When my daughter Jasmine was born in 2000, I decided to make fathering a priority and something had to go. Not only did I spend less time on my PhD, but I also stopped being actively involved in social change groups. Being an active father and trying to raise children who were socially aware would have to be my contribution to social change for a while. Once Alexa (who was born three years later) started school, I was ready to get involved again, but wasn’t sure where to put my effort.
Before Jasmine, I had been a volunteer with the Alternatives to Violence Project facilitating workshops on nonviolent relationships. I would have liked to return, but it required large blocks of time (mainly weekend long workshops) and I didn’t want to be away from the family that much.
One long weekend, while at the Bellingen Global Carnival (a music festival) watching a lantern parade Jasmine and Alexa were in, I ran into Will – a guy I had met a few times in Newcastle . In a one minute conversation in a very noisy parade he asked me to become involved in Transition Towns Newcastle (now known simply as Transition Newcastle), part of the global Transition Network.
Back in Newcastle I consulted my friend Google, and discovered that this was the type of group I was looking for. Having been at the Family Action Centre for over five years, a strengths-based approach was now central to my work with communities. While believing protest and nonviolent direct action can be incredibly important, I didn’t want to join a protest group, I wanted to be part of a group that had a strengths-based approach to social change.
Rather than focussing on what is wrong with how we are currently doing things, the Transition Network focuses on creating the world we want to live in: it seeks to create a positive alternative that people will want to join.
The Transition Network vision is:
When we use the term “Transition” we’re talking about the changes we need to make to get to a low-carbon, socially-just, healthier and happier future, which is more enriching and more gentle on the earth than the way most of us live today.
In our vision of the future, people work together to find ways to live with a lot less reliance on fossil fuels and on over-exploitation of other planetary resources, much reduced carbon emissions, improved wellbeing for all and stronger local economies. The Transition movement is an ongoing social experiment, in which communities learn from each other and are part of a global and historic push towards a better future for ourselves, for future generations and for the planet. (https://www.transitionnetwork.org/about/strategy)
Their ways of working also sat comfortably for me because they combined action, a positive vision, and social justice: How they work include:
- Respecting resource limits
- Promoting inclusivity and social justice
- Paying attention to balance
- Being part of an experimental, learning network
- Freely sharing ideas and power
- Collaborating and looking for synergies
- Positive visioning and creativity (https://www.transitionnetwork.org/about/strategy)
Strengths-based approaches don’t ignore problems and the Transition movement recognises there are serious challenges facing the world including climate change, our addiction to oil, a skewed economy (which favours large, multinational for-profit businesses rather than local, small businesses, cooperatives and social enterprises) and the myth of continual growth (https://www.transitionnetwork.org/why).
What I like about the Transition movement is that it addresses these challenges by encouraging creative alternatives and experimenting with new (or rediscovering old) ways of doing things. Our focus is on what we can do rather than what we shouldn’t do. Rather than creating fear, despair and hopelessness, our focus is on potential, empowerment and hope.
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