Transition Massachusetts

Katrien and I have just chalked up our first failure in trying to find initiators for the Metro West region. I was wondering how the successful transition towns got started? You're supposed to have at least 4. There are two green groups in Needham and I'm going to at least get involved with them, but I was really disappointed that the flyers that I plastered everywhere accomplished nothing. Not a single person joined our facebook group despite some tabs being torn off. It seems to me that if you push too hard to find initiators maybe they aren't cut out to be initiators. You know, initiators have, well, initiative. Don't you think? So I didn't want to cast a wide net for them by having some kind of open event. Is this the wrong approach?

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Good and very important questions. Also some predictable confusion. I mean, what transition town can be called successful, at this early point? Clearing a couple of the first hurdles means something, but not a lot; with our society's transience, some hurdles may need to be cleared several times. Certainly, some success can be attributed to coincidences, rather than applied skills and methods. This is for the long haul, so resist temptations to beat yourself up about what has and hasn't happened. Permaculture reminds us that every place is different and teaches us to observe, observe, observe and think, think, think. Devise a new flyer that has a different invitation. Be sure it (somehow) answers What's in it for me? This is called speaking to their listening. The invitation a person responds to is a clue to what they'll work on, while they're around. Since there's so much to work on, many different invitations can be devised.

I suggest giving high priority to inviting people who will do things you cannot or will not do because of your strengths and inclinations. Like-mindedness is less important than we think-without-thinking.

That said, an open event may have a low-stakes feel that (not yet known) key people would like. Another form of speaking to their listening!
I'm just curious where the initiators came from. They certainly couldn't have just been people off the street who had never heard of peak oil. Like I said, I was fishing for people who had already taken the red-pill and didn't need an aggressive sales pitch or a long learning curve. It was more along the lines of a message in a bottle. You know, "Do you think you're like me? Alone in your anxieties"? The answer appears to be that in a town of 30,000 people, I am pretty much alone in feeling this way.

From what I can tell so far, the Boston area seems to have, not so much an openly hostile attitude to this stuff, but more of a casual technofix mindset. I just don't sense any fear.
Hi Glenn,
My 2 cents: you are probably not alone, but I'm guessing there are still large hurdles. First, us "red-pill-swallowers" are still a pretty small minority, that is, folks who are not just vaguely uneasy, but having learned and processed and gone through various stages of freaking out and getting to the next step of taking action. We are NOT a large group yet. I'm not saying this to discourage you, just to point out that finding one another can be difficult and requires persistence. Also, promoting and marketing an event or cause can be a complex and multi-tiered process... were you only using flyers and Facebook, or other methods as well? How are you targeting the audiences you are hoping to reach? We could start a thread on this Ning just to talk about outreach methods. There are many, and we need to use them all! Also, I would echo David E. about offering various "hooks" to get people involved, because not everyone responds to the same messages. I think initiators, in particular, can be hard to find, because as you rightly point out, it would help if they would show initiative! But some people just need a little encouragement and cultivation; they might not see themselves as initiators yet. Lastly I would add that even if you don't have 4 people, maybe it makes sense to start anyway, to get some momentum going, and see who joins you. There are no hard and fast rules in transition.
Jen, from Northampton, Mass.
Glenn S said:
I was fishing for people who had already taken the red-pill and didn't need an aggressive sales pitch or a long learning curve. It was more along the lines of a message in a bottle. You know, "Do you think you're like me? Alone in your anxieties"? The answer appears to be that in a town of 30,000 people, I am pretty much alone in feeling this way.

From what I can tell so far, the Boston area seems to have, not so much an openly hostile attitude to this stuff, but more of a casual technofix mindset. I just don't sense any fear.

I'm going out on a limb to say one of the pitfalls of the transition model is that it's encouraging (or taken to encourage) new organizers to bank on fear. Climate change and peak oil are fearsome, so they weren't poor choices at all, if banking on fear makes sense in all cases. Very few things make sense in all cases (that permaculture notion, again)!

I was suggesting that some people out there want things you want (a more resilient community, for example) and will play a (their) part to achieve those results, but may not want to start from a connection with fear(s). That may be a turn-off for them. They might want to feel pulled to a goodness, not driven by a looming horror. Giving them that feeling does not require an agressive sales pitch. Which feeling they need at the outset does not determine their fitness for initiating transition with you.

I must say here that getting something going is challenging for me, too. Any difference is in how we're thinking about it - and that could shrink with every post!
Hello there Glenn,
I just helped co-organize a small gathering of people who work more in social services sector than in "civic activism" in Somerville-- to introduce them to Transition Towns.. Believe me, we were a little scared that the event wouldn't work. And, we made a lot of mistakes during that meeting. But people did indeed show up. Two wise friends who attended commented [to paraphrase], that everyone was there because they "personally knew at least one other person would be happy to see them there."

The takeaway? I guess where we succeeded was by focusing almost completely on those with whom we already had a personal connection-- as neighbors, friends, fellow activists.

As for complete strangers-- I bet these folks will need repeat exposure, from many different venues. I wouldn't be shy about using listserves, public twitter feed, public facebook, public meetup in addition to some well placed flyers. It will just take time for people to notice and remember.

good luck!
Also, I wanted to add that in Northampton, we are just starting to identify initiators as well. It's not easy. I'm involved but I'm also ambivalent because we are trying to sell our house and move to Amherst, so if it ends up being only a Northampton-oriented initiative and I am living in another town, it might not make sense for me to be an initiator in Northampton. But I'm still forging ahead, tentatively, even if I have to bow out. (Although we have been having some conversations about bioregional organizing as applied to Transition in our group.) Other Northampton folks who are interested also have much that they are trying to juggle. The time management piece is a biggie. Everyone has commitments that they can't just drop, such as jobs and partners and kids, so Transition has to get wedged in there somehow, and even though I personally try to make it a huge priority because I think we will eventually have no choice but to prepare and/or cope, sometimes it's all I can do to take care of my two-year-old daughter. I do try to get Lily involved, even at age two, with things such as gardening, foraging, food preservation and storage, etc but some tasks just don't blend with an active toddler, like focused meetings without interruption, hours of research, phone calls... right now I am writing this while she naps, but she doesn't take especially long naps. :) I do think, daily, about how every bit of effort spent preparing for the transition will be to Lily's benefit and that is a huge motivator for me. But she also needs my attention and love and help, right here, right now, all day, every day. It's hard to manage it all.
I am not really willing to set up and run events by my lonesome. It just feels like going above and beyond the call of duty, not to mention that I probably wouldn't be that good at it. I have offered to team up with Katrien to do a single cattle-call type event for initiators in Wayland and then for her to do the same for me in Needham, but if even this strikes out, I don't see what else to do. I can just contribute to the two established groups here and leave it at that.

Another idea is to have a kind of "Earth Day" thing for initiating that is spearheaded by the existing transition movements in Massachusetts (probably Newburyport). So we get all of the "stranded" peakers such as myself together and collectively, on the same day, we hold our event, with the same basic agenda. Maybe set up some gimmicky webcams so that the different meeting rooms can see eachother. That way there is some power in numbers although it's distributed around the state.
I wasn't very discouraged about no one showing up; it only intrigued me.

Glenn and I are in the MetroWest, and as he points out, the atmosphere here is different. Different from the inner cities or the "first ring" around Boston, from Great Barrington way out west, not mention the UK.
Wayland, for instance, is home to many conventionally wealthy: CEOs, executives, many in finance and chemicals. With them I tend to stress local economies more than peak oil or climate change around here, because those terms have (as yet!) almost no urgency at all for them. They are mildly interested. The only time they seems ruffled is (understandably) when they lose their jobs, which believe me, happens out here too. But then their concerns turn even more strictly to the economical-in-the-old-sense. At that time local economies simply annoy them, because they don't think it's relevant to them: they still see themselves as executives of a global company, not as grocery store minders. It's difficult to imagine finding a fellow-initiator among them.
So I remind myself that the executives are by no means the only group (economically) here in Wayland. We have plenty of people living in capes, working at Donelans and Rite Aid, many retired, many staying home with the kids. To them, local business would mean something. Also, age-wise, among the younger ones and the older ones, climate change might have more meaning...
I'm just thinking out loud here. These populations are complex, and for each group there is a message that they will hear and a time at which they will listen.
Maybe we should target one group at a time. E.g., skip the middle age for now, go to the high school and the senior's clubs instead. Determine the one most open to our message, get them on board, then expand.

I may be talking about awareness-raising here, not finding initiators. But perhaps, in our situations, that will be the only way to find fellow initiators. It'll be a steep learning curve, and the kicker is that for the moment we're climbing it alone.

But in the meantime I agree with Glenn that it would be helpful to hear how the initiators of the other towns found each other, however accidental, if only to hear the stories...
The Initiating Group for Transition Beverly formed this past Spring following a group reading of the Transition Handbook. I had participated in a reading group for another local town via the invitation of a friend and was hooked. I really wanted to do this in Beverly but also was overwhelmed at the thought of doing too much on my own and where/how to start. I advertised in the local papers and a local listserve for the North Shore and got a couple interested people that way. However the majority who came to the group reading/discussions (3 meetings) were people I already knew that were interested in these issues. After the last meeting a handful of us decided we wanted to continue to form an Initiating Group and see where this went. So that's how our group formed and after reading these posts I think we were pretty lucky!

Even though we have an "initiating group" the same challenges you all have raised are challenges that we face too for the next steps. How do we get the message out ("awareness-raising") but not scare people away? One of the methods we've discussed is to focus initially on activities/events that people can get on board with...local food, solar/wind projects, community gardens, more bike paths, etc...and build more of a local community from a positive position and a bit of the "what's in it for me?" mentality mentioned above. Hopefully from these events we'd identify additional folks who might be interested in "Transition" and maybe start additional reading groups, etc. We'll see how it goes....
I'd like to take this opportunity to give testimony to the development of Transition Newburyport. At least my perspective of it anyway. Id encourage any/every one else involved in TN to do the same. Its a great conversation and Id like to thank Glenn for 'initiating it', and for all that has and will respond to it. It is an important one. Thanks to Conrad for the notification and invitation.

First off, and at the risk of sounding like the 'choir preaching to the choir' ...I don't believe in failure. There is no such thing. I'd rather look at it in terms of measuring and calculating the 'level of effective implementation', combined with........per chance, or as Beverly's Laura stated,....luck. Your initial, initiation, Glenn, WILL bear an effective level of successful implementation. You must always be confident in that and understand that it WILL happen. As long as you, or someone else, continues to initiate that thought and action, it will happen at some point, even though it may not be evident at the moment. I may be stating something you already know. At least, I hope so.

Next, as far as Newburyport's story concerned, some have referred to it as an 'act of cosmic alignment'. Even though I do believe in some form of 'divine act of heavenly guidance'', I've also have come to understand a certain level behind the 'science thereof' of such claims. Some call it 'synchronicity'. Some would simply say the right people at the right time.
Others could say it wouldn't have mattered who or why, as long as it was.

As mentioned I would like to take this opportunity to engage in this conversation regarding the beginnings of the initiating group of TN, whats worked and what hasn't in my view, and a general 'my-over-view' of where we are at. I will make an honest attempt to do this in time, but like most of us at TN, I am out of time for the moment, but will return here as soon as I can to finish a contribution to this important topic, expand on some of the points that have already been made, and perhaps offer some help and suggestions.

Also for now, I'd like to say thanks to Jen for her perspective of 'juggling time' and know that your efforts and sacrifice are heard, seen, and worthy. I think a lot of us can relate to what you are talking about, but I'd like to remind people, that if there is No Transition, all other issues will be non relevant. Somehow and someway, and on some level, Transition must remain a focus and a priority.

Many Thanks,
John Brown
Initiating Member- 'Transition Newburyport'.
John, YES, YES, YES. You wrote, "...if there is No Transition, all other issues will be non relevant. Somehow and someway, and on some level, Transition must remain a focus and a priority." I could not agree more. This is what keeps me going, even when I feel I can't possibly do more. When I ask myself, how can I best take care of my child? the answer is always, take care of her immediate needs, yes, but also work to give her a viable future. I feel strongly that I have an enormous obligation not only to my child, but to all children, the human community, and to other species. This moral imperative tells me, now is the time to pull out all the stops. Now is the time to forge ahead, no matter how difficult or confusing things are. Now is the time to put comfort, convenience, and denial on the shelf, while at the same time making sure that I am as grounded, functional, and sane as possible. What a task. We are called upon to be nothing less than heroic. Daunting, and yet a challenge to be our best selves.

I wish for everyone here strength, conviction, and help along the way.

Jen Hartley
Northampton (or speaking bioregionally, Connecticut River Valley bioregion)
How could "Somehow and someway, and on some level, Transition must remain a focus and a priority." become an element of the Transition Massachusetts home page banner? I mean politically how could it come to pass, not technically, how it could be done.

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