Tuesday 3 January 2012

Looking Back, Looking Forward - Our New Year

Happy New Year everyone! Today is the first day of the Social Reporting project 2012, and to start the year Transition-style we are having a month of Pausing for Reflection and Visioning ahead.

In these first two weeks we'll be looking back at our 3 month pilot and selecting some of its most striking posts and republishing one of them each day (mine are chosen from among our guest writers).

Tough call! Because there were many brilliant ones. Sparks that flew, insights that shocked, sentences that made you laugh, think, rejoice, made you feel you weren't alone. They came thick and fast, every day through the autumn months, and it's only now looking back you can see the patterns these communications make, how everything connects and helps forge resilience in a time of apparent unravelling.

Today I'd like to pick out three strands where I feel the Social Reporting pilot took Transition communications in a new direction. The first is that the daily posts keep a certain upbeat tempo. This is not marketing or positive thinking. It's a quality of engagement with the material, the feeling you convey that all things are possible once you take life and the media into your own hands. This was Rachel discovering she could write about Permaculture, Catriona celebrating the new ceilidh scene, Caroline organising a Transition radio station and film night, Ciaran describing the lead-up to the Bristol Pound in Our Money Our Future -Money for the 99% by the 99%. A quality of inventiveness and exuberance. The rhythm of the heart.

The second is the posts provide coherence in a culture of fragmentation. One of the pilot's main aims was to highlight, value, give meaning and make sense of the work we do within a group structure and to find correspondences between initiatives. Many posts brought Transition projects to the fore that would otherwise go unsung, cross-referenced and made them shine. Woodlands, market gardens, city hubs, art labs, car share, skill-share. This was Jay talking about Totnes' incubator project, Adrienne talking about food storage in East Sussex, Mark celebrating people and events in East Anglia, Jo communicating with Reza at the doctor's surgery in Finsbury Park, Ed setting up the Network site in A Liminal Song of Thanks. These were all the guest editors as they opened the week looking at the broad reach of Transtion, from Peter Lipman on the Big Picture, to Shaun Chamberlin on Occupy and Economics, to Justin Kenrick on Land Rights. Bringing all factors into play.

The third is an ability to face reality, writing in the face of the storm, in spite of flack and denial from the "real" world. One of the best parts of the pilot was learning about everyone's communities first-hand: not the feel-good community PR, but what is really going down in cash-strapped Northern Ireland, in remote and fragmenting Highland villages, in feisty Welsh valleys, in a multi-cultural N4 or a dispersed Heathrow. And most of all in ourselves. The project allowed us all to say what Transition was really like for us as individuals. Our dark and difficult moments, the projects that didn't work out, the people who didn't love us and why we keep going in spite of everything. This is Ann talking about her family and her finances, Joe about Grow Heathrow's resistance, Caroline forging a new path through redundancy, Catriona through depression, Marella recording the failure of a Transition cafe, Kerry her real-life experience working at a Transition university.

The post I'm selecting today was a watershed post. It appeared in the middle of the pilot and its honesty and courage shook us all and allowed many of us to write at greater depth. It's a real-life story that reveals the kind of business-as-usual forces that Transitioners have to deal with, but don't often find a place to express. And the kind of determination we need to reach that happy ending so many of us desire. It's a long post but a vital one. Do (re) read Food and Health: Our Story by Tamsin Pinkerton...

Photos: Sun and stones (Mark Watson on Arts and Creativity); Welsh landscape (Ann Owen on Inner Transition); Transition Heathrow (Joe Rake on Land Rights).

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