The wheels of the Transition Network Conference 2015 were set in motion when my niece lent me her ‘rave tent’, Boomtown engrained in every seam: chewing gum, mud and an old sock. But hey, it was too late to book a room and I wanted to stay on the conference site – knowing that good conversations happen in the wee small hours.
Team Blue Patch were up for helping me clean the tent and soon trying it out for comfort – sad to leave everyone behind, next year there will be six of us going for sure….Julia, Rachael, Emily, Preeti and Emma (probably not Mole who’s prone to accidents).
I wanted to discover more about the Transition Network after Blue Patch member Karen (Crystal Palace Food Market) explained how their ‘Transition’ market is selling produce from Patchwork farms. She got me curious – thanks Karen!
Focusing on the Local Entrepreneurs Forums (Blue Patch had already been involved in the Lambeth LEF) I wanted to find out if this would work as a model for Blue Patch as we plan events to generate opportunities for local business.
I also wanted to deepen my understanding of Transition, REconomy and Permaculture – to plug into community driven action and reboot my knowledge. December 2015 #COP21 will be a key date for Blue Patch and why we’re committed to building sustainable local economies.
I arrived at Seale-Hayne, Devon, late on Friday with ‘car-poolers’ Sharon and Anna – the conference began on the journey from Tooting Broadway, we made the most of the time to share stories and exchange ideas. A welcome glass of wine along with my first encounter with Chris from FolkLabs and Kathleen from The Food Assembly and the zebra (see photo).
2am, tent successfully erected, I was shortly to be reminded by a family of crows that a glorious day was dawning.
People from Transition hubs, independent groups and individuals from across the world were drawn together by the magnetic Transition Network – every moment of the conference was packed with conversations between people keen to share ideas and engage in ‘outside the box’ exercises – it felt like a ‘communal brain’ was whirling away….
It was a real eye opener to learn how Transition Hubs face diverse challenges, from organised crime to drug cartels, water shortage to inequality. Transition as part of a universal movement supporting local initiatives has never been more important.
Saturday morning began with a ‘Beginnings’ session with coffee and everyone noting down what they wanted to find out and give over the weekend – we ended up rubbing and bumping in a bee-like fashion – as a conference icebreaker game for 350 people. It worked a treat,’one swarm’ setting out to cross pollinate.
My particular interest was REconomy, explained by Fiona Ward. There are some great REconomy guides (we’ll be using them when we develop Blue Patch stores, because they open up thought processes with an emphasis on creativity and empathy) We all agree that local business can have a really positive impact, especially if we’re motivated to cut waste and become aware of our supply chains. Blue Patch would like to help create a culture where people take pleasure in increasing sustainability and see this as a positive feature of business.
REconomy is especially relevant for Blue Patch with our commitment to sustainable business because, as a social enterprise, 100% of our profits will go to renewable energy and social programmes. I hope these common principles will help us build a bridge between Blue Patch and Transition, so we can share knowledge.
After a brief encounter at lunch with a sandwich I slipped off to become slime-mould. The workshop by Simon de Carteret, (his tiny baby was there too, just so sweet). It was another great way to make friends yet our ‘party games’ had a serious side – the relational nature of everything was set in motion by our group activities. Simon teaches at Schumacher College and is fascinated by highly interrelated systems. His ‘games’ enable people to get a sense of this interwoven existence by doing it themselves.
High on one hour of sleep, slime mould and a bar of Dairy Milk, I was pleased to be out in the fresh air for the next workshop, beetling up a burial mound with Sharon, who’d just finished running her workshop (Tooting Transition) ‘Outside learning for young people’. We were hot on the trail of Robin (Walter) and the lonesome pine. He had us enraptured, looking at the ‘tracks of the trees’ past and future from ancient settlements to cataclysmic events and the Industrial Revolution to ‘climate change trees’. Finally I drifted off to sleep in the sunshine of the eternal burial mound – as did Sharon, 40 winks before supper.
By evening, refuelled by a low carbon cheese slab and other delights, we were off to party – or rather continue digesting the riches of the workshops – if only we’d had a week, every workshop sounded exceptional – check out the schedule – impossible choices!
This was all in all quite an experience, an International fusion of ‘action takers with ethics’ and not a single morsel of CSR served all weekend. Plus the entertainment – the massive Chris Paradox existential beat poet and funk philosopher in search of nothing and yet finding Burt Miller, wry songsmith, erstwhile train driver at Chessington, singing of love and dustmen – they were great!
Sunday saw the entire conference gather for ‘Open Space’, a highly effective way of enabling people to self-organise into discussion groups. My topic was how to spread the model of sustainable local economies to people who believe that environmentalism is a hair shirt. One suggestion really stuck with me – make it visionary and exciting – yes we’re going to try really hard to do just that.
The most transformative shift in my thinking came from the conference itself. I’ve never been amongst such a passionate and proactive group of people – and this is what Blue Patch is bringing about via our B2B network – encouraging members to connect up, collaborate, share materials, skills and friendships, building unity and strength. TNCONF2015 has given me inspiration.
Some comments from the conference:
‘The most amazing thing was connecting up with other ‘change makers’ from across the world, all eager to link together to grow the movement.” Jay Tompt, Totnes REconomy.
“It’s the first time the REconomy has been discussed so fully, it’s great to be involved in this. It’s also good that permaculture is starting to enter into Transition thinking.” Mark Simmonds, Co-op Culture.
“Diversity was clearly a key theme with so many nations represented. But I also met far more people from beyond Transition this year. Many hailed from groups with interests in entrepreneurship, neighbourhood planning, digital technology and other progressive, sustainability movements. They clearly shared Transition values but don’t necessarily define themselves first-and-foremost as “Transitioners”. That was interesting for me because the other theme that arose repeatedly was the idea of how initiatives can get outside of the Transition “box” to engage larger, more diverse groups. And the answer I heard discussed during several conversations was to consider dropping the “T-word” and to simply begin communicating pride in your place; in business jargon place branding.” Chris Wells, Folk Labs Ltd
Many thanks to all who shared their photos of the event.
Blue Patch is on the look out for new members. We’d love to hear from you.
100% of Blue Patch’s profits are used to support independent British business, renewable energy generation and community programmes.