TTM held our Annual Planning meeting on Saturday, January 30th. Like our past meetings, TTM president Sari Steuber kicked off the day with opening remarks and a review of the past year’s activity. We loved her messages so much, we wanted to share it with all of you.
The theme for today is “To Change Everything It’ll Take Everything We’ve Got”. Well, in a nutshell, Transition is about changing everything. It’s a movement that was started by a Permaculture teacher after all. Permaculture is a methodology that looks at a whole system to understand it completely. So naturally, Transition takes a whole-system approach to today’s problems.
Other major influences on Transition are the Pachamama Alliance that brought us the Awakening the Dreamer symposiums and Charles Eisenstein, a philosopher who wrote the Ascent of Humanity, Sacred Economics and The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible. Both of these sources teach us that our world is based on a story – the story that we are separate from nature and from each other. This story pervades our culture, the way we see and interact with the world. It has consequences, sometimes unintended – if you were to create a world, would you make the air, water, land and food so polluted that it was unhealthy? Would you kill off all the birds & butterflies, the polar bears & dolphins? Would you make a world where people were lonely, isolated, afraid of each other, and where money mattered more than human connection? Probably not. And yet that’s exactly what we have created out of the story we live in. Transition is about working to change all that by creating a new story of cooperation and belonging, one that works with nature and each other to create a healthier, happier, more sustainable existence for people, the earth, and everything that we share that earth with.
Transition started from an awareness that today’s problems were very serious indeed. There was a growing realization that fossil fuels weren’t going to last forever and that in fact they were starting to decline. Then there was the realization that even if fossil fuels were plentiful, we shouldn’t use them because of the effect they had on our climate. And on top of all that, our global and national economies were starting to look very shaky too. The future was looking very uncertain – change of some kind was inevitable and it didn’t look like it was going to be fpr the better. It looked like we were going to have to do without a lot of the comfort and conveniences we had gotten all too used to. Most people reacted either by getting very depressed or by trying to ignore it, hoping it would all go away somehow.
But to that Permaculture teacher named Rob Hopkins, it just meant it was time to roll up your sleeves and get to work. He and his students in the town of Kinsale Ireland where he was teaching, created an Energy Descent Action Plan (EDAP) with which the town could get to net zero energy usage over about 20 years. In the process of creating that plan, he started to realize that reducing one’s energy usage did not have to mean sacrificing and doing with less – it could actually create a better life than the fossil-fuel-dependent one we were living. His plans got the community working (and playing) together more – growing their own food, creating new cooperative economies, re-learning skills so that they could make things for themselves, making their own art and music. It made more connections among neighbors because now they relied on each other rather than on stuff they could buy from Walmart or Amazon.
Started in England in the town of Totnes, Transition Towns spread around the world. It’s a thriving international movement with a very loose but very well-connected network – the mothership – the Transition Network in England, the national hub – Transition US, some regional hubs including the MidAtlantic Transition Hub (MATH) that TTM is part of with TTs from CT to VA. We have monthly calls to support and inspire each other – anyone interested in connecting with other TTs is welcome to join.
There’s a Handbook on how to create a successful TT – but each TT is different – based on the passions, interests, and talents of the people that come together in that town. The end goal is to create an Energy Descent Action Plan – we’ll be talking later today about getting started on one for Media. Transition UK and US also put on trainings that help TTs get started and help them grow. We’re thinking about putting one on here in Media this year. I encourage you all to attend if you haven’t been to one or would enjoy a refresher.
So TT’s have lots of support but also have lots of leeway as to how they create this brighter future we’re all working toward. And remember, it’s about changing everything, creating new social systems from the bottom up. So it can cover the whole gamut – a new food system based on small, local farms or gardens grown organically in cooperation with nature; new forms of economy, more sharing and co-creating; finding creative ways to live more comfortably with less energy, less carbon usage, reducing waste, reusing and repurposing things instead of throwing them away; creating a sharing community where people can rely on each other, look after each other, have fun together.
It also means new ways of working together. TTs have a cooperative structure based on autonomous Working Groups that come together around a shared passion for a project and a Steering Group made up of representatives from the Working Groups. Steering helps coordinate and support the Working Groups’ efforts. It also looks out for one another, tries to prevent burnout, looks to see what members need to take care of themselves. Our goal is to encourage leadership to emerge out of people wanting to make a difference and learning the skills they need from others teaching them and from experience.
In summary, Transition is a comprehensive, hyper-local response to global problems. This movement, at its heart, is quietly but fundamentally radical – it seeks to create a better world by re-inventing the social structures that have stopped working for us and changing the story that defines us.
2015 Year in Review
We didn’t focus on events in 2015 – and we still put on 20 events!
- A Spring Equinox in March
- 8 events in 8 days for Happiness Week in early May
- A Free Store Anniversary Party
- A PECO Smart House Call Energy Audit event in June
- 2 Film screenings in July (Dhamma Brothers & Food for Thought)
- The ever-popular Free Market in September
- Weatherization DIY also in September
- Solarize Greater Media Kick-off in October
- Gratitude Celebration in November
- Green Sunday Holiday Fair in December
- Winter Solstice Celebration in December
The Free Market, Gratitude, and Green Sunday events were all 4th annual events.
Our working groups also ran a variety of initiatives. The Energy Group flew out of the gate at last year’s Planning meeting. They not only put out an Energy survey to learn what Media residents think about and want to learn about their energy usage (which got about 100 responses!), they put on 3 of our 20 events – the PECO Energy Audit event, a Weatherization and a Solarize event, and most of all, they launched the Solarize Greater Media campaign to help residents in the Greater Media area get affordable solar panels for their roof. The Solarize campaign, by the way, is the largest project, by far, of any we’ve taken on yet. The Food Group maintained the Yardens Facebook page – a very lively and informative source for Yardeners – and contributed frequent “tips” for our newsletter. They also started a new Gardening Club that helps take care of the planters on State St & Plum St Mall. The Reskilling Group put on a popular bike repair clinic at the Methodist Church. Inner Transition, a group that focuses on culture change at the personal as well as group level, had monthly meetings, book discussions, and continued to inspire our Steering Group’s monthly being meetings. Heart & Soul put on Happiness Week and the Equinox and Solstice events as well as generating great connections with local religious groups. The Local Economy Group started the ongoing Free Market events, Free Store, TimeBank and Facebook Swap page. The Free Store went through some growing pains this year and grew stronger as a result – thanks to its leadership and the amazing dedication of the Free Store volunteers. They put on a Free-Store-for-a-day at the Chester Public Library and collaborated with many other groups and businesses to help keep goods out of landfills and into the hands of those who wanted and needed them. The Timebank is in the process of re-energizing around a new Coordinator. A new Timebank software program, Community Weaver 3 was released in 2015 – a great improvement over CW2, making the Timebank much easier to use. The Share/Swap Facebook page continues to be very popular and very active. The Free Store Facebook page has taken off like gang busters with a membership of over 5300! We recently put that membership goldmine to good use by posting a short invitation to check out TTM, the sponsor of the Free Store, go to our website and click on the Subscribe button to get on our newsletter. We got about 25 new subscribers within an hour and they continued to trickle in well after that!
Besides these working group initiatives, we revamped the website – after about 3 years, we thought it should have a new look. We submitted a story about the Free Store for Rob Hopkins’ book, 21 Stories of Transition, and it got accepted! One of our members helped us put together an adorable video to promote our part in the book.
We continued to collaborate with many local organizations and with local government. One of our longest term collaborations is with the Media Environmental Advisory Council (EAC), which advises Borough Council on environmental matters. We’ve worked together on several events over the years as well as supporting their events and initiatives. This partnership has been very helpful from the beginning – in 2015, we got the sponsorship of DVRPC and the County Planning Dept for our Solarize campaign through our EAC connection. We also worked with the Borough on an Our Town grant to revitalize the Plum St Mall area, on the South St Memorial Garden plans, and on the way-finding signage taskforce. We also formed some close alliances with some of the area churches – 2nd Baptist Church, the Methodist Church and the UUCDC church – by organizing a prayer vigil in response to the Charlotte church shooting. They were reinforced by the Winter Solstice event which included participation from some of these churches plus a nearby synagogue and a mosque in Chester. I’m sure there are things I’ve left out but you get the idea – we had a very busy year and made lots of great friends!
Financials: Our finances continued to grow in 2015 – we spent more money and made more money and we still ended up in the black. Donations for the Free Store were especially generous.
Membership: Our outreach continued to grow last year as well. We send out a newsletter twice a month to our mailing list, which had a small increase in numbers. Our numerous Facebook groups were well-“liked” (TTM, Share/Swap, Timebank, Local Business Network, Celebrating Happiness, Yardens, Reskilling, and the Free Store group). We also have a Twitter presence and an Instagram account, started by our Penn State Brandywine intern, Brandi Koehler.
So that’s a run-down of the past year. As you can see we did a lot. And, as I said in the description of Transition Towns, we’re trying to accomplish a lot. But our resources, primarily our volunteers’ time, need to be used strategically so we can get the most done as effectively as possible. Part of building a new, more beautiful world is taking care of ourselves and each other. Burnout is a very real hazard in a volunteer organization like this one where everyone is so passionate about what we’re doing. We take the avoidance of burnout very seriously – we want healthy, happy volunteers, no martyrs! So please, never take on more than you can safely handle and think carefully today about what will make the biggest difference in the goals you set for your group. Just take that on and no more. This is a marathon, not a sprint. You should also think strategically about what external resources you can use. We have some great partners in the community – maybe some of them would like to co-sponsor an event or project. We have a great Transition network – check their websites for information on what projects have worked elsewhere and how. Use our website, newsletter and Facebook pages to reach potential new volunteers. Think about what kinds of projects or events might attract more members to work on your projects. We’re going to be exploring all these ideas and more today.