“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”
~ Helen Keller
I have learn many things through this “transition” first year of mine as part of Village Surrey and the global “Transition” movement. But there are two things that stand out: humility and awe
I used to be a very “private” person. I used to hate working with groups because my experiences were almost always negative: I invariably ended taking up most of the workload because nobody would “move” or make decisions, and when occasionally I decided to have a low profile, the group would under-achieve or I would lose all interest (I didn’t feel represented as somebody else would speak louder and smash everybody’s opinions)
This week’s Transition training focused on “What makes groups work and what makes groups not to work”. We explored group structures, phases/cycles and dynamics. The training was lead by Nick Osborne (Transition Trainer specialized in group dynamics: http://www.transitionnetwork.org/news/2013-04-12/rob-hopkins-interviews-effective-groups-trainer-nick-osborne ) Nick is also a Permaculturist and has explored dynamics in many settings, including transition groups, ecovillages and the corporate world.
Nick introduced the different “phases” for transition groups (this applies to many types of groups, but specially to transition ones as the reasons these groups come together are already touchy and complex), and these phases are:
Some of Nick’s suggestions to properly navigate this phase are:
Some suggestions here were:
3) Norming: this is the phase when groups start settling and building “culture”. This phase is about defining and consolidating power, leadership, decision making, tasks and roles.
4) Performing: groups in this stage usually succeed through high performance: they run projects, have effective meetings, are mature enough to welcome new people and have a sustained involvement of members and with the community.
We also explored the different components of initiating a “Transition group”:
For me it was very eye-opening (and re-assuring of my own suspicions) that groups need to be careful about timing as well as when and how they become open to more participants. Having new participants joining all the time and networking or unleashing to the community when the group is not yet mature enough can lead to clashes, conflicts and disappointment.
Other things we explored were:
Types of Groups:
We talked about many other things, I may write a second post to cover this topic further, including the suggested bibliography and videos.
For now, I would like to leave the homework we were asked to try with our groups:
Part of the reflective questions above and shared homework also include:
As I mentioned at the beginning, this year has been for me one of huge learning and stretching. I feel I have found great and real friends and truly intelligent people who care deeply about the world and its future. I am amazing at the things each one of these individuals are doing everyday: from changing zoning regulations so people can have backyard chickens to creating new agreements to use provincial land for community gardens. From starting local organic co-ops to opening the dialog for local currency projects. From persistent and caring networking to create trust in the community to supporting courageous people who are applying hugelkulture in their backyards. This and much more started happening around me when I decided to open my eyes and my heart to the challenges of group work.
As I mentioned recently to a transition friend: even if we fail in “saving the world”, our lives and those of our communities would never be the same after this magical encounter with Transition and Permaculture.
“Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everyone I’ve ever known.”
~ Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters “