Transition Stroud

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

Friday, 19 February 2010

Transition Stroud, Resilience and SkillsGain

Transition Stroud, Resilience and SkillsGain

To be strong as a community, given climate change and peak oil, we need to have as many people as possible with sustainable skills- and we need a culture of skills sharing. Both will make an important contribution to Stroud’s resilience. This article looks at how individual and group learning (SkillsGain) might contribute to this resilience. It argues for the concept of resilience to be discussed and included in Transition Stroud’s mission statement. It seeks support for starting a Stroud SkillsGain working group which would identify current learning that contributes to resilience- and which would identify, promote and deliver whatever additional learning was needed.

Introduction

In the Transition Handbook Rob Hopkins writes that to effectively address climate change the resilience of the groups taking action is critical. By “resilience he means

“the ability of a system from individual people to whole economies, to hold together and maintain their ability to function in the face of change and shocks from the outside”

He argues that:

“in our current (and long overdue) efforts to drastically cut carbon emissions we must give equal importance to the building, or more accurately the rebuilding of resilience. Indeed I will argue that cutting emissions without resilience building is ultimately futile.”

Hopkins goes on to identify the three essential features that are central to a systems ability to reorganise itself following shocks. These are:

Diversity: The number of elements (people, species, businesses, institutions, food sources) that make up that diversity but also the number of connections between them.

Modularity: The manner in which the components that make up the system are linked. A more modular structure means that parts of a system can more effectively self organise in the event of a shock.

Tightness of Feedbacks: How quickly and strongly the consequences of a change in one part of the system are felt and responded in other parts. Tightening feedback loops will have beneficial results allowing us to bring the consequences of our actions closer to home, rather than their being so far from our awareness that they don’t even register.

I would submit from the above two key conclusions for Transition Stroud:

Ÿ The importance of mission and vision statements that are discussed, debated and owned by the widest number of Stroud residents – and which include. and make reference to resilience


Ÿ The importance of Learning or “SkillsGain” in contributing to resilience and a sense of community.


Vision and Mission Statements for Transition Stroud

The vision: Good practice suggests there are a number of approaches to this – “A mental image of a possible and desirable future state “; “a desirable challenge for members of the organisation”; “A backdrop for the purpose and strategy of the organisation”. So a suggestion:

Transition Stroud’s vision is to become a global beacon for change through its citizens positive engagement in implementing solutions to the global challenge of climate change.

Mission: Good practice indicates it needs to, state the beneficiaries, the organisation/service provides, the boundaries, the effect of the service provided and the value base. We need to adapt this for Transition Stroud so something along the lines of:

The purpose of Transition Stroud is to engage as many of the residents of Stroud District as possible in initiatives that reduce and minimise Stroud Districts contribution to climate change This to be achieved in a way that increases the resilience, skills and sense of community within the district.

Critical to the adoption of such a vision is the engagement process, consultation, meetings, discussions, disagreements and consensus.

SkillsGain

Learning and skills acquisition are likely to be critical to the development of both resilience and a sense of community. Indeed SkillsGain’s mission needs to reflect this:

The purpose of Transition Stroud’s SkillsGain Working Group is to increase Stroud Districts resilience to climate change and peak oil. This to be achieved through:
Ÿ a programme of engagement events with Stroud residents
Ÿ publicising current local relevant learning opportunities
Ÿ offering additional relevant individual and group learning opportunities that increase resilience
Ÿ monitoring and reviewing resilence


Practically the mission can be achieved in a number of ways:

1. Engagement events – such as the “What happened in Copenhagen” and other events that seek to engage the maximum number of Stroud residents. This could be via schools, colleges and open events.

2. Networking and publicising relevant existing local courses - such as the FairShares mechanics course

3. Networking and publicising relevant – regional/national organisations such as Leasure learners www.leasurelearner.com and www.justfortheloveofit.org

4. Engaging current Transition Stroud Working Groups – to deliver themed workshops to the Stroud community

5. Engaging with other Transition Towns – to identify relevant learning and how it is delivered. To learn from them.

6. Developing a SkillsGain Working Group – to organise, publicise and review relevant learning and skills in order to then assess and evaluate progress against the groups mission statement


Delivering Skills and Learning to meet needs

Much research has been undertaken on learning styles and needs. Individuals vary in their need to understand the theoretical framework of learning, how much time they need to reflect, the relevance of the learning to their situation and how much group or individual hands on learning there needs to be.

Learning is most cost effective in (small) groups and for many people this is an appropriate and successful method. For some skills gain needs to be delivered through one to one support and even one to one ongoing support. To deliver its mission SkillsGain needs to acknowledge and respond to this.


How to Organise and Fund SkillsGain

Options could include the SkillsGain Working Group:

· Agreeing definitions - of learning and skills events that map on to the groups mission statement
· Organising and promoting - engagement events and Working Groups events plus linking with “Partner Projects” to encourage appropriate courses from them
· Researching and identifying – good practice in other Transition Towns world wide
· Implementing – effective ways of engaging the with the Stroud Community
· Exploring – partnerships with statutory agencies such as community education
· Accessing – funding to promote the mission of both SkillsGain and Transition Stroud
· Developing – systems that promote both easy access to learning and individuals who will deliver training either to groups or individuals either on a voluntary or paid basis (or both)
· Evaluating – progress against SkillsGain mission statement




Conclusion

Rob Hopkins identifies building resilience as a critical element in locally tackling climate change. In Stroud the number of connections between us; the quality of these linkages and our responsiveness to shocks to our community are critical to building this resilience. Learning and a sense of the community gaining in skills to positively engage with the future is also key. Coming together to learn, share and support each other could make an important contribution to resilience. We need to identify, promote and deliver learning that contributes to resilience and deliver it in ways that recognise different learning styles and needs. This needs to be initiated through a SkillsGain Working Group supported by the wider movement.


Erik Wilkinson
January 2010

Acknowledgements:
The Transition Handbook (2008) - Rob Hopkins
Transition Stroud Draft Strategy (October 2009) - Gail Bradbook*

If you might be interested in getting involved in a SkillsGain Working Group please e mail erik.w@virgin.net


* Draft strategy available from gail@citizensonline.org.uk although Gail is working on an update and it may be best to wait for the next version

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