1 Dec 2008
Transition Cities Conference. Day 2
The previous night’s social at the Canal House was lively and resulted in much discussion, networking and imbibing. Eyes weren’t excessively bleary the next day though when we reconvened, most people appearing raring to go at 9.15am for the first workshop session. There were four to choose from, Diversity in Cities, Cities of Sanctuary, Constellations in Cities and Food in Cities. Although I was only able to attend the one, notes were taken in the others which will be available soon.
The one I attended, on Diversity, was led by Shilpa Shah, and ran through what diversity actually means, and the experience of those running Transition initiatives in trying to engage people from a broad diversity of backgrounds. Early on in the session she dispelled the idea of some groups being ‘hard-to-reach’, saying there is no such thing, having met many groups who told her “we’re supposed to be hard’to-reach, but we meet here every Wednesday afternoon, can’t be that hard!”. The workshop was an excellent and thought provoking immersion in issues around diversity, and it was extraordinary to see how much she packed into a short workshop. On the other side of the partition from Shilpa’s workshop was the Constellations one, which, judging from feedback I heard later and from the laughter through the partition, was also excellent.
After the break, we were into the last Open Space sessions. I flitted around these, but tried to be most involved in Shilpa’s which was an exploration of different aspects of diversity. This produced some fascinating discussion, most of which was scribed and will be posted soon. After this session, we all raced outside to do a group photo (see right), and then, after a very short break for anyone who wanted a snack to sustain their energy through the last part, we reconvened for the final session.
The aim of this was somewhat ambitious. It was to create a Blueprint for Cities in Transition. The question posed was “does the Transition model as it exists so far (the 12 Steps, the 7 Buts etc) work for you? Does it need revising, updating, or completely rethinking?” In order to facilitate this we divided the room into 5 lots of tables, to look at different aspects of this, such as the 12 Steps, Awareness Raising and the need for good communication. They were asked to also come up with any tools they have found useful in their work.
At the end of this session, people posted their outputs and their thinking onto the main wall. The result was a huge amount of useful input, some really important thinking, which will be digested over the next couple of weeks. I was then asked, having only had time to look at a few of them, to summarise the outcomes. It seemed to me that the main thing was that actually the 12 Steps as a guide is still relevant and useful, but it needs deepening for urban initiatives. What was also clear was that one of the key elements of success was setting up structures and good and clear communication processes early on, which seems, given the scale, to be more important for urban groups than for those in smaller communities.
The need to celebrate, as identified by John Croft, also came up, the need for this process to be fun and engaging. There was much more, which we are just starting to sift through, and which will be mused on subsequently. The main insight for me was that yes, Transition is possible in cities, but they need perhaps more specific support than those working on a smaller scale. Then there was some time for feedback and reflection, where people talked about how much they had enjoyed the event, how powerful they had found the networking aspects of it, and how they would be returning to their groups re-energised and with many new tools.
It was a very dynamic couple of days. I have often written how the Transition model is a constantly iterative one, one that reinvents and updates itself dependening on the incoming information and ideas. This event felt like a key part of that, and it was also a re-enforcement that the Open Space way of running these events is actualy really very powerful and effective.
A heartfelt thanks to everyone who travelled to Nottingham to bring their aspect of the collective genius, to Nottingham City Council who supported the event, to John and Paul and everyone at Transition Nottingham for being such excellent hosts, to all those who led workshops so ably, to the wonderful Sim and Kristin who organised the event so superbly, to John and Amelia for use of their photos, to all the scribes, those who accommodated people, to the various film crews and to the Canal House for being such great hosts. I will update you over the next few days as to the outputs from it all.