The March 15 New England Transition Gathering had a special focus on exploring the potential of region-wide collaborations promoting community resilience. It was also a remarkable success. Thanks for this outcome go to the 62 folks who came from six states, Sarah Byrnes and the other members of the planning committee, the sponsoring organizations, and the hosting efforts of Transition Keene Advocates and Antioch University New England’s environmental studies program in Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainability. Special thanks go to Dakota Butterfield, the day’s able facilitator, and Stephen Jones, AUNE’s President, who welcomed everyone to Antioch with opening remarks about the shared values of Antioch University and the international Transition movement.
Given the Transition movement’s deep commitment to local and regional food systems, extra special super thanks go to Sarah Harpster, TKA board member, Gleaning Coordinator for the Keene Community Kitchen, and a graduate of AUNE’s Advocacy program. Sarah lovingly planned, cooked, and served an amazing and wholesome breakfast and lunch to the gathering participants. At lunch, Sarah thanked the team of Antioch students and TKA board members who helped her, along with several local organizations that helped out, including the Keene Community Kitchen, the Monadnock Food Coop, Stonewall Farm CSA, Orchard Hill Breadworks, and Brewbaker’s Cafe. Sarah also announced that all contributions beyond food costs would be donated to the Keene Community Kitchen, which meets the immediate needs of local community members suffering food insecurity.
So what did the gathering participants do besides eat great food? The morning started with creative introductions, an artful grounding in New England history by Jennifer Atlee and Dan Jones, and a very reflective visioning exercise. For the rest of the morning, participants discussed what turned out to be a strongly supported Gathering Concept Paper on why region-wide Transition collaborations could be a helpful supplement to all of our local community efforts. Over lunch, people also met in self-organized interest groups, which included a discussion of time banks led by Linda Hogan of hOurworld Cooperative and a discussion with Pamela Boyce Simms about of the newly formed regional structure of the Mid-Atlantic Transition movement.
In the afternoon, participants broke into small groups to “workshop” nine action ideas proposed by different attenders. These action ideas included creating a “Whole New England Catalog” of regionally produced goods and services, organizing a New England energy transition planning process, and promoting an annual fruit and nut tree planting effort throughout New England.
Inspired by the work of the UK-based Transition Research Network, Steve Chase, a co-founder of Transition Keene Advocates and the director of AUNE’s environmental studies masters program in Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainability, convened a workshop session that actually formed an exploratory committee of academics (from Antioch, Tufts, Keene State, SIT, and Goddard), local resilience organizers, and the executive director of the New England Grassroots Environmental Fund. Their goal is to lay the foundations for the formation of a New England network of college and university faculty and students supporting the Transition movement through community-based research, student internships, and various service learning and civic engagement projects. Some participants in the discussion also wanted to explore the possibility of setting up a similar network for highschool and middle school teachers!
Another lively afternoon workshop session was convened by Josh Arnold and focused on promoting the Sustain-A-Raisers “Starter Kit” throughout the region. Developed by the NH-based, grassroots organization Global Awareness Local Action (GALA), the “Starter Kit” includes volunteer recruitment strategies, press release templates, a list of needed materials and tools, step-by-step construction guides, talking points and training curriculum, branding support, and an online orientation to help local community organizers engage their constituents in a people-powered sustainable home and yard makeover movement.
Given that some gathering attendants were new to the Transition movement, a short introductory handout written by Steve Chase was included in each participant’s packet. This piece was from the just released two-volume encyclopedia Achieving Sustainability: Visions, Principles, and Practices, edited by Debra Rowe and published by Macmillan. To check the article out, click here: Transition Towns Movement.
The organizational sponsors of this festive regional conversation on region-wide resilience efforts were Transition Portland & the Resilience Hub, Somerville Climate Action, Global Awareness Local Action, Transition Montpelier, Transition Newburyport, Jamaica Plain New Economy Transition, and Transition Keene Advocates.
Antioch University New England’s environmental studies master’s program in Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainability was thrilled to be an active part of making this energetic gathering happen… and succeed!