Transition Stroud

This is a shared history blog. Together we can write the history of our process of transition as it happens.

Monday, 16 July 2007

How should we manage the Core Group?

Various ideas and proposals have been flying around regarding the best ways forward in terms of how to manage the whole process of Transition Stroud.

Photo: Circle of Transitioners from all over the country at the recent Transition Network Day

Clearly what is appealing to many is it's organic nature without the structures that can hamper - but equally to be able to function and achieve the changes we all want there is a need for some sort of framework. At present some Core Group meetings have had 20 people and by the time people are updated and their voices heard it is difficult to move forward. So what is the answer?

Here is a contribution from Mike Jones who kindly let me post some of his notes here. What I like is that this focuses on getting the minimum amount of structure that we can get away with - no less and certainly no more...do feel free to post comments with other suggestions or circulate them on the email list...

Proposal re Core Group: Next Steps

Different perspectives are beginning to emerge together with the surfacing of different assumptions– this is both a healthy and an important part of any evolving organisation. Even though it perhaps felt like we all started from the same place (at those initial Star Anise gatherings), the fact is that we were in quite different places (both in terms of what we each feel is important, the level of understanding we each have about different issues, different preferences for action versus reflection, doing versus thinking/feeling, and different past experiences of joining groups and all that they can trigger). The danger is that these differences, and the process of sense-making that accompanies such a process, could drag us down into endless meetings and potentially sap peoples energy as we struggle to find consensus.

My proposal is to put forward some ideas that might help us get focused such that TS can get into doing more of what needs to be done.

What TS is about?

Dave Cockcroft did a great summary last Saturday lunchtime at Ody’s – I hope I’ve captured at least some of what he was highlighting together with some of my own bias.

TS is about transitioning to a low-carbon, low-energy future where we live, individually and collectively, in a way which cares for nature and for each other.
The current dominant pattern (which services only 20% of the global population) is bringing us face to face with some serious limits:
1. Biological carrying capacity of the earth (we’re already in overshoot)
2. Climate chaos and the potential of runaway climate change
3. Peak Oil – the end of an era of cheap fossil fuels
4. Environmental and social degradation
Whilst the situation is disturbing, it is also exciting. As Helen Keller (author, activist) famously said, “I rejoice to live in such a splendidly disturbing time.”
We need to remake the world and build resilient and adaptive cultures. Transition Stroud provides a vehicle for this process to occur (and a way of embracing all the great stuff that’s already going on).

The coherence comes from a focus on sustainability (which includes both the social and environmental realms – social justice and a healthy ecology might be viewed as different sides of the same coin). It is also important that we place a focus on economic viability as this will help draw others in and build momentum. We might, therefore, use a framework linked to the 3 P’s,: People, Planet, and Profit – just a thought…

Given that TS is about creating a different future, we are on a journey into the unknown and having to make it up as we go along. Joanna Macy uses a helpful framework and suggests that we need activity in 3 distinct, but overlapping domains:
Activism/direct action
Creating alternate structures, new institutions
Paradigm shifting – mental models, how we view the world, what’s valued, etc
TS needs to work in a way which addresses all three of these.

The Core Group – it’s role. Some initial thoughts:

I see the Core Group as being an enabler and as ensuring that we are on the best compass bearing. It’s role might be one of asking questions and noticing what’s happening and recognising what might be needed (for example, in relation to Macy’s framework above)
Are we headed in the right direction?
What’s working / not working”
What are we learning and how can this best be shared?
What might make a significant difference/create a big shift?
Where might there be opportunities for greater collaboration?
What’s missing?

A key role could be to help build the conditions whereby greater and greater numbers of people feel they are able to take responsibility for making things happen – this might include tackling barriers as well as identifying things which might be enablers.

I see it as quite a small group (maybe maximum of 8), where people occupy the role for a fixed period and are then reappointed or there is a recognition of the need for different people with different skills, energy, etc. Given it’s role as a ‘communication hub’, then each core group member might have a formal role of liaising with a couple of sub groups as a way of gathering information and sharing what else is going on. I would see the need for this group to meet every three weeks, at least for the next six months.

They might also have a role of protecting the integrity of TS (this could include a number of things which would become clearer over time).

The essential purpose of the Core Group is to serve the wider Transition process and to support/enable the sub groups and the various projects which emerge.

If I look at Totnes as well as the Transition Network group, it strikes me that there is too much reliance on too few people meaning that those people are overwhelmed, unable to respond and inadvertently slow things down and sap the energy of others. We need a greater distribution of influence and leadership. A downside is that such an approach is not always efficient or smooth, but on the upside, it provides the potential for fast change and breakthroughs. We need to stay light on our feet.

Which people / where next?

Always a tricky one as hits people’s buttons about inclusion/exclusion. We need to be objective about this – what skills are we looking for, what experiences/understanding might be needed, who has got the necessary time/energy/focus, are they able to work cooperatively, etc. My suggestion would be that people either self-select, or are nominated and we see what names/numbers we have at next meeting on 2nd August and make it an ‘open’ meeting so that whoever wants to be involved can be. A decision could be made, following some exploration, about what and who and a suggested trial period.

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