Dreaming of Transition

It’s been a busy week. I spent a couple of days mid-week last week in Oxfordshire at Braziers Park. Transition Network were running a “Dreaming Circle” that drew together facilitators from across the UK and further (Norway, Germany). The common bond? Wanting to support transition initiatives in creating good group process.

Like so many other networks, a few years in, some transition groups are struggling. And group process has been identified as one of the major reasons why initiatives are crumbling, and in some cases collapsing.

With such a diversity of facilitators in one space it was always going to be interesting, exciting and challenging in equal measure. I’ll post something soon about the way this group interacted and what I learnt from that. But for now I’ll focus on what it was all about and what came out of it.

The first day was spent getting to know each other, sharing our understanding of the symptoms and needs of struggling transition groups and talking about what we could bring to the network.

Day 2 was more practical – we used a variation of Open Space to set an agenda which was a mix of facilitators sharing their ‘trademark’ ideas and techniques and some practical planning around the type of support that we could offer transition groups and how it could be delivered.

The support topics that were proposed included sustaining involvement, effective meetings, choosing an appropriate organisational structure, starting an initiative and conflict resolution. A very long list of ways of delivering support was created, with quite a lot of energy around using humour, animation, video and cartoons to demonstrate some of the pitfalls of groupwork in an accessible way.

There was also talk of how to support individuals who want better process for their whole group to access support and then be effective changemakers within their group. This was a thread of conversation I initiated, so I’ll put down some thoughts on this blog soon.

Sadly I had to leave a day earlier than planned, so missed Day 3. But I understand that a working groups was formed to take the practical task of planning and delivering support further. Everyone was invited to sign up to both the support and the delivery mechanisms that most interested them.

Why the small ‘t’?

Whether we were together to support Transition initiatives (ie formally affiliated to the Transition Network) or any initiative doing the work of transition was a contentious issue. It wasn’t resolved whilst I was there. For the sake of inclusion I’m opting for language that allows for the latter. I know that here at Rhizome we’d be willing to support either.


Conflict resolution for capacity builders

Rhizome is a regular contributor to the meetings of the NGO Forum, an informal meeting of capacity building and network staff from campaigning organisation that have, or aspire to, a local group network.

As a result of our involvement with the NGO Forum, we’re planning a conflict resolution course designed specifically for the needs of staff and volunteers who have a role in supporting local groups or other networks of activists. If you think that might be of interest to you or your organisation or network read on and get in touch. Don’t worry if you’re not currently involved with the Forum, it’s not pre-requisite.

Back in July Carl ran an introductory session at a Forum meeting. Since then there’s been a conversation going on in the Forum about  a longer training. The NGO Forum is an informal meeting of capacity building and network staff from campaigning organisation that have, or aspire to a local group network.

We’ve come up with a proposal for a format that balances the need to explore conflict resolution, mediation, and negotiation skills at a deep enough level to have a real impact on your work, with budget and time restraints. We’re asking for feedback to ensure we meet the genuine needs of capacity builders. All comments are very welcome:

2 day residential course at Braziers Park, Oxfordshire

Day 1:

  • arrive 10.30 for an 11am start
  • main session: 11am to 5pm
  • evening session 7 to 9pm
  • overnight stay

Day 2:

  • 9 am start
  • 4pm close and depart

Where? Braziers Park is a community of people, and residential college founded in 1950 as an educational trust, and is a continuing experiment in the advantages and problems of living in a group. It’s approximately 1 hour from London to the nearest station, Goring & Streatley, which is between Reading and Oxford. The station is a taxi or cycle ride away from the venue.

When? We’ve provisionally booked a mid-February event – Tuesday 15th and Wednesday 16th February 2011

How much? Our provisional costing of such an event, including the costs of all meals and overnight accommodation is £255 +VAT per person. Costs can be reduced slightly if people are willing to share rooms. It’s also possible to stay the night before (including breakfast) for those travelling a greater distance, for an additional fee. These figures assume a minimum of 8 participants. If the course is well-subscribed we’ll look at subsidising smaller organisations, offering free places to network volunteers or refunding a proportion of the cost.

Interested or any questions? contact us or leave a comment below, preferably by 8th October. If we get enough expressions of interest, we’ll confirm the course.