11 Sep 2009
Why We Don’t Need Formal Agreements for National Transition Hubs
The Transition Network recently produced a Memorandum of Understanding for emerging national Transition organisations, which now are up and running in Ireland, New Zealand, the US, Sweden and Italy. The idea is to enable and support the transfer of the jobs Transition Network does (in particular assessing applications for ‘formal’ Transition status) to a group in that country. Recently, in New Zealand, a fascinating debate has emerged about the MoU in its current form, and to what extent it is ‘top down’, and whether it is even desirable at all. You can download and read the MoU document here. What follows are two distinct posts. This post is from Natalie in New Zealand, part of the group involved in Transition Aotearoa, offering her analysis of the document, and questioning the need for it. The next post will be my response to Natalie’s concerns.
“What I see in the MoU is quite a far reaching (in its own way) proposal to us from the UK initiatives / Transition Network which – in its current form – I wouldn’t want to accept. However, if we don’t speak out about it, we risk falling “between the cracks” – so I think it is important to be heard.
Now, I come to this document totally unaware of what its history and original purpose was. This is the first time I’ve heard about this, so bear with me if I misinterpret things.
So my first question is “What is this for?” – Is there really a need for a formal agreement of this kind at this stage of the development?? – And while there may well be with regards to other countries, is there one with New Zealand?? Again, I don’t know what the purpose of this was supposed to be, but my biggest question is: What is it the Transition Network trying to protect itself (or the “Transition Movement” ) from? – This doesn’t become clear in this document. At the same time, the things that the document IS expressing, are mostly either already established in one way or the other or have quite purposefully not been established here in New Zealand.
I’ll try to make that clear by relating it back to the document
1. Section 1: Document sets out TT Networks mission – and assumes that National groups will adopt these five core mission activities. Why?? It becomes even clearer under c): why does there have to be a “handover”?? – Not only does this assume that the TT Network has undertaken these activities here in NZ in the past (which, to my knowledge, they have not), but also it assumes that we will want to take on these very five activities – do we???
2. Section 2 b): This would easiest be achieved by not having any of these “higher level structures” at all
3. Section 2, second to last paragraph “help make its work more effective” – What exactly HAS the work of TT Network been in NZ in the past??? – I’m not aware of any. And in the same paragraph (last sentence) – why do we need an MoU in order for the TT Network to support our work? – In the true Transition sense of free sharing (and in the face of the challenges) I would regard that a matter of course.
4. Section 2, last paragraph: an interesting contradiction here: TT network is committed to supporting Hubs that ARISE out of (…). This MoU set out how this can best be BROUGHT ABOUT. – If we want something to naturally arise, we won’t bring it about!
5. Section 3: Again, TT network will TRANSFER national networking / coordinating responsibilities (…) Have they had any in NZ???? I’m not aware of anyone but James and maybe some of us taking on any of such responsibilities. TT Network has certainly never contacted TT Lower Hutt or Wellington for anything.
6. Section 3.1, para 2, last sentence: Network will ASSESS – who is “the network” to be able to do that? How should the network have the knowledge of the “transition landscape” in NZ to be able to do that? – And then, onwards: experience, credentials, capabilities, intentions etc…. says who?? And where are the requirements this will be measured against – and how were these requirements agreed upon? And by whom? Etc etc.
7. Section 3.2: explore provision of training dimension etc: This is already happening in NZ. Admittedly, in a not very coordinated / formal way. But is that necessarily a bad thing? – I feel here lies the real crunch of the document: protecting the intellectual property of the network, protecting the brand etc etc. To me, personally, this is too much “old world thinking”. I much prefer an approach of free sharing, mutual support and trust that the right people will do the right things. Anyway, if this document is about protecting the TT brand, I think it should clearly state this and evolve around that.
8. Section 3.2 b): there is no support for such a thing in NZ, therefore it contradicts c). To me this shows that the document – while trying to remain general – is already making way too many assumptions about how things are happening.
9. Section 3.2. Stage 2: conditions, second to last para: This is already the case here.
10. Section 3.3 d): I totally don’t agree with this, as it appears like not much more than an attempt to make (and protect) a profit. Again, free sharing would be my measure of choice. The TT brand / network can only be abused if either it does not make available enough information to those people who want to act as trainers/ consultants or fails to provide these people with proper training. The challenge for “the network”, IMO, must lie in providing good enough resources / training (inclusive) to all those wanting to become involved in training rather than keeping the thumb on who is allowed to do what (exclusive). And don’t worry – we have several billion people (ok, 4 million here in NZ) we need to educate, train and support – there’ll be enough work for each of us who is drawn to this.
11. Section 4 a) Why does there have to be a MoU for that? – If there is going to be such a thing like an international TT network, I would see its sole function in supporting National Hubs. What else would be its raison d’etre?
12. Section 4 f) Why would we? Why would we need to?
13. Section 4 g) Why? – These are already obsolete given the course of actual events here in NZ
14. Section 4 k) This one I very much agree with. We need to have one named primary contact.
15. Section 4 n) Again I wonder whether this is what this is all about? – But I think going for international funding bids would be getting way ahead of ourselves. And more importantly, this is a local movement – so I think the funding should be generated at the local level and distributed upwards based on agreed needs of the network, rather than the other way around. I really think there is no room for obtaining international funding for this movement without it contradicting itself.
16. Section 4 o) Again, I thought this was a local, grassroots movement? Why not keep it that way until we find out we no longer can?
17. Section 6 : This is too far reaching – it basically says we can’t be Transition Aotearoa (or Transition anything) if we don’t agree to this document (a). It also implies that “the TT Network” is going to take over the national coordination of all our local initiatives (c). – This is neither realistic, nor desirable under any circumstance. This is a local movement – I don’t think any “international body” of any sort can really have a function in this, other than – maybe – facilitating the sharing of information. It also contradicts what Ben says in his covering letter to the MoU – according to this clause, you either sign the MoU and are allowed to call yourself “Transition xyz” and become part of the network – or you don’t, in which case you can’t use the Transition name or brand. So what Ben suggests (sign if it works for you) isn’t really an option… at least it would render those MoUs that have been signed by some countries obsolete – because what is their purpose then?
Now, if you have all read and followed me this far: I think we must enter into a dialogue about this VERY URGENTLY. And don’t get me wrong – I totally honor the work that Ben and Rob have put into this – and I am sure there is a very very good reason for everything that is in this document – I just don’t think it’s going to work for us here in NZ.
On a more constructive note:
I would love to see a joint declaration emerge, which clearly states the principles of free sharing, mutual support, grassroots involvement, freedom to contribute etc etc. Along the lines to what TT Lewes have stated, which I think are fantastic (see below). This declaration could be signed by any TT initiative, on any level – even by each individual. I think that is all that is needed – leave the rest to fate.
The only other thing I could see as being useful is a list of guiding decision making principles, worded as questions (eg. How does this (x) contribute to increasing our resilience as a network? How does this (x) contribute to the principle of free sharing? – Etc etc)
This is the struggle between the old and the new world. May the new world win!
So that’s my rant.
TT Lewes – How we work
These are the principles that guide the way TTL works. These are continuing to develop and evolve:
• We work together because we know that together we are greater than the sum of our parts. We work in a collaborative way because we get better results for less effort.
• We don’t need permission to act. There is no hierarchy. Individuals in TTL take responsibility for their own decisions, actions and results. Responsibility and leadership for TTL are also shared by everyone.
• We trust that those who step forward have good intentions and will make good decisions. We give autonomy and support to those who wish to be part of TTL.
• We are accountable to ourselves and to each other in keeping with the TTL purpose and principles.
• We are transparent in everything we do.
• We don’t have a blueprint. We believe in multiple paths, ideas and possibilities. We think questions are as important as answers. It’s fine to make mistakes and learn from them.
• We are open to working with everyone. We welcome diversity and see it as a strength not a problem. We avoid categories of “them and us”.
• We recognise that we are all teachers and learners. We value both the professional and the practical.
• We acknowledge other initiatives and seek to find ways to collaborate and further the aims of TTL.
• We give what we can and ask for what we need.
• Individually and as a group we work on the things we enjoy so that we do them well.
• We work with a natural momentum, driven by our passion and positive approach.