10 Jan 2007
10 First Steps for a Transition Town Initiative #1. Awareness Raising.
There are a number of groups now wanting to initiate **Transition Town projects**, and their first question is usually “where do we start?” In order to answer this question and to clarify our own minds on this whole subject, we have prepared this collection of the first 10 steps as we see them. At this point we cannot offer an A – Z map for how to do a Transition Town project. But having travelled from A-C, we can at least give you some indicators as to what has been successful for us through the Totnes experience. While they don’t necessarily run in the order they will here, today’s is by necessity the first.
**#1. Awareness Raising**.
You cannot assume that people are familiar with peak oil, with climate change, or even with basic environmental concepts and principles that you take for granted. It is essential that before launching an Official Unleashing event (see #3) you prepare the ground. In Totnes we spent nearly a year giving talks, film screenings and networking before we organised the launch. During that time we learnt a great deal about how to most effectively do this.
We screened the End of Suburbia 3 times, and had a full room and a completely different audience each time. The method for facilitating the film screenings has been written about elsewhere here at **Transition Culture**, and worked very well. Other films we showed were The Power of Community and Peak Oil: Imposed by Nature. One important point is that you can never assume that everyone has seen the films and that no-one will come if you show them again. These films create a ripple effect and lots of people want to see them. It is important that these screenings are also presented in such a way that they are fun and memorable, and create a buzz, that people go home and tell their friends and family about.
One way you can use the screenings to draw in official bodies is to invite a panel of people from the local authority, ideally those who make decisions on energy and environmental issues, as well as planners, to attend a film screening to comment on the issues raised, as part of a panel. We plan to do this in March when we show Crude Awakening. It strikes a nice balance between giving people in authority the respected position they like, and being able to ask them tricky questions.
Another aspect of this awareness raising work is talks. It is essential to avoid a series of peak oil talks which are doomladen evenings about how civilization is about to implode and we are all about to start eating each other. Find speakers who can present the matter in a positive, engaging way. Organise events that make people think, but which also support people through the process of realising the illusory nature of the oil-created world around them, which for some can be quite traumatic. Make sure you design in enough space in your events for people to discuss with each other and feel some degree of support in exploring these issues.
Although your awareness raising process is, on the surface, about informing people and disseminating ideas, it is also, perhaps more importantly, about getting people talking to each other, starting to build social networks. Make sure any event gives people the time to talk to the person next to them. We start any film screening or talk by inviting people to turn to the person next to them and tell them who they are, where they have come from and why they are here. Then after the film we do the same thing (but with a different person), this time to talk about their thoughts on the film. People love the opportunity to do this, it really enhances their enjoyment of the evening.
You might run an evening class, go into schools, write articles for the local paper, get something on the local television. There is really no clear way of knowing when this stage has been done sufficiently to allow you to move on to the next one, you just have to gauge that yourself somehow. I was only able to effectively assess the impact of what we had done when Richard Heinberg was in Totnes in December and at the beginning of his talk he asked the audience how many of them were familiar with the concept of peak oil. Three quarters of the room (which contained about 350 people) put up their hands. Not bad.
This stage also allows you, if you are new to the town you are working in, to meet people, to see who are the people who come to all these events and may become your key allies. All this will stand you in very good stead when you kick the process proper off. As I said, the social network building aspect of this is as, if not more, important than how many people are able to tell you who M.King Hubbert was.
**Tomorrow – #2. Laying The Foundations.**