, say publish a newsletter using professional looking mailing software (I like Mailchimp), you might seek a local partner connected to a group you want to engage with more, and suggest co-hosting a workshop on the subject, simultaneously serving your members, your group, your community, raising revenue, supporting your local economy (pay people). Even if you are not talking about Transition, just the logo and links, and offering useful skills that people need, can plant seeds in fertile minds, especially if there are gateways available for the curious.
How to build or manage a simple website might sit alongside composting for city dwellers , Be The Change, group decision making, gardening for depression, Training For Transition, How To Not Turn Off The Masses And Avoid The Ostrich (Fingers In The Ears) Effect, or Cooking For The Clueless.
Horses for courses
A varied programme might simultaneously serve the various needs people have, at the stage of the journey they’re at. Those already engaged, and those avoiding the subject. Those who like long and clever words and those who prefer to play, visual or physical demonstrations.
Host sewing classes that bring the young and old together. Offer practical training and peer mentoring programmes for companies seeking to reimagine their impact, direction and purpose, at commercial rates. Get kids without gardens onto allotments, or hiking and camping for people who have never done so, with funding or support from the council or local 3rd sector groups, as a way of strengthening links with them. Encourage those seeking to build their training and facilitation skills, to get essential practice by leading or assisting, at lower cost. Train for interviewing people from migrant cultures, asking about the best parts of their parent culture that might help us be healthier and happier, and make it into a radio programme. Go hang out where the mainstream hangs out and ask what they would find useful, and what changes they would like to see.
I love catching up with people who have been on the scene for a while. Around the campfire, over a pint, the stories flow. From time to time, I still see people who were on my first Training For Transition weekend. We shared something that weekend that caused permanent shift. I see the same in others who have been on that course, other transformational courses, or who have the bitter-sweet experiences of dancing the Transition-type dance for a while. Over the years bonds are forged in shared experiences, even with those I’ve just met.
….is unlike a manifesto in the same way that an ‘unconference‘ is unlike a conference. So if at any stage any of this seems like instruction from someone who knows best, I invite you to take anything useful and reimagine it for yourself, in a way that works for you locally. Rip it up, mash it up, remix it and recreate it anew. Nothing I have to say hasn’t been said before, and probably better. But never underestimate the power of repeating something simple and obvious, and creating space for people to experience again what they already know, or perhaps create space for people to shift from something they’ve known a hundred times before to a ‘truth’ they now embody and act upon.
Embarking on the Transition path means pursuing our own personal Transition, and we are all at different places along different paths. I find it useful to ask myself ‘How will I need to grow, what skills do I need to develop further, in order to usefully serve myself and others toward the Great Turning?’ If we already know it all, it’s probably especially important to unlearn, relearn or learn more about practicing what we think we know.
Transition involves building capacity and reprogramming our habitual patterns of thought and deed on an enormous scale, inwardly and outwardly. We are more likely to carry authority, and therefore inspire behavioural change, if we humbly and bravely accept our own need to walk this path alongside those not yet consciously shifting toward a path. I will if you will.
CoCreate personal, community and economic resilience.
We are building a new co-operative community, where competition and separation once prevailed. We need each other. Transition offers a means to thread together many of the elements that you alone will find it difficult to address. Partnerships can be a bumpy ride at times, but also offer an unmissable opportunity to share ideas, skills, contacts and experience. Seek to support and to learn. Make friends. Transition communities need your support. You need theirs.
Don’t tell, ask. Don’t preach, get people talking to each other, sharing, co-creating their own solutions. Trust in people’s intelligence / wisdom and strength of will, assume they know more than you, or at least can offer different pieces of the jigsaw puzzle.
It’s very easy for Transitioners to fall into the trap of being evangelical. We’ve seen the light, we must make everyone change behaviour. To fall into that trap risks missing the lessons of the wealth of research on behavioural change.
If we’re serious about succeeding, we need to be serious about being authentic, being persuasive without trying to ‘persuade’. To sell without ‘selling’.
Facilitate learning, instead of teaching
Remember that participants gain as much from connecting and listening to the stories of their peers, and making connections with kindred spirits, as from the material you want to impart to them. Your gift is to make the invitation and help people find their way.
Establish clear purpose and objectives as your first step. What will participants aim to get from this workshop?
Bring in as much help as you can, getting enough bums on seats can be hard. Be serious about finances, and get people paid, including yourself. There are certainly times when giving and sharing is to be encouraged, and I can think of plenty of examples where this might be the right thing. Most of the time though, if you see someone doing good, and especially doing Transition work, please pay them as much money as you can, promptly. They probably really need it to carry on. But then I guess I would say that.
If we are not building the Transition Economy, then who on earth is?
A template for sharing revenue:
Cover fixed costs (ie venue, promotion)
Then, pay trainers, say 50%
Pay organisers 40%
Pay the ‘mother’ (ie the Transition initiative) 10%
Adjust according to amount raised and local agreement.
Include an option for voluntary extra donations at the time of payment and at the end of the workshop.
If you can use the opportunity to raise funds for future bursaries, even better.
Get consent from your group about who can use the name and logo for what, according to any agreed do’s and don’ts. Work out whether it will be best for it to be arranged by your Transition group and using its bank account, or whether someone else should take ownership, deal with the admin and money, and organise it ‘in partnership with…’
Groups might offer cheap or free skill sharing events, funded events that offer significant professional training at low costs, sliding scale events, and more costly fixed price services, and all have their place.
An UnManifesto: The Short Version
So in summary, this is the condensed version of the UnManifesto for building personal, community and economic resilience:
Seek multiple benefits: win-win-win-win! Expect that unforseen benefits will result.
Think diversity: horses for courses. Try a programme offering physical skills with social skills, different kinds of language and learning styles, outdoors and indoors, radical with mainstream, advanced with beginner level.
Get people paid. Seriously, Get People Paid. Except when it’s more appropriate to share and give. But until the new economy is up and running and we have housing we can afford, start putting down those New Economy Lego Blocks at any opportunity. Excite at the thrill of subversively diverting the economy to serve those it has been working against. Like channelling a collective Robin Hood.
Always feed your mother. Raise revenue for your Transition group at every opportunity.**
Rethink purpose. Repurpose thinking. Rethink teaching. Think CoLearning.
Dream big. Ask others for help.
Oh, and don’t forget to make it fun. If we can’t have fun diverting the Great Juggernaut, then… well, I guess it might feel like a daunting task that’s too big to attempt and how can we realistically expect everyone else to join in, and we can’t have that, can we?
(** ok, I know the money argument is loaded and the counter arguments are well rehearsed, and it’s a good idea to have open and honest discussions and resolve issues together. There’s a lot you can do without money; there’s also a lot you can do with money greasing the wheels).
But then you probably knew all that already. Just like I thought I did. Or probably you know better or can see all the obvious things I left out. Excellent. Put that in your own UnManifesto. And make your UnManifesto a story of how the Great Turning happened. And tell those stories to your kids so they can do it better than we did.
Facilitation, Open Space, Facilitative Leadership, Sociocracy (Collaborative Governance) and that sort of thing. Tools For A Smarter Planet