Our first year

Our first year
Chris McCartney
11 January 2023
9 minute read

What if… communities everywhere had the power, knowledge and opportunity to lead change, building a better world for everyone from the ground up? That’s the vision of Transition Together, a project to grow and strengthen this work for community-led action in England and Wales. 

We are part of the international Transition movement, which emerged in the UK in 2005. Now the Transition Network links communities in 50 countries taking practical action to ‘transition’ away from the unsustainable and divisive ways we are living to resilient, active and caring communities. 

Our recent journey began in 2020, when we explored how the 300 Transition groups in England and Wales, and our whole society could ‘Bounce Forward’, not back, from the pandemic. Transition Together builds on that initial phase, working for a better future, thanks to generous funding from The National Lottery Community Fund’s Growing Great Ideas programme. We’re partners in this funding with the Scottish Transition Hub, Scottish Communities Climate Action Network. While Transition Together is a new project, SCCAN has been supporting community-led change across Scotland for many years. 

Having this security of funding is a huge opportunity for Transition groups and the whole movement to work towards long term, transformational change – and there’s never been a more important time to marshal communities’ creativity, energy, care and power to rapidly reshape our world for the better and for everyone.

As we reflect back on our first full year of Transition Together, it’s important to our small staff team to share what we’ve been doing with our wider family, as well as what we learned and struggled with, and how we’ll seek to move forward.

What have we been doing? 

Naturally, a portion of our first year’s work was spent establishing the project, bringing in skills and people, planning and working out, in dialogue with Transitioners, how best to grow and support the movement. There are few ballads or legends written about setting up new admin systems and building a website, but it has to be done.

The Transition Together team is passionate about serving the movement. We mostly work part time, freeing each of us to be involved in projects in our own local communities, but leaving us stretched for time and capacity. By the end of our first year, we’ve grown to the equivalent of just four full-time staff across the project. We try to use our time wisely, to work collaboratively within and beyond the movement, to be responsive to Transitioners and to prioritise where we have most impact. Here are eight areas where we’ve made progress in year one: 

  • To ground our work in the needs and challenges of Transition groups, we’ve  interviewed 17 groups as part of our ongoing audit. We’d love this to be an ongoing dialogue and to hear what Transition looks like where you are. Get in touch if you’d like to take part in 2023.  
  • In May, we held the online Together We Can summit, with 30+ sessions to nurture, build and inspire your work for community-led change. We brought practical sessions to support Transition groups’ work as well as meaty challenges on youth leadership, trauma, inclusive movements and more.
Together We Can Summit graphic, showing small people holding blocks which when put together read Together We Can
Our summit highlighted the power of collective community action – because Together We Can and are achieving transformational change.
  • One of our goals has been to build a web of support between Transitioners, connecting groups and individuals for sharing and peer-to-peer learning. In April, we launched Vive, an online space to connect directly with others in your region or involved in similar projects around food, energy, transport and more. Now 470 changemakers are there from across the UK. 
  • We supported a number of groups facing specific challenges, from difficult publicity to diversifying funding, recruiting new volunteers to navigating group conflict. Work for community-led change can be tough at times, and we have developed events, resources and funding to help. You can also reach out to us, if you can’t find solutions, here
  • We launched a seed funding programme, to distribute £160,000 to Transition groups to spark new projects, build capacity and impact in their communities. Grants were transferred just before Christmas so the work can take place in 2023. We are super excited about these transformational activities, and cannot wait to tell the stories – watch this space.
  • To ensure our movement is resilient for the future, we need a democratic structure to guide the work, and which will outlast our time bound funding and project. We embarked on a journey to explore what a Transition Hub in England and Wales could look like, and how it could represent and support the movement into the future. To co-create this journey, we established a caretaker group made up of people from the movement and beyond, bringing different life experiences and skills to the table. The group is preparing to invite individual Transitioners and local groups into this important dialogue in Spring 2023. 
  • We grew relationships and connections with other networks working for radical change. We are animating the CTRLShift network, which aims to create spaces locally, regionally and nationally where organisations building practical and radical alternatives on the ground can collaborate, network and build partnerships with one another.  In 2022, CTRLshift members set up three prototype projects in Hull, Wandsworth and Bristol, exploring new ways of collaborating on local issues, bringing in multiple voices and unlocking new funding and approaches.  We continue to work closely and learn from Scottish Communities Climate Action Network, which is rolling out innovative programmes including neighbourhood Climate for Change encounters, regional hubs for climate action and hosts a storytelling collective.
Seed funding was launched and grants dispersed to more than 70 groups; a new round is being planned for 2023.

What have we learnt

Naturally, there are many things we’ve learnt along the way, and areas where we have more work to do. Here’s are some of the reflections and intentions we are carrying forward:  

  • Storytelling matters – we need to amplify the big and little stories of community-led change because they inspire, challenge and give practical guidance to other groups seeking solutions. When we gave space to Zero Guildford to share how they set up their community climate hub, it was shared 50 times and led to other Transition groups exploring similar spaces in their communities. We’ve stepped up our storytelling, getting many more examples from you and making our website, newsletter, Youtube, Facebook and Twitter a tasty feast to tuck into, including bringing together action around themes like energy and food. We want to diversify the stories, voices and contexts we share – and we’d love to hear yours. We’ll also be exploring new ways our online platform Vive can be a place to share your experiences and struggles, and support Transition in 2023. 
  • Online is great, but many people want the revitalising experience of connecting in person. So we are going to organise regional gatherings in a small number of places in 2023. We’ll keep activities online too – we know it can be more accessible and flexible for many and gives opportunities to connect across the country. We know for ourselves, time to attend workshops and events is short, no matter how interesting or useful. With that in mind, we’ve spent time designing training programmes targeting the needs of Transition groups specifically. They will run from January to March. We’ll also offer a focused session on working with councils in spring 2023, thanks to our collaboration with ECOLISE
  • We cannot build resilient, regenerative communities unless we address the injustice and inequality built into our current systems and society. Climate and social justice are intimately linked. Our team brings a variety of lived experience, but we understand the need to broaden and deepen our approaches and knowledge further to truly begin to engage with these issues in a meaningful way. We have sought to include a wide range of voices and perspectives in our events and seed funding process including bringing people into the design and delivery of them. In 2023, we want to expand this strand of our work to explore how and why it matters to build social justice into work for community-led change, plus support for Transitioners to ask challenging questions about how we do this meaningfully in practice. 
  • There is an urgency to this work, but it can’t be rushed. How we work matters as much as what we do. Relationships matter. Burnout is real. We have begun exploring the challenge of building sustainable livelihoods around community-led change, at the Summit and in our seed funding process, though more attention to this question is needed to build resilience on the ground in our movement. 
  • Growing mycelium interconnected networks and creating impact is not only about what you can count. With the help of evaluator Tim Strasser, we’ve developed a framework to help us understand our intended impact and the process of change we’re sparking. This 3D tool explores how our activities are widening (reaching more and a greater diversity of people and communities), lengthening (increasing the longevity and resilience of Transition groups and projects) and deepening our understanding of what it takes to fundamentally change dominant systems and culture.
  • Change is complex, and working to build new, alternative systems within the existing systems we have is challenging. We’re working with Schumacher Institute on a guide to systems thinking at community level, to help Transition groups and others to navigate the paths to transformational change. 

The Transition movement’s experience of creating change, driven by communities, is needed now more than ever. It’s more impactful and sustainable than acting alone, it shows decision-makers and other communities what’s possible and it makes us active players in reimagining and rebuilding the future.  We would love you to be part of this journey together and help us grow and strengthen in the year ahead. 

Sign up to our newsletter here for news and inspiration from our project and groups. Find your local group and get involved. Join our upcoming training or events to deepen your understanding and work for community-led change. 

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