Blue Mountains meeting brings together far-flung Transition Town teams
THE DECIDUOUS TREES at the Mid-Mountains Community Centre were covered with showy white flowers as people gathered in Lawson for the quarterly Sydney region assembly of Transition Town groups. People had previously met at the Customs House at Circular Quay, but when the Blue Mountains team offered their territory people jumped at the chance to get out of the city for cooler surroundings and far horizons.
Transition teams from as far afield as Newcastle, Epping, Parramatta and Bondi were represented, in additon to those from the mountains and from the metropolitan Transition Sydney organisation.
For a resilient city
Going round the table, it was revealing to learn of the range of local activity people were involved in:
- in inner-urban Darlinghurst, Transition 2010 (named for the postdode) reported their activity with Sydney Sustainable Markets, going now for more than a year
- Transition Epping are involved with a community garden, a solar scheme, and have had input into a council planning document; they have held successful Footprint Parties and recently did one for Ku-ring-kai Council staff, which stimulated a green office program.
- Transition Newcastle hold their Fair Share Festival next March, a conference on alternative economic models; they have a new website up reporting event notification, stories and projects and have Transition Streets, a local program with a sustainable living focus
- Gareth, a Sydneysider unattached to any Transition group, described how some of his initiatives would be of potential value to getting the Transition message out—the Live Local website and Social Cinemas, which makes use of shipping containers for public video showing
- Transition Bellevue Hill are guerrilla gardening a 1 x 7m strip of land below power lines and see the spontaneous project as a potential communal garden
- Transition Bondi continue with their Bondi Road Community Garden and their participatory gardening Saturdays there, with the nearby verge gardens as well as their Wednesday evening shared meal and video followed by a discussion, all of which happen after the Sydney Food Connect (a community supported agriculture enterprise delivering weekly boxes of fresh, in season and mainly organically grown local food) food box collections
- Transition Parramatta, which started recently with a forum that attracted 70 people, are currently working on a forward program and have scheduled a climate change despair and empowerment workshop with veteran sustainability advocate, John Seed
- Transition Blue Mountains members have been active with a community garden in Lawson and are discussing a potential city farm/sustainability centre idea for the disused land at Lawson golf course; one member reported on a new organisation, Transform Australia, and on the Blue Mountains Sustainability Conversations Circles; food issues were reported to be a focus in the region and some members are developing street skits around sustainability.
A first round of discussion was around providing communication, especially between Transition groups.
How could the Transition Sydney website be better used, was asked. It already attracts around 70,000 page views a month and could be improved in useability, it was suggested.
Automatically linking website, Facebook and Twitter, so that postings flow from one onto the other, was seen as easing online maintenance demands on people and as being an effective way to aggregate information…
Both websites and social media need people to keep them up to date as this is critical to generating return visits. A web team had been set up at an earlier meeting in Sydney but this proved less viable on account of people’s busyness. Automatically linking website, Facebook and Twitter, so that postings flow from one onto the other, was seen as easing online maintenance demands on people and as being an effective way to aggregate information and improve its spread. Gareth said that his Live Local website, where people post their experiments in local living, could have potential for Transition groups by showing practical examples of what they do.
The Transition teams are fortunate to have a number of online communications mavens among their members. When someone suggested what what was needed was one single web presence it was pointed out that they seldom work because groups have their own needs best met with their own websites or social media. What could work was aggregating information from different groups.
Gareth spoke about how Twitter has become an effective means of notifying events and for news gathering. Twitter is a powerful way to get infomation out, he explained.
An ORID (a type of structured conversation around Objective, Reflective, Interpretive and Decisional questions) revealed how Transition teams are getting their messages out:
- Transition Sydney uses its website with its links to local groups as well as Twitter and Facebook
- Transition Bondi follows the marketing idea of needing six points of public contact with a group for effective communications, so makes use of SMS, Facebook, word of mouth, flyers, email, signage at venues and posts to websites and associated social media
- Transition Blue Mountains uses flyers, their email list, word of mouth, posters, notices in newspapers and neighbourhood centre newsletters
- Transition Epping has found community notices in the local newspaper important as not all in the area have computers; supplying the paper with copy plus a photo or press release creates a presence with the publisher but needs to be done consistently
- Transition Newcastle use an email list, website, networking with other groups that publish information, and flyers
- Transition Parramatta make use of the council calendar, notices in library, the council e-list, community radio and their own contact lists collated at events
According to Transition Sydney, it takes three to four to support online media effectively and to keep it up to date, but aggregating information through linking website, Facebook and Twitter can reduce this by automatically linking postings.
Planning to skill- up
Skilling-up with both intellectual and practical skills was the next item for the meeting. A list of possibilities was created:
- hands-on skills
- grant writing
- group relations/heart and soul
- facilitation/group leadership/connect/collaborate/cooperate
- council liaison
- research groups
- economic transition
- outreach to mainstream
- city scale transition
- personal sustainability—values-based… heart and soul… emotional resilience.
Against these, people noted which they had skills in and which they would like to lear more about. This provided an indication of where training in skills as well as train-the-trainer education can be offered.
This November’s meeting of regional Transition groups will take the form of an upskilling day with training offered in:
- grant writing and sourcing
- games, energisers
- personal sustainability (values based)
- compost education
- home brew
- setting up a social enterprise.
Review reveals event was beneficial
At the end of the meeting, people went around to comment on the day. Comments included:
- interaction between groups was good
- the facilitators delivered
- got actions… plans to do stuff
- all were able to contribute and the meeting was not dominated by the few
- good to bring together people from different places
- good interaction
- good to realise connections
- leaving filled with hope and recognising the challenges…energised to do something on the lower North Shore
- Transition people eat well—a reverence to the plentiful supply of good food such as Claire’s home made pumpkin soup
- a sense of being less isolated
- the need to learn questioning techniques
- a chance to meet people from region talking about same thing
- stayed on task
- interaction, including socially
- good to get perspective on what’s going on elsewhere
- meeting people a good thing.
Credit goes to the Transition Blue Mountain crew for organising the venue, preparing the food and scheduling a fine, cool, late-winter day in the mountains.