Transition Stroud

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

Monday, 28 June 2010

Transition Training Report

Marta Suárez recently graduated from Madrid Autonomous University and sought a placement with a Transition Town in the U.K. She has worked with Transition Stroud since January 2010 and returns to Spain in July 2010. Here she gives her perspective on the learning that took place on the two day Transition Training held in Somerset


I along with seventeen other people from other Transition Towns, attended a 2 day Transition Training Course in Bridgewater on April 11th and 12th. It was about the Transition Model - how to start and maintain a Transition initiative, all through a range of skills and techniques including presentations, games and discussions. It was a comprehensive, challenging – and exhausting weekend. Outlined below are the key points, techniques and approaches that struck a chord with me.

1. Context for Transition – The Outer World

Climate Change is the biggest environmental problem the world is facing. We are already starting to suffer its effects - but we do not know what the magnitude of its consequences will be and what specifically will happen in our country. We are the cause of this situation, having increased the greenhouse gases at the atmosphere, so it is us who have to change this situation.

But Climate Change is not the only reason why we have to change. Oil is running out and there will be a moment when oil resources will start to decline. This is what we know as Peak Oil. Our society is totally dependant on oil, and we need to change our way of life if we do not want it to collapse.

2. Introduction to Transition

A Transition Initiative is a model designed to face up to Climate Change and Peak Oil through community action. Underlying it is the premise that we need to act for ourselves and we have to act now, since life with less energy is inevitable and it is better to plan for it now rather than be taken by surprise. We need to increase our resilience - our ability as a community to cope with the coming shocks. Regaining our resilience will allow us to cope better not just with energy shocks but it also offers opportunities for each community to develop its own positive way forward.

3. Visioning

Why do most of people not do anything to cope with Climate Change and Peak Oil? One of the reasons why they do not do it is because there is not an encouraging future scenario for which to fight, so they think they cannot achieve anything acting alone. Media, films, environmental campaigns… always show future scenarios where horrible things and big catastrophes are going to happen. But future can be very different if we want, and this is one of the keys of the Transition Movement, to have a positive vision of the future: that is to think how we would like to live in ten, twenty or thirty years from now and work in that direction.

5. Awareness Raising

To engage as many people as possible we need to do awareness raising. We can organize different events such as film screenings, talks, workshops, exhibitions, etc… but which events do we organize? We have to think what kind of people are our public, asking ourselves the following questions:

- Who needs what? People are at different stages of change (see diagram below) and we have to provide different events for different stages. For example, someone who is at the precontemplation stage needs information, so a film or a talk would be good for it but someone who is at the preparation stage needs the tools which will allow him or her to take action e.g. learning new skills or having easy access to bus timetables.

- Who is our community? Our community can be interested in different topics (food, transport, education…), coming from different backgrounds (cultures, countries, age, income…), have different styles of learning (mental, emotion, kinaesthetic, physical) and with different values and motivations.

- When are people available? We need to connect with them when and where they are most receptive.

- How many do we need to reach? A difficult question to answer, probably when we feel we have engaged enough people to carry on our initiative.

6. Initiating Group

To start a Transition Initiative it is necessary to form an initiating group whose purpose will be to set up the first stages of the Transition Town, such as awareness raising (plan schedule of events, external communication), networking (representation from other groups on initiating group, liaison with other groups), working groups (set up, support, co-ordinate), great unleashing (event to publicise and gain wider support for transition work) and planning their own demise (developing new and appropriate structures as the transition work develops).

7. Launch

Celebrating is also important and organising an Unleashing can help to give a boost to our initiative. It is the opportunity to show what has been happening in the previous months or years by getting together all the people we have engaged and by involving local organisations and government. All of this will help us to take further steps forward.

8. Psychology of Change – The Inner World

The human brain has a dual nature (an inner and outer world) which affects us in our daily life. Our actions and way of living depend on how we feel, and the outer world has an influence on this. For example, if we are constantly criticised and attacked more than valued and accepted, we will have a negative vision of the world and think we are not capable of doing lots of things. We learn from these experiences both positive and negative, and we adapt our behaviour in order to feel safe more than unsafe. In transition some people can feel very insecure about the future, and taking action to change things and make a better future can help us to feel better. Also seeing the results of our work encourages us to continue to take action, so it is very important to support this in our Transition Initiative. If a Transition group is going to survive then it needs to understand the feelings and motivations of group members and nurture them. This is why in many Transition groups the “Heart and Soul” group is important and we need to develop and use a range of tools to facilitate this.

9. Open Space

Open Space is a tool to organise meetings where we want to discuss a specific topic and people to express their opinions without any restriction. How does it work? People attending the meeting know in advance the topic which will be discussed and the facilitator will invite them to write specific questions about that topic on condition that they will chair the discussion about their question. If there are too many questions they are put together under themes with an agreed chair. Then each chair person goes to a table to hold the discussion and then everyone else goes to whichever topic they prefer - but critically only stay as long as they want and are allowed to and indeed encouraged to change to another discussion group whenever they want. At the end of the meeting, each chair person will summarize the key points of each discussion. After the meeting, the facilitator can put together all the information and share it with everyone.

10. Later Stages of Transition – The Model so Far

What steps are needed to take forward a Transition Initiative? The diagram below suggests how it can be done - although we do not need to follow it to the letter, since each Transition initiative is different.

The Transition Movement has spread rapidly around the world with 255 “Official” Initiatives (December 2009) and thousands “mulling”. My great discovery… there are some groups who have started a Transition Initiative in Spain!


As someone who has recently discovered the Transition Movement and having only worked for one for a few months, I found this 2 day course really useful. Firstly, because it has provided me with a global vision about the Transition Model and how it works, and secondly, because it was a great opportunity to meet people from other Transition Towns and share our experiences and thoughts (I now realise how much work Transition Stroud has done!). It was also useful because I have learnt new, techniques, games and group dynamics that can be used in meetings, workshops, courses or other events when you are the facilitator. I especially found the Open Space approach interesting.

When I first heard about Transition Towns I thought it was a great initiative and I decided I wanted to volunteer for a while with one in order to learn more about it (thanks to Transition Stroud for allowing me to come). I hope to put into practise what I have learnt here in the U.K. when I will go back to Spain. I know that everything I have learnt in my six months with Transition Stroud and on this course will be helpful in initiating action and in building local resilience to the inevitable challenges of climate change and peak oil.

Marta Suárez

June 2010

Many thanks to Erik Wilkinson for looking through this report and his useful inputs.

At the end of the Transition Training course we were e mailed a range of Transition Training resources. If anyone is interested in receiving some or all of them then please contact me -


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